Being a young teen-ager is tough on anyone. Peer pressure from schoolmates, the need to be popular, and becoming an adult all contribute to the angst so many teens feel. But 15-year-old Candice Graham doesn't suffer from much of that -- not anymore, at least.
Candice was a typical teen with typical teen problems until a spur of the moment whim late last year prompted her to enter a model search at the Dimond Center mall in Anchorage.
"They picked my mom at first and I didn't get picked. It was a little hard on me," Candice said. "But she had to go back the next day and I decided to go with her and try again."
On the second day, Candice was chosen -- one of only 20 out of 300 who tried out.
Over the next several months Candice, then a 14-year-old freshman, went to Anchorage from her Nikiski home on weekends to learn modeling and acting.
"I was taught how to walk on the runway, pose for the photo modeling, and had to memorize scripts to rehearse commercials and soap operas," she said.
Candice, her mom, and 550 other aspiring models from around the country went to Hilton Head, S.C., for a week in January to compete in the American Modeling and Talent International model search.
"We had a ball," said Suzette Graham, Candice's mother, and reigning Mrs.
Alaska. "Candice took home four awards, including best personality, second in overall modeling, second in photo and third in commercial acting."
During the competition Candice had to model and act in front of about 1,000 people.
"We did the commercials live in a separate room, but it was shown on a big screen in front of the audience," she said. "I did my commercial about Rite Aid makeup."
Candice made several contacts with industry representatives, some who told her that if she ever moved from Alaska, they could put her to work.
"The judges were from model agencies and talent scouts and from magazines," she said. "I got a call back from a model agent from New York and was told by another that if I moved to Los Angeles I could do commercials."
Candice doesn't have any plans to move to either of those places, but may be moving from Nikiski soon.
"I'd have a hard time moving to L.A., but I think we might be moving to Nashville for mom's singing," she said. "Even in Tennessee, I think I can model and act."
Suzette Graham is an aspiring country singer who has opened for several well-known acts in Kenai and Anchorage. She said she wants to move her family to Nashville so she can pursue her career.
At 5-feet, 8-inches, Candice is just tall enough to meet industry standards for height, though she says she's a little bigger than some of the waif-like models out there.
"A Japanese agency (at the competition) didn't want their models to be over a size 3," said Candice, whose model agency promotion card lists her a few sizes larger than that. "I laughed about that as I was eating potato chips."
Candice said she is not obsessed with body image and is not embarrassed by having vital statistics such as her measurements or shoe size listed on her model card.
"It doesn't bother me. I try to take care of myself. I'm body aware," Candice said. "I'm not anorexic or bulimic, but I'm not fat, either. I probably would be anorexic or bulimic if I didn't like food so much."
As an aspiring model, 15-year-old Candice says she is not obsessed with body image. "I try to take care of myself. I'm body aware," she said. "I'm not anorexic or bulimic, but I'm not fat, either. I probably would be anorexic or bulimic if I didn't like food so much."
Candice said she's heard people talk about how models must starve themselves or take drugs to look so thin.
"I've heard talk like that, but I didn't find that," she said. "My agency said we should look healthy and be healthy."
Her mother says the training and competition has really made a change in her daughter.
"A big part of this is she's not so self-conscious about her body anymore," Suzette said.
"Even her grades have gone up. She has a lot more self-esteem, but she's not arrogant about it."
Candice said she has never been a shy girl, having entered pageants since she was very young, but the modeling and acting training has boosted her confidence and self-esteem.
"During the competition it was really amazing; no one was put down or was mean," she said. "It's a great opportunity for people who are shy."
With her newfound confidence, Candice said, she has made several changes in her life.
"I definitely dress better," she said. "I used to wear big sweats and T-shirts that went down to my knees. I'm more fashion conscious than I used to be and have a lot of clothes now."
She said she also works out more and eats better.
"Now I care about myself more than ever. I care about what I eat and drink," she said. "I don't drink pop any more and have a lot more energy. I eat what I want, but it's mostly low fat."
One way she exercises is by playing baseball.
Candice said some of her schoolmates were a little put of by her going to modeling classes and the competition in South Carolina, but she sid they've gotten over it. "Then they figured out it's july the same Candice," she said. "Now people ask me to show them how to do the model walk."
Photo by Jay Barrett
"That is my number one sport," said Candice, who is an outfielder for the Rockies, a senior team in the Kenai Little League.
While Candice hasn't gotten her big break and been whisked off to the runways of Italy or France to model Versace gowns, she has high hopes.
"I haven't gotten any assignments yet, but I will," she said. "I know I can do it."
Candice and her mom know there are fly-by-night operations that might try to take advantage of her either photographically or financially, but they said they are prepared.
"I do worry about that," Suzette said. "But she has good morals and good values, and when it comes right down to it, she'll make the right decisions."
Candice said she's thought about modeling in the past and likes the idea of traveling.
"My mom keeps telling me how pretty I am and how I should be a model," she said. "I never really dreamed about it, but I imagined how exciting it would be to travel and model and do commercials."
Candice said some of her schoolmates were a little put off by her going to modeling classes and the competition in South Carolina, but she said they've gotten over it.
"Then they figured out it's just the same Candice," she said. "Now people ask me to show them how to do the model walk."
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