A Former Model Delves into the Industry

Mears 1 0115Alyssa Giacobbe profiles 3QD friend Ashley Mears in the Boston Globe (photo by Laura Barisonzi Photography):

Ashley Mears grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta and got her first copy of Vogue, she recalls, at age 13. Two years later, after entering a model-search contest held at her local mall, she landed representation with an Atlanta booking agency and began picking up odd modeling jobs after school – catalog shoots and mall fashion shows. It was mostly for fun. Her more dependable after-school earnings came from her job at a movie theater, where she was paid minimum wage and got free popcorn.

And yet she kept modeling – something of a hustle already in those early days – for years, motivated by the promise of an eventual big payoff. Later, she spent hours of her limited free time as a sociology student at the University of Georgia driving to Atlanta for fittings and department store gigs, prepping for shoots, and waiting on call for jobs that could happen at a moment’s notice, all for annual earnings of around $5,000, less than she might have earned at a conventional campus job. It didn’t bother her at the time. “I thought I was going to be a huge success and I’d travel the world and it would be very glamorous,” she says. And for a while it was: During summer breaks, Mears traveled to Osaka, Japan, and Milan, Italy. And she spent about six months after graduation working in Asia, pulling in approximately $50,000 in 2002 – slightly more than the typical recent college grad at the time earned in a full year and far more than her peers working in New York (models, she says, often go to Asia to “cash out”). By the time she was 23, though, – over the hill for a model still trying to make the big time – she had packed up her portfolio and gone to graduate school to pursue a PhD in sociology.