A Model Student
BY: JANIE FRANK
Teah Sisti was twelve years old when she gave a presentation to her class about what she wanted to do when she grew up. Sisti told her classmates she wanted to walk in New York City Fashion Week.
“Everybody laughed in my face,” Sisti said. “They were like: you’re not pretty, your nose is too big, you don’t have the right proportions.”
Sisti, now a junior at the University at Albany, laughs when she tells the story now, but back then she was hurt.
“I was completely laughed at,” she said.
Sisti used that as her motivation.
“I’m the type of person when something like that happens, I fight for it so much more than I ever would have. I was like screw them, I’m gonna do this.”
She went to open calls over the course of five years before she landed her first big job.
The first gig Sisti was hired for was a job she found via Craigslist.
“Things were much different then,” she said. “You can’t do that anymore because today everything is very sexualized. It’s like ‘Looking for Feet Models’ and you’re like, ‘Are you though?’”
After a year of going to auditions and castings, Sisti got a real job at the age of 17. She was hired to work as a model for the International Beauty Show (IBS) at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
“It’s so true in any industry, you’re told no a million times,” she said.
She believes that she was told no so often because of her body.
“Nobody chose me because my proportions for the modeling industry are off,” she said. “I’m considered plus… Standard high fashion is 00 to 4 and I’m an 8/10.”
Sisti recognized that there is a big difference between being a plus size in the modeling world and actually being plus sized. She noted that she is still under the average clothing size for women in the US, which is 12/14.
The IBS was Sisti’s first big break.
“I made connections,” she said. “A few photographers liked me, I started putting together a portfolio and that was kind of my foot in the door.”
A photographer from IBS who liked her suggested she go to an open call for Fashion Week. Sisti went; she was 18 and a freshman at UAlbany.
When the man in charge of casting told Sisti she had a European nose
which made him love her look. She immediately remembered her classmates telling her that she couldn’t model because her nose was too big. He offered her a spot in the show.
“It was one of the best moments in my life,” she said. “For me, it was such an incredible moment and from there was mayhem.”
Sisti didn’t live in the city at that time so she had to travel in and out for fittings. She ended up walking in Fashion Week for 12 different designers.
Because Fashion Week was held over a school break, she only had to miss one day of classes. However, she does feel like being at UAlbany has hindered her modeling career.
“It definitely limits me. Modeling while being at a university in Albany is virtually impossible,” she said. “I don’t have a car so I’m very very limited here.”
Sisti knew going into college that her decision could affect her career.
“I could have been signed to a few different agencies but nobody wanted to hear the fact that I was going away to school.”
She chose UAlbany anyway.
“I really wanted to be in Albany and have this experience,” she said. “I could put modeling on hold, I wanted to focus on my education.”
She hasn’t put modeling on hold entirely though. Instead, she makes sure to book jobs while she is home on breaks. She usually does trade shows. Over winter break Sisti worked as a model for Accessories The Show.
“You get paid and it’s fun but it’s not couture, it’s not high fashion, it’s not Fashion Week,” she said. “That’s what I really miss.”
Even though she still loves modeling, she has become disillusioned by it.
“It’s just a very high demand industry and it is hard,” she said. “You have to have thick skin.”
At 21, Sisti is considered by some in the industry to be old.
“They really start you when you’re 13. They train girls from very young ages.”
At 5’10”, Sisti is on the shorter side for high fashion modeling. She said the requirements usually ask from someone who is a minimum of 5’10” and a maximum of 6’.
Sisti said models have to have the look that a certain company is looking for.
“High fashion is constantly changing and you either have what they’re looking for or you don’t,” she said. “Its not as fun for me as it used to be. You really are a hanger and that’s why they want you so skinny.”
Although Sisti has never suffered from anorexia or bulimia, she has seen it first hand, especially in Fashion Week. She admitted that she could get carried away from counting calories as well.
Sisti said modeling is very personal because models are judged on how they look, but it can be very impersonal as well.
“They’re not taking pictures of your face or even your body. They want the piece, they want what you’re showing off,” she said.
In fact, a model, unless she is well known, will rarely hear her name.
“They call you sweetie a lot in the industry… because they don’t care to know your name. They don’t care at all.”
Sisti is not sure she wants to be a model for her career.
“I realized that I actually love marketing so I think my new goal is to do something more like that.”
She hopes to go into fashion marketing and would love to intern over the summer for a company like Victoria’s Secret.
Her favorite designer right now is Dior and she loves the J’adore Dior Eau de Parfum.
Her favorite article of clothing is a red rain jacket from New York & Company.
“It has these beautiful gold buttons. Pair it up with red lipstick and you’re good to go,” she said.
While she may have changed directions for her career choice, Sisti still feels that modeling has taught her a lot.
“I really believe that if you persevere and you believe in yourself that you can accomplish anything,” she said. “When you do achieve what you set out for, it’s such a satisfied feeling… It’s beautiful and no one can take that away.”