State Fair kick-started modeling
career for New Albany teenager

Sunday, June 24, 2007

By Christine Fellingham

It's the perfect overnight success story: Small-town teenager Devin Childers goes to the Kentucky State Fair and winds up being signed as a model. A few months later, he's in New York City getting signed by the prestigious Wilhelmina agency.

Are you sure you want to be a model?
"The modeling business is about perseverance," says Jake Lang, owner of Wings in Cincinnati, the agency that signed Devin Childers, 17, of New Albany, Ind., last year at the Kentucky State Fair and got him hooked up with big-time agencies in New York and L.A.
"The same model who doesn't work at all one year may suddenly take off the next."

Since then, it's been a whirlwind year of fancy haircuts, big city travel and designer meet-and-greets. Here's what the 17-year-old had to say about the trajectory of his unexpected modeling career:
Then he's taking phone calls and answering questions from nosy reporters like me from his hotel room in Paris. (FYI: He's there auditioning for the top men's runway shows for Fashion Week, including designers Jil Sander and Louis Vuitton. And, just so you know, he's staying with mom.)

Q: Was being discovered as a top male model on your agenda at the fair?
A: "No, I was more interested in the rides and the corn dogs. But my mom kind of dragged me into it. She practically stuck me in there. In a matter of seconds, the owner walked up and said, 'Have you ever thought you should be a model?' And my first thought was that he said that to everyone. But now I'm in Paris."

What's it like transitioning from New Albany high school student to international male model?
"It's kind of odd. Everybody keeps telling you "you're so pretty." That's still pretty weird. But it's fun when you get into the photo sessions. And I got to go to New York City for spring break to try to sign with one of those agencies. That was crazy. That city is so big. It's like you see more in one block there than you see in my entire hometown. I wasn't prepared for it. Nothing you see on TV or in the movies can prepare you for what it feels like to be in such a big place. I had no idea. I got lost a couple of times. The subways are completely confusing. I had major culture shock."

Were the New York agencies as brutal as they look on TV?
"Yes. You can wait for an hour just to go in and see them. But I was lucky. I got into five or six of them, and they were all telling me how they would be the best for me. I wound up choosing Wilhelmina because they have the best men's business."

Every new model gets a makeover; what's the first thing they changed about your look?
"They sent me for a haircut the day after they signed me. I had never had a style before -- but it felt good. I think it looks better."

So are you hooked on hair gel?
"Not yet. I'm not that model-esque."

Did they make any other changes?
"They told me I needed to gain five pounds -- of muscle. I'm working out more now.

Have you picked up any great style tricks?
"Wear black. Lots of black. If you're going to wear a light color, it should be a T-shirt. Before, I had a black pair of jeans and a black T-shirt. Now I have more black than any other color."

You recently met designer Jil Sander. Did you have any idea who he is?
"Yeah. I watch VH1 so I know some of these guys. I had to wait a long time to go in and see him. But they took lots of pictures of me. And his clothes fit really well. They're expensive though."

You're being considered for the biggest runway shows in Paris. Did you get any walking lessons?
"Not exactly. Just a little coaching. Mostly they tell you, 'Walk with elegance and grace.' You kind of have to figure out what that means."

So what's the secret to taking a great photo?
"Keep your chin up and make sure you're looking straight at the camera.”
"I'm scheduled to go to Milan for their fashion week and hopefully do Prada. But I'm definitely finishing my senior year of high school -- no matter what. After that, I'll see where I am. I may wait a year to start college. I'm going to try my best to get to the top … but there's a lot of unpredictability with modeling. I'm just trying to get as much out of this experience as I can."

What advice do you have for would-be models?
"Listen to your mom."

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