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Paige Reifler is a fast-talking, F-bomb-dropping, born-and-bred New Yorker. On a recent afternoon at WWD’s office, she showed up in an all-black outfit (natch), accessorized with a Saint Laurent bag and suede ankle booties. “I hate when someone says describe your style in three words. I don’t f--king know!” she said, when asked if modeling has affected her fashion sense. “I have such an eclectic style....It changes all the time. Clearly, today I’m mourning something.”
The 18-year-old, repped by New York Models, is just starting to get her feet wet — so far, she’s appeared in Teen Vogue and Elle Vietnam editorials — but she’s already becoming something of an “It” girl. She’s learning how to DJ and also has quite an active social life. Her Instagram account (@reiflerpaige, with more than 33,000 followers and counting) shows her on a weekend getaway in the Hamptons with Harry and Peter Brant, and, on another occasion, posing with Michael Avedon at a Calvin Klein by MyTheresa party.
For now, Reifler is staying in Manhattan at her parents’ old apartment, though she just returned from a monthlong trip in London, where she seems to have made a few friends. A quick Google search of her name returns more than 100,000 pages of gossipy headlines and pap shots, particularly on British tabloid sites, that link her to Harry Styles, the One Direction heartthrob. Fans of the boy band can be a particularly passionate breed, and his rumored love interests are not always treated kindly by them. But she shrugged off all the attention like a seasoned celeb. “I don’t really talk about my personal life like that,” she said. “I don’t know why people care so much about certain people’s lives.”
WWD: What was it like growing up in Manhattan?
Paige Reifler: I grew up on the Upper East Side. I went to school up there for a bit and then I went to boarding school in upstate New York. I think everybody grows up really quick here. You’re open to so many things. It’s obviously a melting pot. You’re always meeting people from different cultures and eating different cuisines. I loved growing up in the city. I’m all for it. My family’s strangely close. My sister works at Vogue, she’s a graphic designer, she’s 24. My brother’s in finance with my father. And I’m the baby. My mother takes care of all of us and tries to manage our crazy.
WWD: When you were younger, did you ever think about modeling?
P.R.: I always knew I was kinda cute [she laughed]. But no, I never actually thought I could model. I actually wanted to be an actress. And then I realized that I’m too lazy to be an actress. It’s a craft. It’s actually a serious profession.
WWD: Did your parents encourage a career in the arts?
P.R.: When I was super little, I wanted to be a dancer. It was a funny story. I went to this very chi-chi dance school on the Upper East Side. It’s the kind of school where [you’re trained] to become a professional dancer — that’s just what happens. I took it pretty seriously, but they were very strict with what you could wear: black leotard, white tights. One day, you got to wear whatever you wanted. For an entire week, I wore the craziest outfits. The head of the academy called my mom and said, “Paige is being really reckless, wearing bedazzled tutus. She can’t do this.” My mom freaked out and was like, “That’s self-expression!”
WWD: So when did you decide to finally take a stab at modeling?
P.R.: I went to my dad’s office one day and his friend said, “You should try modeling.” I was 17, so this was recent. I kind of always turned down modeling; I would be like, “No, I want to focus on my academics.” Finally, I said, pardon, “F--k it.” I thought I could make money. So I went to this guy’s place with my father….He had this young photographer randomly staying with him, Jacob Sadrak, who had just shot Latin American Vogue. Jacob just started taking photos of me and secretly sent them out [to agencies]. At 1 a.m., Jacob said, “This is your day tomorrow. You’re meeting with DNA, IMG and New York Models.” And it just took off from there.
WWD: You graduated high school pretty recently, too.
P.R.: My last year I went to PCS, the Professional Children’s School. It caters to kids with jobs. There are a ton of dancers there. I graduated and now I’m on this indefinite gap between now and when I go to college. I’m going to continue modeling for now, and I don’t really know when I’ll go to college yet. I’m passionate about a lot of things. I really like writing. I just picked up photography. I like dipping my foot into a lot of different pools.
WWD: What’s been your favorite gig so far?
P.R.: It was for Grazia or Glamour U.K. — I still haven’t gotten the photos from it. It was me in Times Square in the dead of winter. I could not have been more cold. I was in head-to-toe sheer, mesh clothing, like Dior and Chanel. Hundreds of people were around us and I’m wearing this red wig. I had a giant Acne coat on, and whenever the lights would shine on me, I would have to rip it off [and pose.]
WWD: What are some things you’ve learned about the business in the past year?
P.R.: I think modeling has a bad connotation for being superficial. But I find the most joy when I meet really rad people on set and get to hang out with them. It’s really not what it seems. No one tries to take advantage of you or anything, at least not in my experience. I’ve always really felt comfortable in front of the camera.
WWD: Do you think you’ll ever do runway?
P.R.: I’ve talked to my bookers about doing runway. I don’t know what that feels like. I don’t know if that’s some sort of rush. I think that would be cool, sure. I mean, maaaybe I would open Chanel if I had to [she laughed.]
WWD: You’re pretty active on Instagram.
P.R.: I think Instagram is such an amazing tool to give models a voice. It’s like, this is what I’m doing when I’m not standing and taking a photo. This is what I like to do. This is what I’m inspired by. I think it’s phenomenal for that. I was never a Twitter fan, but recently I started tweeting and I think it’s hilarious. I follow the news, I follow the pope. At one point I was only following the pope.
WWD: Any dream jobs in modeling?
P.R.: I really like Saint Laurent’s aesthetic. That’s my dream, to do something with Saint Laurent. Publication-wise, I like i-D and V magazines…edgy, cool stuff like that. I also want to go somewhere really cool and remote [to shoot on location]. One time I went to Chile and we drove up this beautiful mountainous area. There were these albino peacocks everywhere, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna shoot with them!’ And then we keep driving further to the location and it’s just a white wall. I was like, ugh.
WWD: Are there any models you look up to?
P.R.: I think Lara Stone is an absolute babe. I think Kate Moss opened so many doors for so many people. She is just... “It.” I like models who are intelligent and have a voice. Even Cara Delevingne — she just doesn’t care what anyone thinks. I think a lot of young new girls on the scene are really killing it in that sense.
WWD: What’s on your bucket list?
P.R.: I would love to go to the Netherlands — there are these unbelievable fields there that are all tulips. And I really want to get a tattoo. Sometimes I’ll just draw on myself to get used to the idea. Recently, I have this idea that I’m gonna be a DJ. My agency [Storm] in London is setting some stuff up for fashion week. My friend DJs at Paul’s Baby Grand and he’s gonna teach me how to do it. I’ve made a couple mixes of house mixed with Nineties hip-hop or Seventies rock — always with a beat.