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UCLA Models
UCLA Models
Original photos by Danielle Paisley, Anna Lena Gerlach, Camille Whittaker, Brianna Holmes
Style > Fashion

Modeling at UCLA: UCLA’s Next Top Models

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

Naomi Campbell, Gigi Hadid, Ashley Graham, and Adriana Lima. These are some of the first names that pop up when you think about models. Here at UCLA, living in the heart of LA and fashion, many beautiful and talented models are also students, so I got a “behind the scenes” look into modeling from a few of them! 

They shared some of the ups and downs of balancing modeling and being a student. There were some surprising aspects and a few unexpected challenges! Let’s hear from these four models about the lives of people who model at UCLA:

Meet UCLA’s Next Top Models

Anna Lena Gerlach

@anna.lena.gerlach, 23, 4th Year Sociology Major

Camille Whittaker

@camiwhiii, 21, 4th Year Political Science Major

Brianna Holmes

@_brianna.holmes_, 20, 2nd Year Communications Major

Angelina Forrest

@angelinaforrest, 20, 2nd Year Psychology Major

The start of modeling 

Anna: I feel like, as a girl, I’ve always been looking up to famous models through social media. You see all of these famous models, like Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner, and I’ve always followed them on Instagram. In my early teens, I started being more interested in modeling and fashion. And because I’m very tall, people have always told me, like, “Do you want to be a model?” So I feel like the world gave me this idea a little bit because I’m tall.

Camille: I got into modeling fairly recently. I have done a lot of performative things throughout my life. In high school, I did theater things. I did color guard, which is kind of performative. When I got into UCLA, I found FAST, which is our fashion club! I’ve always wanted to try modeling without having to pay for agencies and all that stuff. FAST gave me the opportunity. I’ve been doing it since and I love it. It’s really fun!

Brianna: I’ve been doing it unofficially for a while, probably since middle school or high school. I’ve been doing it mostly just with my sister. We would take pictures all the time. We both love taking pictures and we love being in pictures, so we would take them for each other. But my first official modeling gig was, I want to say sophomore year of high school, and it was actually through synchronized swimming, which is a sport that I do. We were hired to model suits for a new pool that was opening for Juice Beauty, so we modeled for that. We got paid to model. That was the first official modeling gig that I had, but I still kind of did it unofficially on the side since then. Last year, I got hired to be an ASUCLA Bruinware model. For them, l’ve been doing gigs and whoever responds first gets it. I modeled for the fall catalog last year, which was a couple new pieces from their collection. So I did shirts and sweatshirts and that went up on the catalog website and Instagram. And then I modeled for an educational video for the textbook center, I believe also through ASUCLA and Bruinwear. And the videos were all muted, but we were being handed books and pretending to check out and things like that. And then my most recent was when I modeled the graduation sashes also for ASUCLA and Bruinwear. That was really exciting!

Angelina: I’ve always been artistic and I feel that modeling is another art form, so I’d say there isn’t an exact point where I realized “Oh I’m interested in modeling”, it has just always been there.

Modeling at UCLA

Anna: I primarily model for FAST, UCLA’s fashion club, by being a part of photoshoots and runway shows. Though not agency-affiliated, I collaborate with photographers for test shoots to build portfolios. One of my biggest highlights is FAST’s runway event, a year-long preparation wrapped up in a showcase. All my friends cheering me on in the audience and watching me was super fun, and working, obviously, with designers who are our age is so cool. On rehearsal day, we spent the whole day together, like, all the models, designers, and everyone from FAST. There, we really connected and became friends. Photoshoots involve theme planning, fittings, and post-production. It’s a journey of creativity, bringing photographers’ visions to life and connecting with the art. Photoshoots are usually fun! In the beginning, everyone’s a bit shy because you don’t know everyone, so you have to warm up to each other and eventually it feels normal. During shoots, I feel like it’s always best to just try everything out! I draw inspiration from the vibes of the theme and previous works. Feedback and on-the-spot adjustments ensure the perfect shot. It’s a collaborative and fulfilling process, blending creativity with community building.

Camille: For FAST, I mainly do editorial shoots, working with different themes like Americana or sponsored projects. Demonia, a shoe brand, sponsored one shoot, which was exciting! They gave us a free pair of shoes and that was super cool since they are super grungy and punky! 

We sign up for shoots to our own discretion by whatever we’re interested in. One of my memorable experiences includes shooting at Santa Monica Pier, feeling momentarily famous because a lot of people kept curiously stopping us, and asking, “What are you doing?”

I’m gearing up for my first FAST runway show this June, practicing walks and fittings. While runway prep prioritizes walks, photoshoots focus on posing. Both have unique challenges but offer fulfilling experiences. I feel amazing during photoshoots, especially bonding moments before the shoot begins. Besides FAST, I’ve done modeling for UCLA, including a video for the transfer center and the Gene Block winter holiday video. In terms of posing, mirror practice and feedback from coaches help me nail poses and get perfect shots!

Brianna: My recent UCLA graduation photoshoot was a really fun shoot! I was told that it was going to go up on the website and Instagram, but I did not know that it was going to be placed on every printer on campus, which is honestly really funny. My friends send me pictures all the time whenever they go to print and see my face there. And I think it’s really funny. Although sometimes it is a little bit jarring. When I have to go and print and l see my own face pop up on the printer, it’s a little bit strange, but it’s very fun. This has become a memorable and funny highlight of my UCLA journey.

