Think of a professional job in New York with a yearly six-digit figure for a salary — for many high school students, such an offer is unheard of.
Though it sounds too good to be true, one Sunny Hills student has seen this as a reality.
“Last year, I got an offer to work as a professional model in New York with a yearly salary of $182,000, but it required me to quit my education and move to New York,” said senior Isabelie Montalvo, who turned it down.
Though the five-foot-two-inch model hasn’t earned any money from signing with Los Angeles-based The Model Experience in March 2017, she said she has done work for the agency to get exposure.
Montalvo became interested in this field through her older sister.
“[She] had done a lot of studying for fashion design, and she always told me how models needed to fit the clothes and how they had to be perfect,” she said. “And so over time, I wanted to be “perfect,” but then when entering the industry, I wanted to set the moral that ‘perfect’ isn’t defined by what everyone thinks, and every body type is a model type.”
To begin her first step into the world of modeling, she met senior Haylee Hawkins — a student at Cypress High School and a junior model at the time — at a Bible camp in the summer of 2012.
Montalvo said the two of them found a common interest in modeling with Hawkins sharing some of her experiences from her gigs.
“Haylee gave me the link to apply to The Model Experience, and I didn’t expect for them to want me, but within a week they had asked me to be in their next show, and it just pretty much branched out from there,” she said.
Though Montalvo has yet to be commissioned for larger projects such as a commercial, she has modeled for a clothing company called Teen Hearts, which sells its clothes with Hot Topic.
Hawkins shared an optimistic view of what’s in store for Montalvo if she were to continue with this path as a career.
“The [modeling] industry is one of the hardest to get into [because of its] many sections, [but] she’s sure to succeed in some of its areas,” she said.
Although Montalvo enjoys the work she does, she finds that the most difficult part is not holding a pose or communicating with others — it is her body image.
“From the moment you sign a contract [from] any agency or company, you pretty much have to do as they say about your body and your social life,” she said. “I have been told to lose stomach weight and tone my abs and arms on more than one occasion.”
Other than modeling, Montalvo’s sights are also set on a future in acting. As she has worked with Sunny Hills’ theater program since her sophomore year, Montalvo’s teacher, Amanda Gieser, has high hopes for her student.
“She’s got a really great range, and she’s always interested in playing the ‘meaty’ roles; so even if that means playing a male since a lot of female roles were limited, she is always up for a challenge,” Gieser said.
Balancing school work and part-time modeling have been difficult for Montalvo, especially because of this desire to spend more time on her education and work toward becoming an actress.
“Throughout my modeling career, I’ve had to balance school, soccer, dive, Mana club, theater, choir and choir historian,” she said. “[I have played the] flight attendant from ‘Addams Family Musical,’ Lady Macbeth… Piece and Viola from [William Shakespeare’s] ‘Twelfth Night.’”
On top of this heavy schedule, Montalvo must find the time to train her body for photo shoots or runway events. Though it may not be as intense as the training process for a Victoria Secret model, she has the dedication to keeping her body fit for the perfect shot.
“I drink a lot of water, [refrain from] eat[ing] any junk food, burgers, candy and I have to eat mostly natural food, nothing processed,” she said.
As the modeling industry has been given a negative reputation for idealizing extremely limited body types, Montalvo hopes that her ability to model will be an inspiration to those who doubt their abilities based solely on their bodies.
“The reason I want to [model] professionally is to potentially change the way people negatively view the modeling industry and prove to them that through hard work and following your passions, you can excel and succeed in your goals no matter how challenging they may seem,” she said.
As of now, Montalvo is taking time off from modeling with the intention of focusing more on her studies and efforts to get into a performing arts college.
“Modeling is a very stressful thing after a while, but hopefully, I’ll be getting back into it sometime soon,” she said. “[I plan on attending college] in New York because it offers a lot of opportunity for both live theater and modeling.”