by MIKE CHAIKEN
Victoria Henley has a familiar face.
But it’s not just because her face graced television screens across the country when she competed for top honors on television’s “America’s Next Top Model.”
Henley is a familiar face because it seems as if she is walking on a runway during every second of New York Fashion Weeks in February and September.
The effort reflects Henley’s realization that even a pretty face must hustle if she wants to be successful.
“Complacency leads to apathy, which leads to laziness, which leads to no bookings,” said the fashion model in an email interview. “Consistent ambition and hunger to accomplish separates the working from non-working models in this industry.”
“Hard work” is the key to success, said Henley.
“Modeling requires dedication, focus, hard work, and is far from constant glamour,” said Henley.
“Looks and aesthetics are important to some degree (for fashion models); however, work ethic, stamina, and confidence without the presence of ego are essential factors,” said Henley.
“Bookings that pay the bills are, of course, extremely important, but networking, branding, and TV/ magazine/ radio appearances to keep being seen and relevant are equally important,” said Henley.
One of Henley’s current gigs is Magnifique, which helps train and develop young models, 5,000 so far, she said.
“The primary misconception I see from each of them (about being a model) is that one person or company will eventually hand them the world on a silver platter,” said Henley.
“I pointedly explain to them that anything worth having is worth working extremely hard for, and quite rarely, in business or life, will anything come easily,” said Henley.
Bumps and bruises to the ego come with the territory when you’re a model, said Henley.
“I would say the hardest aspect of getting started in modeling was learning to take rejection in stride and discovering that no one designer or company is ‘The Gatekeeper’ of the fashion industry,” said Henley. “Relentlessness and persistence are vital to success.”
“You cannot please everyone…. Each opinion or critique should not be acknowledged or heeded as fact,” said Henley. “Knowing yourself and not letting your self-worth be contingent upon the highs and lows of everyday life and career are keys to longevity in success and general stability in life.”
“The sooner you can learn this, the better,” said Henley.
Henley’s childhood was not one defined by a stage mom and stage dad working to manufacture their child’s success in modeling. Her mother was a biology-chemistry major. Her father is a veterinarian. They were not “show biz” parents.
“My involvement in the industry happened somewhat organically and as a force of kismet,” said Henley.
“My mom had a chance meeting with an agent who discovered me at a local diner in Atlanta when I was just a small baby, and he somehow coaxed her into booking me for a baby catalog,” said Henley.
After some bookings, Henley decided she didn’t want to do it more. But that time away, helped rekindle her interest.
“After seeing my cousin – who was signed with Ford Agency – on a national commercial (I wanted to try modeling again),” said Henley.
As luck had it, Henley’s cousin also taught modeling classes. Henley was taken under the wing of her cousin and she learned about runway modeling, posing, and commercial techniques.
While she was learning to be a model, her cousin showed her clips of “America’s Next Top Model.” She encouraged Henley to audition for the once she was old enough.
When she turned 18, that’s just what Henley did.
Eventually, she was cast for Cycle 19 of the reality television series, finishing in sixth place.
“‘America’s Next Top Model’ was a massive catalyst in helping me establish a brand and full-time career in the field of fashion and modeling,” said Henley.
When you see Henley at fashion events, her mother is often not far behind, often wielding a camera herself.
“My mom, Lynn, has been a constant source of wisdom, support, advice, and encouragement for me, and I am so fortunate to also call her my best friend,” said Henley.
Her mother’s elevation to personal photographer occurred after a photographic letdown.
“(My mother) always had a great eye for setting up and stylizing a photo,” said Henley.
“One day, after my former house photographer seriously inconvenienced me by not showing up to an event with over 100 models in attendance, my mom stepped in to take photos.”
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive about her mother’s work. And Lynn became her daughter’s house photographer.
Modeling, is a significant aspect of her consistent hustle, but it’s not the only aspect.
“Since I was heavily involved in Shakespeare, musical theater performance, writing film reviews for my local paper, and sketch artistry since my formative years, all these varied interests eventually led me to film work, writing special interest features for a variety of magazines, and designing a fashion line,” said Henley.
“My clients often refer to me as a ‘Renaissance Woman’ due to my varied interests,” said Henley.
Although the fashion and entertainment world are waiting, just like the rest of the world, for the coronavirus crisis to pass, Henley is looking ahead to gigs covering red carpet events for her iHeart Radio Show, “Backstage Pass.” She also has plans to be a guest at assorted pageants and TV specials.
When the world returns to normal, Henley said, “I foresee an extremely busy late spring and summer.”
Henley encouraged models, designers or models interested in working with her to reach out through email, Magnifiquerunway@gmail.com as well as through Instagram (@victoriahenley) and Facebook (Backstagepasswithvictoria, quirkyvictoriafanpage, or JTVVictoria).
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN