Name: Ashley Stuart
Agency: Photogenics/ UPMT
Claim To Fame: Stuart has been featured in campaigns for Kith, Footlocker, and Mac Cosmetics. She also appeared in the video for Liam Bailey’s “Villain ft. A$AP Ferg.”
Ashley Stuart stumbled into modeling when she was trying to mend her broken heart. “I had a girlfriend at the time and we broke up and I actually needed something to get my mind off of her,” she told HelloBeautiful. Stuart began spending time with a friend from school who was looking to establish themselves as a fashion photographer. “We went to high school together. I went to Brooklyn High School Of The Arts,” she said. “I was in dance and drama and he was in art. She agreed to be his “muse,” to have something to do other than obsess over the split. “Honestly, a breakup led me to lead me to modeling. So it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, yeah, I want to grow up and be a model. It was kind of like I did something to get my mind off of it and it’s turned out that it worked,” she admitted.
She had no hopes for turning the hobby into a full-fledged profession. “At the moment I was more so like, I just need to get out of the house and not be in here crying all day.”
Stuart went from just working with her old friend to making new ones. She collaborated with students at The New School regularly. “I was just like kind of like collaborating with anyone who wanted to do anything because I didn’t want to be at home,” she said.
She was returning from a freelance gig in the area when she caught the eye of a scout for Wilhelmina Models. “I’m into crystals and my astrology and stuff. So there’s Namaste Bookshop over on Union square that I normally go to. So I went there and I was probably just going back to the train to get on the four train and someone just tapped me and that’s just it.”
The fluke was a rare occurrence in a climate where models woo agents for years to try and get their attention. “Normally you have to go through the taking digitals and working out and submitting yourself. But for me, I got scouted in union square,” she said. It had never occurred to Stuart to seek out an agent. “I didn’t know because I wasn’t into the industry,” she added. The scout gave Stuart, who was still underage, a card and instructed her to have her guardian contact the agency. She had her sister inquire on her behalf and was presented with a contract at her first visit to the office. As a petite model she was unaware that there was a market for her. “I was kind of surprised that they wanted me. But now that I know that you do have like runway and you have print as well,” she said.
Stuart thinks the universe might have played a hand in the coincidence. “I think it was like kinda aligned, divinely guided because I was kind of rushing to the train station,” she said. “I didn’t want to miss the train that was coming next. And then I just kind of bumped into him. And that’s how that happened.”
The prestigious agency worked well for Stuart initially. “I signed to Wilhelmina and I was with them for about a year and a half,” she said. “I was booking a lot of good jobs.” She was selected for campaigns for Kith, Footlocker, Mac Cosmetics, and others. Unfortunately her height caused her to hit a ceiling as many of their clients selected and then released her for shows when they realized that she was actually under 5’10. She eventually parted ways with the agency amicably maintaining her contacts there. She began to steer her career on her own, learning many of the tasks she skipped by being recruited. She arranged her own photoshoots and courted professional opportunities by sending her digitals out. “That was me learning what I had to do after, ‘cause I never had to learn when I got scouted.”
She has been able to book NYFW presentations and other non-runway based editorial work on her own. She also secured representation with two other agencies.
Stuart hopes her success will give hope to other petite models. “I feel like I just want to be like the inspiration, like ‘Oh yeah, she’s five or five and she did this, you know, I can do it too’.”