Like other high school students, Rachael Pope spends hours doing her homework, is a member of the National Honor Society and works several part-time jobs.
But unlike her fellow classmates at Sanderson High School in Raleigh, the 16-year-old senior is an aspiring model now taking part in New York Fashion Week.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Pope said.
An early interest in dance, especially ballet, spurred her interest in fashion. Two years ago, Pope saw a cover shoot for a magazine featuring Karlie Kloss, a popular American fashion model who was a Victoria’s Secret Angel from 2013 to 2015.
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Kloss, who was classically trained in ballet, began modeling at a young age, which encouraged Pope to pursue modeling.
“When she was my age, she was doing what I wanted to do,” Pope, a self-described fitness fanatic, said. “It took seeing another dancer do it for me to take the plunge.”
She began submitting photos to agencies and interned with Justin Gelband, a personal trainer who works with supermodels and celebrities, in New York. Last summer, she received a scholarship to participate in Kode With Klossy, a summer camp that teachers girls ages 13-18 how to code and build web applications.
In the fall, she was scouted online by Mazza Models, a boutique modeling agency based in Texas, and signed on with them. Several weeks ago she flew to New York for castings for New York Fashion Week.
“The only limit on the number of shows is time,” she said.
The best part of modeling, Pope said, is the designers and models she works with.
“It’s an industry where I haven’t met anyone who isn’t passionate about what they’re doing,” she said.
The worst part? The hectic schedule, Pope said. Photo shoots and casting calls are often thrown together last-minute, and the time frame is constantly changing. People don’t realize how hard models work, she said.
“There’s a lot of girls my age who are still in school and are juggling eating right, working out and keeping up with insane schedules,” Pope said. “There’s no weekend.”
Nevertheless, Pope, who will graduate a year early from Sanderson in the spring, plans to pursuing a modeling career in New York full-time in the fall.
Her advice for other young people wondering whether they should take a chance and pursue their dreams is to connect with people within an industry.
“Always reach out and there will be someone there to help you,” Pope said.
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler