The Handbury Tale

November 2004

Buffalo Jeans billboard
Morgan Handbury's Buffalo Jeans
billboard overlooking Times Square

Even in New York's Paramount Hotel - temporary home to a lot of beautiful, stylish, young women - when Morgan Handbury enters the lobby there's no doubt who the model is.

Tall, thin and graceful, in person Morgan only somewhat resembles the picture on the Buffalo Jeans billboard in Times Square. But it's definitely the same girl that shows up in the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue and was modelling Victoria's Secret's new line on ABC's The View, last week.

Most followers of the industry wouldn't know Morgan's name. Although she's been modelling internationally for years, she's managed to make a good living without making the splash other Canadians have made.

Her story could have begun when she was 15. At the time she was repeatedly approached by scouts and agents in Toronto malls. But at the time it didn't feel right. "I was a late bloomer. I wasn't ready and my mom was against it, saying I had to finish high school first."

Two years later, high school complete, interest in the redhead hadn't waned. She was stopped twice in one day by scouts from different agencies and decided the time was right. "I went around to all the agencies, and decided on B&M." She's been with them ever since.

After modelling successfully in Toronto, South Africa, Asia and Europe, Morgan first came to New York following September 11th. It ended up being an incredibly difficult time. The agency she had worked with in Paris had shut its doors, denying Morgan thousands of dollars in owed commissions and leaving her so broke she was washing her clothes in the sink and not eating. "There was no work, the city was dead -- and of course I thought it was just me."

"At one point I hadn't eaten in three days, and across the street was a little Chinese bakery where they made these buns - pineapple buns they called them - which were 60 cents. I had 20 cents American but lots of Canadian change, so I took the Canadian coins and put them in dirt so they couldn't see it was Canadian. I went over and said 'I'll take this bun' and threw the money in his hand and ran away."

"I called my mom that night and said 'I can't do this anymore.'"

"And the thing is, the guy at the bakery loved me and I'm sure I could have had free stuff. Or I could have gone out with promoters and eaten for free, but when you're down and out the last thing you want to do is go for dinner. I just wanted to sit in my own apartment and cry myself to sleep."

"So I figured if you can't make it in New York, get out and go somewhere where you did work." Morgan left Manhattan and didn't return until last year.