Student models walk runways and hallways


Erin Haynes, mass communication journalism sophomore, and Kiersten Keller, popular and commercial music junior, strut. The two are walking in New Orleans Fashion Week Sept. 26 to Sept. 28. Photo credit: Cristian Orellana

Tess Rowland

Life in college is hard. Maintaining your grades, social life, extracurriculars and overall well-being can feel at times like an unachievable goal. Try balancing this and trying to launch your career as a model. Mass communication sophomore Erin Haynes and popular and commercial music junior, Kiersten Keller make it look easy. The two are walking in New Orleans Fashion Week Sept. 26 to Sept. 28.

1. When did you begin your career?

K: I’ve always known I wanted to be a “singer and actress with a back fall in modeling”. This was my speech to anyone who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always put my music at the forefront followed by acting and theater, but upon reaching college, I realized there are certain assets I have been granted that aren’t being used. Constantly hearing people say, “You’re so beautiful and have such great height! You need to model!” really had an effect on me. So, I began to work with one of my photographers to get a portfolio together and went from there in a “freelance model” sort of way. From there, it seemed as if opportunities just fell into place.

E: I began my career in March of 2017, when I joined the talent school, Launch Model & Talent, one ordinary Saturday. I always thought it would be cool to experience modeling, and I thought it was the only place that I could fit in due to my staggering height of 5’11”. When I walked into the school, the woman behind the front desk had a look of total confusion, because I didn’t realize that they didn’t take walk-ins. A representative happened to be available, which never happens. I had a meeting and then she took my measurements. A day later, they called me back saying they were interested in teaching me modeling and acting. I joined the school, only to be presented with an opportunity to go to a convention where you train to perform in front of the world’s leading talent agencies in Los Angeles, at a competition known as The Industry Network. I suddenly was swept into three months of training with 16 other people, auditioned and was chosen, and then prodded my way on the catwalk and tv screen in Hollywood. Not only did I win multiple awards from the competition, but I also received several call backs from top agencies, including Next, Women’s Management, DNA Models, Wilhelmina, etc. While I am waiting to finish my degree before signing to an agency, I have continued to build my portfolio through local events, photographers, runway shows and other opportunities.

2. How did you get involved with Fashion Week?

K: I became involved in Fashion Week by asking other models I’d known who’d participated exactly what the process is and following the information came to a meeting with Tracee Dundas, the founder of New Orleans Fashion Week for the first time at a Links event. She was so sweet and filled me in on everything. She ended up casting me to help with the NOLA Fashion Week Kick Off weekend and it was truly the best time I’d had in a while and allowed me to see how much growth I was able to make with modeling.

E: My mother management, Launch Model Management, is co-owned by my model manager and coach, Jessica Mushtare. The south is not a traditional market, so modeling jobs can be scarce to none if you don’t have the right connections. Therefore, to encourage us to continue to perfect our craft in modeling, and to also build networking connections, Jessica encouraged me to try out for New Orleans Fashion Week. I am always eager to perfect my modeling skills, as I believe there is room for improvement. However, I was most excited to be a part of something that took place in my hometown, and also to expand my connections beyond Launch Model and Talent and Launch Model Management.

3. What are you doing to advance your career? Do you work with photographers and creatives frequently?

K: I’m constantly trying to get as much work done as I can. Any opportunity that presents itself to me as far as advancing my career I go for it. I’m always looking to work with new photographers to make my portfolio the most various it can be. I am also a musician, so I am constantly intermingling both my modeling and music. A lot of photoshoots end up giving me huge inspiration for my own cover art to use for my music releases and projects.

E: One of the first lessons Jessica taught me was the power of social media. First, we must make our social media pages a representation of our work, as well as clear anything off of them that could determine if you get a job or not. Since following this advice, I have had a number of creatives and photographers reaching out to me. For example, I was discovered by a hairstylist from Aveda hair studio and he introduced me to his creative team, and now I have featured editorial work in two magazines. Other than that, I also take advantage of the many modeling opportunities and events hosted by Tracee. These are great networking opportunities, because the majority of the time people are looking for models to model their designs, or to work with them for a huge future project. The networking and opportunities have led me to develop a reputation as a decent model, and I was featured on KMEZ 102.9 radio twice because of it. Lastly, I continue to receive work from my model management, as well as audition for agencies that I could potentially sign with in the future.

4. How do you balance your school work and make time for your studies?

K: This definitely is by far the hardest part! Way harder than walking in seven-inch heels in a dress that has limited your walking ability! My tactic is to make sure I start my year off to a good start with minimal stress. I find if I don’t start off strong it’s harder to catch up if you begin to fall behind, or start to get busier with rehearsals, assignments and projects. Also, making sure I practice good time management helps the ease of working on my academic and life career. Another part of keeping this life balanced is knowing when you’re overworking yourself and when it’s okay to miss out on a photoshoot or casting call. Sometimes it’s difficult to not want to pile multiple tasks on yourself because you want to get as much done as quickly as you can, but a lot more comes out of patience, pacing yourself and remembering that everything happens for a reason.

