You wanna be on top?

One of the things I love the most about Austin is the style. I’ve been following around and working with my best friend (Elizabeth Lestina) here since my move, which means that I’ve been a “plus one” to more fashion shows than I can count. Trust me. I’m not complaining.

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Last year, Elizabeth competed in the Top Austin Model competition (sponsored by Butterfly Entertainment) and made it to the final runway show (which of course, I attended). Even though she couldn’t make it to this year’s finale, I was still able to attend: this time for “work,” as a Social Media Sponsor.

I’m so grateful to Brianna Fleet for trusting me to completely take over her social accounts for the evening. It was so fun and an excellent experience to document the event and interview the models.

Like any basic girl, I’ve watched nearly every season of Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model. It’s a guilty pleasure, plus, I love the style. And while Top Austin Model is a modeling competition as well, geared 20160428_172146towards kick-starting a young model’s career, that’s really where the comparison ends. In the very best way. Because unlike ANTM, Top Austin Model is filled with love…not drama (cheesy, sorry). 

“Brianna is really helpful guiding you. You learn more about yourself every time you shoot.” – Carleen

This year, the competition took place at Brodie Homestead. The country-style venue was gorgeous, with little wooden chairs lined up along the runway on one side and on the other, vendor tables as well as a mini-bar.

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I ran around the venue snapping photos, interviewing the models, shooting videos. As I watched the models do a final run-through before the doors opened, I couldn’t help but notice how Brianna interacted with the models. You can tell she wants them to succeed, whether they win or lose the competition and from what I could tell, she’s also an excellent teacher.

“It’s fun no matter what the outcome is!” – Hayat

I think that it’s a mixture of Brianna’s teaching style and her bubbly personality that was most inspiring to me as a spectator. She’s upbeat and positive, no matter what, it would seem. More importantly, it’s evident that she genuinely cares about the models and in turn, they care about each other. Backstage, they chatted excitedly and gave each other (kind) feedback. Calmed each others’ nerves. Supported each other.

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“Good luck to all the girls, you all look really beautiful!” – Kendall

The doors opened and the guests filtered in. Brianna gave me a breathless minute right before the show to go on Facebook Live Video, announcing her excitement for the show. (Side note: What a fun tool! Weird, but super cool!) I didn’t go Live during the show so as to not bombard followers but I did live-Tweet it and recorded videos of the models as well, which are now stored in my Google Drive, so any of them can re-live the experience.

The chairs were filled with spectators and the runway was speckled with eager local photographers. Former contestants – All Stars – walked, the competitors strutted their stuff, and some local guys, including the DJ, modeled as well. Everyone who walked was decked in clothing by local designers and boutiques (I’d love to list them all but will instead direct you here because they’re all amazing). The competition wound down to four top contestants…IMG_20160429_124813

“…but before that, I just want to say that you are all amazing!”

After an intense “walk-off,” the judges deliberated. The look on Shelly’s face when she was announced the winner was touchingly priceless. I watched Brianna working with her before the show, and you can tell that she is a hardworking and ambitious model.

I’m sure that all the girls wanted to win…why else would they have wanted to compete in a modeling competition? But win or lose, their energy was positive and their “congratulations” to Shelly after the show wasn’t bitter but supportive. I don’t think I’m too bold in saying that by the end of the competition, they’d left with more than just modeling practice, but a new group of friends.

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