It's a cold, rainy Monday evening. In a Starbucks in Toronto, an exhausted Darla Baker sits down following a long day of shooting. The 16-year-old Giovanni model rose early to have hair & makeup done, and although the face looks fresh the eyes are tired.
Her next two days will be much like this one, rising early for hair & makeup, shooting all day (this time for Fashion Magazine) before hopping a flight back to New York Wednesday night. The following days may see her flying home for American Thanksgiving, or staying in New York.
This is the less glamourous side of a typical working model's life. Sometimes monotonous and almost never certain, it's a lifestyle not many others her age could possibly imagine. Since the summer, when she made the decision to model full-time, Baker has chosen to set aside traditional studies in favour of internet learning. "It was hard to balance school and modelling. Corresponding with teachers that don't really understand - they just give up. School online works great for me."
Now, instead of pop quizzes and weekend assignments Baker's semester comprises a bulk of predetermined work that has to be completed by the end of January. The pace is completely up to her. "Some weeks you get more done than other weeks."
Already she has come to terms with the sacrifices demanded by a fledgling modelling career. "I've already been to a prom, I played a varsity sport, I did the whole football game thing - I'm over it. I'm ready to do other things."
At 5'9½", with a full chestnut mane, sultry limestone eyes, lips seemingly stuck in the pout position and long, lovely legs she appears to be born for this job. You wouldn't get that impression from her however. "I'm taking it seriously but it's not going to my head. You can't let anything in this business go to your head - success or no success."
Because of that height and obvious beauty the classic rock fan had long been encouraged to give modelling a shot. She tried basketball "and it didn't work out" she says with a tired giggle, but then while shooting a cheerleading catalogue the stylist suggested she check out the Mode Models' office in Portland.
Her first international experience came when she was 15. Mode's international division placed her in Milan (through Women Management), where she landed her first campaign (for Nolita, pictured left) and fell in love with Italy. "My mom was with me, so we got to go out on the weekends and take the train to places like Tuscany. I had a lot of fun."
Baker insists she's "just an easy-going person that happens to be a model," but has high expectations for herself. "You have to be determined, dedicated. If you're not into it, it's hard.
"It's hard days, lack of sleep, and in fashion week you're always changing heels, and off to the next thing. You always have ten things to do, and you only get to five. It's always busy, but then I get home and relax and just try to get back to being me again."
She plans to return to Milan in the future, but is currently looking forward to working in London in January (with Models One) and making the most of her ongoing New York experience (with Elite). "I love where I'm staying in New York - I love the girls I'm staying with. I like working with the people I do, and not many people get to have this experience."
When asked what she expected to get out of modelling, she suddenly becomes animated. "I didn't expect to be based out of New York. I didn't expect NOT to be a junior in high school. That's for sure. But it happened and I'm happy. I'll take it. I'll lean into the wind and take what opportunities come my way."
Then the dreaminess returns to her speech. "I'm going to go home now to get some sleep and get ready for work tomorrow."