Outside of this, I model through synchronized swimming for events and atmospheric settings like weddings. My first official gig with Juice Beauty was exciting since it was first time I’d ever done anything like that, and it was with my sister, so we both did it. They provided us with a bunch of Juice Beauty makeup that we got to keep and, like, some goodie bags, and they had like the giant, like, reflector things that they were holding towards us, which I’d never seen before, but I thought that was super cool. Since I’m too short for runway gigs, camera modeling allows me to express my creativity.

Angelina: I’ve mostly done modeling on campus for clubs like FPS and RefineLA, including studio shoots and runway gigs. It’s always really exciting to connect with people who share my interests and showcase their artistic creations — sets, props, photography, makeup, outfits — it’s all beautiful. Photoshoots empower me; I love the transformation process, like getting into character. It’s reminiscent of Halloween, where experimenting is encouraged. Trying new things helps me grow. Though I haven’t delved much into the behind-the-scenes work, I respect the preparation involved. Being part of RefineLA’s fashion show “Lost and Found” was a highlight — it took two quarters of dedication and talent. It’s a reminder of the immense effort behind these projects.

Misconceptions about modeling 

Anna: I thought that it’d be “so easy” to become a model. Like, “oh, you’re pretty, you’re tall, you’re skinny, you can easily model and just, that’s going to be your life.” I’ve applied to modeling agencies, and I know a lot of my friends have, and they’re very picky or more picky than you would think. I think it’s because nowadays there are so many models and beautiful people, obviously. Many people are influencers who model, too, because this is a new way that companies can find a model. Like, just pick an influencer. Nowadays, agencies also look a lot at your following on, like, Instagram or something. So if you have a big following, obviously that’s a big plus because it’ll be easier and you’re more desirable for companies if you have a big following.

Camille: The one that I hear the most about FAST is that either everyone has the same style, so if you’re not into “that style”, you can’t join, or that everyone at FAST is, like, “stuck up”. I haven’t seen either of those. There was actually, like, a Reddit post about FAST, like a month ago where someone was asking if there was other fashion groups because they felt that FAST only let in alternative-dressing people. And I completely disagree. I have no sense of style *giggles*. I wear jeans and a crop top everyday class, so I think that misconception is incorrect. There are tons of different styles and attitudes within the models and FAST. It’s crazy how many different types of styles there are! And I think the other one, that some models are stuck up, I think that comes from the confidence. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little bit of confidence.

Brianna: The types of modeling are different. Runway modeling is a lot different than camera modeling. I don’t know if I would be able to do runway modeling since it’s a whole different ballpark. You need to know how to walk properly, and the angles that the people in the audience are going to see are much different than on camera. As well as with it being on camera, you have the opportunity to redo things and also look at what you’re doing before. We’ll take breaks in between, and they’ll show me some of the pictures so I can kind of see if there’s anything I want to change up. But for me, it’s mostly for fun. It’s always fun when pictures of myself come out on, like, the Instagram or the website or the printers!

Angelina: I feel like I haven’t been in it long enough to address any misconceptions about modeling, but for me thus far everyone has been super welcoming!

Health & Modeling

Anna: I’d say my eating habits are generally healthy and not super strict, influenced by how my parents raised me in Germany. I don’t follow strict diets like some models because I believe in balance. Enjoying occasional treats like pizza keeps me mentally healthy. Exercise is also essential — it’s my way of finding a balance between school and hobbies.

Camille: I think what sets modeling at UCLA apart is its inclusivity since organizations embrace every body type and person. There’s no pressure to conform to a certain look or diet. Confidence and technique matter most. I often show up to practice in pajamas, and it’s totally fine. I aim for balance, hitting the gym twice a week for cardio to improve endurance.

Brianna: Yeah, I’m lucky in the sense that the modeling that I do isn’t very particular with your body. Extreme diets for thinness go against my values and I’m just not willing to do that to myself. I wouldn’t pursue supermodel status for this reason. I look for companies promoting diverse beauty standards. Thankfully, many are moving in that direction, which is very encouraging, and I think it needs to continue to follow that trajectory.

Advice for aspiring models

Anna: I would say obviously, believe in yourself and do it. If it’s your dream, you should definitely try it. I would say team up with photographers, do test shoots so you can try it out. Try different poses in front of the camera. Also having a portfolio is good when you want to apply to agencies. Also look at whether you can find something like FAST, if your university has that, or join a group where you can practice modeling or connect with other people who also want to model or who want to be photographers because it’s always easier than just posing in front of the mirror or like, taking your own pictures. It’s just a different experience. And also it’ll help you later on, like, it’ll make you more confident if you train in front of other people.

Camille: It sounds repetitive, but it’s really all about the confidence! You can look any way, but if you’re not confident, it’s going to be very obvious very quickly, and that doesn’t come across well when you’re modeling. Being confident in who you are, what you’re wearing, no matter where you go, is definitely an essential building block for getting into modeling because that’s not something you can teach.

Brianna: It’s really helpful when you’re confident in yourself first before you can be comfortable on camera. So be confident in yourself. You’re really pretty, you can do it! Keep moving in pictures. That’s my biggest advice. Keep moving. There’s bound to be one that’ll turn out looking good!

Angelina: Go for it! It’s super fun and it’s best not to take yourself too seriously. Sometimes you may feel silly because the person in front of the camera doesn’t feel like you, but that’s the fun of it. You are trying new things and just being able to express art!

Danielle is a second-year from Temecula, CA. Her articles range from sharing interviews with influential figures, discussing the ups and downs of being a young woman in LA, and spreading positive energy through diverse stories! Happy reading!