Trumbull model stays true to self in unpredictable industry

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Imagine arriving at your job and everyone looks exactly like you, right down to the size of your waist and the color of your eyes.

Kathia Bailey experiences this often.  

“That’s the weirdest part,” the model said.

Bailey routinely finds herself at castings where clients have requested young women who share her appearance: fair skin, brown hair and eyes.

The competition can be tough to handle, especially for a 20-year-old, but Bailey is level-headed and upbeat.

“It’s not really intimidating when you’re true to yourself,” she said. “There are so many pretty girls — your personality is what separates you from everyone else.”

Since she began modeling two years ago, this Trumbull native’s career has soared. Bailey has been hired by a bevy of top designers, including the Italian designer Giambattista Valli, with whom she has a regular showroom modeling gig. Bailey has also landed commercial work with brand-name companies, including a campaign for Pringles.

With New York City Fashion Week mid-month, February is one of the busiest times to be a model. Before fashion week, Bailey was attending upward of 10 castings a day and logging more than seven miles on foot.

“I would have to be in Brooklyn at 10 and then have to be on the Upper East Side at 10:30,” Bailey said. “It’s chaos.”

Speaking with The Trumbull Times last month, Bailey said she had auditioned for spots in fashion week shows by Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang and Kanye West.

Bailey stressed that modeling is far from the glamorous profession many believe it to be. Sure, she’s worn gowns that cost more than most cars, but waiting for castings means there’s a lot of downtime and unpredictability.

“Sometimes they’re five seconds and super quick, and sometimes you’re waiting for two hours and there are 300 girls there,” Bailey said.

Planning ahead in this industry is nearly impossible.

“I have no idea what I’m doing the next day until 7:30 the night before,” she said.

Bailey usually wakes at dawn and prepares a “massive” breakfast: veggie omelette, turkey bacon, oatmeal, and bread. “I need to have bread,” she said, “and coffee.”

After she packs a bag with water and granola bars — and her heels — Bailey heads to the train in Bridgeport from her family home in Trumbull.

Behind the camera

Bailey said she never wanted to be a model. Growing up she was shy, and preferred photography to fashion.

“I was always behind the camera,” she said of her time at Regional Center for the Arts, the Trumbull magnet school. “I actually hated being in front of it.”

That all changed once she was scouted by one of her parents’ friends. She later signed with John Casablancas of Connecticut, a modeling agency in Rocky Hill.

The look

Bailey looks unmistakably like a model. She is tall and wispy, with big brown eyes and a face that looks more teenager than 20-year-old.

“We wear so much makeup and they Photoshop our bodies,” Bailey admitted. “We constantly deal with being told what people don’t like about us, so you have to put up a wall.”

Of course, the pressure to be thin as a model is intense — eating disorders are rampant, Bailey said — but she is unwilling to give up one of her favorite hobbies: cooking.

“I told myself I would never compromise my food for my job,” she said. “The 24-inch waist, 34-inch hips — they want to see those exact measurements. You just want to make sure you’re healthy and confident.”

Fashion week is especially competitive, with models flocking to New York City from all over the world.

“Some of them are so skinny, their legs are the size of my arm,” she said. “I think to myself, if I don’t get cast for this show because I don’t look like that, then I don’t want to be cast for this show.”

Future goals

Though she models full-time, Bailey earned her associate’s degree in business from Housatonic Community College. She said she’s saving the money she earns from modeling to start her own business. Until then, she plans to stay on the runway for as long as possible.

“[Modeling] takes a lot more effort than what people think,” she said. “Of course it’s eating right and staying in shape, but that’s a small portion. It’s also knowing how to manage your time, where to go on a train and how to present yourself professionally.”

All that considered, Bailey has found that a warm personality can make the biggest impact.

“I think a smile is what gets you far,” she said. “A lot of girls complain and they’re angry all the time. They don’t look good when they smile because it’s not genuine.”