E: It is undeniable that balancing school life with everything else I am involved with is difficult. However, I choose not to distinguish school from modeling, because I view everything as me paving my way toward my dreams. I am studying to become a travel writer, and will hopefully be able to share my experiences as a model, actress, photographer and artist. The reason why we face so many issues today is because people do not communicate or empathize with others who are different than them. I choose to be the bridge of communication between parties and use my multiple fields to express messages, in order to connect with and reach the most people as possible. My work is not categorized, but rather is a combination of moving parts to power a greater machine.

5. Are your professors understanding of class conflicts from modeling?

K: For the most part, my professors are understanding about my modeling conflicts, however, I make sure that I let them all know in advance, so that they’re not caught off guard by my absence and don’t attempt to fail me for the class.

E: I have never given my professors any reason to doubt or not trust me, as I am consistent and diligent with attending class and completing my work. Therefore, when I have to miss class for modeling, though I usually try not to, my professors not only know that this is an advancement toward my career, but mainly that I am not purposefully slacking off.

6. How do you maintain a healthy physique and good diet while a college students?

K: Maintaining a healthy physique in college is pretty difficult. Life can get really stressful and nourishing your body is hard. I’ve had my struggles here and there, maintaining a consistent physical state for the career I’m heading into, but making sure I stay regimented with a three meal-a-day plan makes this issue a lot easier to deal with.

E: Being a model can be difficult, as we are pressured to maintain a certain size and look a particular way to be considered “usable” for jobs. I used to struggle deeply with food, as I was constantly in fear of gaining weight, but I reconsidered the value of my health when I fainted. Now, I learn how to make the healthy alternatives to all of the food I love. For example, I know how to make almond flour pancakes that are topped with chia seed jam and agave nectar. I’ve become so enthused about eating real wholesome ingredients with no restrictions, that I am now developing my own brand on Instagram, “Model Eats.” In order to ensure that I won’t develop a negative mindset with my body again, I work out six days a week for an hour each morning. This healthy lifestyle has helped tremendously by giving me the right mindset and energy to tackle the mountainous load I deal with everyday.

7. Do you see yourself being a model as your career in the future?

K: I do definitely see modeling as a part of my future career. Being a recording and performing artist, it should be easy to keep this a part of my realm being that music and modeling can go hand-in-hand. I hope to move on to doing a lot more runway and print work for more widely known fashion brands/designers in the future.

E: Of course! Modeling is something I am extremely passionate about and am definitely looking forward to establishing myself more when I sign to an agency and work for my dream brands like Chanel, Saint Laurent and Chloe.

8. What’s your favorite part of your job?

K: My favorite part of my job is probably the feeling of the end result. Seeing all of your hard work put to the test and pushed forth into the world for others to enjoy. I also love the people and connections I make!

E: My ultimate goal in whatever job I do is to have an adventure and seize the day with something new. I cannot imagine myself working an office job because my creativity will be stunted and the limitation will make me spiral to a world of darkness. Modeling gives me something new every day, every minute! You never are sure what your day or week looks like, and that thrill is something I long for. It’s crazy, but exciting!

9. What models inspire you?

K: Naomi Campbell has always been a huge inspiration for me because she’s so unapologetically herself. That always inspires me to stay true to myself and not be afraid to be the only one in a crowd going the opposite direction. I also am highly inspired by Tyra Banks. I grew up watching America’s Next Top Model which really jump-started my love for modeling and fashion.

E: Models that inspire me are those who started with a regular background, but launched themselves into their massive careers because of their hard work. I am especially proud of models of color because jobs often go to the blonde-haired and blue-eyed girl. Models like Naomi Campbell are not only symbols of diversity within the modeling industry, but are also great representations in the Black is Beautiful movement.

10. What would you recommend to a new model breaking into the business?

K: To new models making their break into the industry, I’d say get a nice portfolio together and use every resource you have around you to the best of your ability. Being that we are in the era we are in now, social media is a very helpful tool as far as self promotion and branding. A lot of modeling opportunities I get are via social media. It can also be used as an online portfolio. I am constantly sending different photographers and designers to my Instagram. Lastly, do what you do because you love it. Fall in love with your craft and fall in love with yourself, this combination will keep you happy. If you’re not doing what you love, then why are you doing it?


E: My number one advice to a new model is to create confidence within yourself and own it. Before modeling, I detested my height, and it was the main reason for my insecurity and shyness. Once I saw that being tall was a beautiful thing, I was given security that I could do anything I dreamt of because I got over the biggest obstacle: myself. Now, I have an undeniable presence when on the runway, because I believe in the clothes I am wearing and am living fierce in the moment. In other words, be yourself and accept who you are.

Come see these two models walk in New Orleans Fashion Week September 26-28 2019 at the New Orleans Board of Trade. Tickets are available on their website.