High heels and haute couture

November 26, 2015 — by Nupur Maheshwari and Eleanor Goh

Junior Anya Herne, now a model for the local agency HMM Halvorson, has realized that modeling is much tougher than it appears.

The harbor wind whipping across her body felt like a thousand needles jabbing harder into her skin with every passing minute. Then 15-year-old junior Anya Herne, freezing and wearing only a bikini, struggled to hold her pose during her first photo shoot in Santa Cruz.

After that experience, Herne, now a model for the local agency HMM Halvorson, realized that modeling was much tougher than it appeared. Yet within the year she began working in the industry, she grew to love “how different it is from everything else” she does.

“I love that you're free — even encouraged — to take risks in modeling, something that I haven't experienced as much in my other pursuits,” Herne said. “You have to be authentic and sell your own look.”

Herne looked into modeling after hearing countless people tell her that she should try it out, due to her 5-foot-9 stature, high fashion bob and lean body type. She eventually approached HMM to explore her options.

Since she was only 14 at the time, the agency put her in training workshops before the initial shoot so that she could learn about posing and walking and reach “the general level of maturity expected out of models,” as defined by the agency.

Initially apprehensive and unsure of what to do during her shoot in Santa Cruz, Herne was surprised to later find that it had been a success. A week after the initial shoot, Herne signed a contract naming HMM as her mother agency (the first agency a model works with) until the age of 18 and was placed on the website of her agent, Traci Halvorson.

Herne’s parents have supported her newfound interest, though they have made it clear that academics always take precedent over modeling.

“I’m sure they would be more excited if I had stuck with music or if I focused more on golf, but I think they've accepted that I really do enjoy modeling,” Herne said. “It's a fair bargain that my parents and I have struck when it comes to this activity.”

Since she signed with HMM, many photographers have contacted Herne’s agent for her email. Herne has only occasionally modeled up to this point, but after turning 16 recently, she hopes to receive more offers.

“Even then, 16 is fairly young for the local market; clients here usually prefer models who are between 18 to 30 years old,” she said. “[And] with school and my other extracurriculars, I don't always have time to do shoots, which my agent is really understanding about.”

The photographers who contact Herne generally provide her with the theme, the call time, the outfit, the makeup look and the location of the shoot, so that Herne only has to check her schedule, accept the offer and attend the shoot.

The furthest place Herne had to travel to for a shoot has been Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch, which was about 40 minutes away from home. The shoot was for PacSun, one of the more notable companies Herne has worked with, and while she was aware of the high pressure involved, the photographer made it “such a fun experience that it wasn’t stressful in any way.”

She wore black ripped jeans, a shirt with lacing across the bust and an olive green jacket, an outfit which she felt gave her a lot of flexibility when posing.

According to Herne, modeling is not as easy as people may think; it requires quick thinking, a high level of self-confidence and focus, especially in a public situation where there are observers.

“You have to think of different poses that look good on you on the spot,” Herne said. “I'm naturally somewhat self-conscious, which is a barrier I had to — and am still trying to — overcome.”

One of the things that allows Herne to overcome her insecurities when posing is her respect for the people she works with.

“It's a waste of everyone's time if I go up in front of the camera and spend five minutes shying away because I'm embarrassed,” said Herne. “The people are on a schedule and I'm on a schedule, so I find that committing 100 percent to the pose — no matter if it's a good one or not — produces the best results.”

For Herne, modeling is a place where she can explore different styles and experiment with outfits.

“I adore fashion,” Herne said. “I've loved wearing the clothes that I shoot in and experiencing the fashion industry from so many angles.”

Herne said she wants to continue modeling for as long  as she can, hoping to attend college in New York so she can model part time while in school. Though her more ambitious goals include walking on the runway for Chanel, Elie Saab and Alexander Wang and shooting a magazine cover for Elle or Vogue, Herne is aware of the commitment it takes to get there.

“I sometimes make the mistake of only thinking about the glamour and forgetting about the hard work and pressure involved,” she said. “Especially in the world of haute couture and in these major magazines, you really have to be something else to make it on that level. [However], if the opportunity for a major fashion campaign comes up for me, I'm definitely for it, and I'll go all the way.”