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As Madison Headrick can attest, having an all-star casting director in your corner can make all the difference. After a brief meeting with Ashley Brokaw, who casts shows for Balenciaga, Proenza Schouler and Miu Miu, among others, the 18-year-old South Carolina-native landed a fall 2012 exclusive with Prada, her very first show. “It was literally the longest 60 seconds of my life,” says Headrick, who recently signed with Marilyn. “The runway just kept going and going.” After that, her enthusiasm was a dead giveaway that it was her first show. “As I turned the corner to go back backstage I was like ‘Woohoo! We did it, guys!’” Headrick says. “All the other models were looking at me like, ‘This is the 47th show I’ve done this season.’ It was silent — like crickets!”
WWD: What’s New York living like for a real Southern girl?
MH: I just got an apartment here three weeks ago, so I feel like I’m on my way to becoming a New Yorker. I was in a models’ apartment for a while and I was like, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ Actually, the girl I’m living with now was in the models’ apartment with me. She’s 18, just graduated high school early like me. She’s from Chicago. We were the only Americans in the apartment. We were in basically the same situation so we kind of buddied up and hid in the corner from the rest of the girls!
WWD: How did you get your modeling start?
MH: I had a mother agency in L.A. that I’ve been with for a couple years but in high school, modeling was sort of on the back burner. But I graduated the last week in January and I came here with my family for vacation for a week in the beginning of February. My mother agency set up some meetings with some agencies while I was here.
WWD: Is that when you signed with Marilyn?
MH: Yeah, I signed and they were like “OK, go get your stuff and come back.” It was all in a week. My mom said, “No! Don’t take my baby!” I knew I was looking for an agency, I just didn’t think it would happen that fast. It was weird, I was at a test shoot but just the week before, I was sitting at my desk in high school.
WWD: What do you remember about the castings?
MH: My outfit was horrible that day. In Charleston, everyone wears the same thing: jeans, T-shirt and flip-flops. So my effort to impress was so misguided. I showed up to the agency in this Navaho print shirt that was shredded on the stomach part. I thought it was cool; the agencies didn’t. I remember when I came in at one casting, they were like, “Oh, OK then.” They were not scared to hurt my feelings.
WWD: At least your look was original.
MH: Yeah, the people at Marilyn were like “Well, do you have anything on underneath that?” I had on a tank top and when I took the frayed top off, they were like, “Oh my god, you’re a totally different person! Tomorrow, just wear the tank top.”
WWD: Did your agency style you from then on?
MH: The first thing they did at Marilyn when I signed was say, “OK, you’re going to come up here, and we’re going take you shopping.” Then they said, “Don’t bring your clothes. You don’t need to pack — anything.” They weren’t kidding!
WWD: Where did they take you shopping?
MH: Everywhere. Zara, H&M. I had to get a whole new wardrobe. I never wore skinny jeans in my life before I came here. I was really into Abercrombie flare jeans.
WWD: How did the Prada exclusive come about?
MH: I had never walked before and, since I’m so tall [5 feet, 10. 1/2 inches], I never wore heels. When I came back to New York they said, “It’s February, we’re in the middle of fashion week. We’re going to have you take some walking classes and we’ll take you on a few castings but you probably won’t get anything. Don’t get your hopes up.” They thought it was more for the experience for me to learn.
WWD: And then?
MH: Well, I met Ashley [Brokaw, casting director], who casts Prada and my booker said I got good feedback, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Then I came into the agency one day and they sat me down and said, “You did OK on your castings, and we don’t want you to be upset, but you’re not going to be walking in New York Fashion Week this season.” My heart sunk. I literally had tears in my eyes. Then they said, “But there’s a reason why — you got a Prada exclusive! You’re going to Milan!” I freaked out!