Models under the age of 20 ruled the runway in Milan last week as designers show their Fall 2008 collections, but in New York on Wednesday night, Feb. 20, the focus on the runway was models ages 40 and up. What a great move!
Amidst the soaring ceilings and marble columns of Cipriani's on 42nd Street, More magazine and Wilhelmina models held the final event for its 40-plus model search competition, a runway walk by the ten finalists in two different looks each designed by Heidi Weisel.
Dieter Esch, the owner of Wilhelmina Models, introduced the runway show along with newly appointed More editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour.
"Women are no longer afraid to say their age," said Esch. "People live their age and are proud of their age." Oscar-nominated actress Joan Allen, on the cover of this month's issue of More, hosted the affair, giving running commentary about each of the models' backgrounds and the dress designs they donned.
Wednesday night's event was the culmination of a six month search by the magazine, this year celebrating their tenth anniversary. Ten open calls across the country and 14,000 entries later (potential models sent in a DVD about themselves), More magazine whittled down the pool of contestants to ten woman from seven states, whose ages ranged from 40-51. They will all appear in the June 2008 issue of More.
But only three women took home five year modeling contracts from Wilhelmina and prizes from sponsors worth a combined amount of $90,000. Chung Winstanley, 45, a project management consultant from Short Hills, NJ, took home the grand prize, while Elizabeth James-Lipscomb, 43, from West Bend, WI, was first runner-up. Julia Jordan, 46, of Lancaster, NY was the second runner-up.
Winstanley said she'd considered modeling in the past, and had even contacted an agency but over 20 years ago. Now, she's a mother of three. "I don't think they even know yet!" she said about her win. "I think they're going to be pretty shocked." A friend heard about the contest, she said, and they thought it'd be fun to go to the open call in New York, but she said she never expected to get this far.
As part of the prize for being finalists, each of the ten women spent three days in New York prior to the competition undergoing a crash course in modeling, with tips on runway walking and media training, to make them as confident as models as they are in their everyday lives from business owners to pilates instructors to pastry chefs, this was one accomplished posse.
But even with all the prep, nothing could quite prepare them for the rush of walking down the runway in front of a live, cheering audience for the first time. And what was going through the winner's head?
"I was just really excited," said Winstanley. "I was nervous right at the very beginning, just before I first stepped out, but then as I was walking down the runway, it felt absolutely brilliant." I don't think they even know yet! I think they're going to be pretty shocked.