April 11, 2006
Michelle Valencourt in POP
Four years ago Liisa Winkler and Tasha Tilberg were flying the Canadian flag proudly, and Yasmin Warsame was beginning to make a serious impression. Obviously they weren't the first Canadians to make major fashion statements, but still this country's models were seen as wildcards at best.
It wasn't until names like Daria, Stam and Heather Marks started to resonate that the rest of the world recognized Canada was not a country of one-offs. Almost immediately scouts turned their gaze northward, searching from Victoria to St. John's for the next among this country's offerings, and signalling the beginning of a trend that still shows no signs of waning.
Although Marks, Stam and Daria have continued their assault on the fashion world, there was another model that also broke ground and gave early indications she would be a major force for years to come.
Technically Michelle Valencourt's association with the modelling industry started when she was nine years old. But it wasn't until she was 14 that her agent, International Model Management's Michèle Miller, started promoting her internationally.
Michelle Valencourt for Burberry
Miller and Valencourt set off for Europe in 2002 and that's when things (like camera shutters) started to click. "When I first went to Paris and Milan with her the reaction was amazing," Miller recalls. "David Sims immediately booked her for POP magazine. Then Burberry followed, then TOP SHOP. In Paris she shot Jalouse, Marie Claire and she then booked the APC campaign two seasons in a row."
By November, influential fashion website Hintmag.com had taken note as well, writing:
"Canadian Michelle Valencourt has managed to make the successful change from child model to teen runway sensation. Recent appearances in British Vogue, The Face, i-D and Dazed & Confused ensure that she is on the right track. Michelle also shot the Burberry eyewear campaign and walked for Ann Demeulemeester, Martine Sitbon and APC in Paris. The Canuck won't stop here."
That's true. She didn't stop. But her bookings slowed down dramatically.
Michelle Valencourt in W
It's not unheard of for hot new models to fall quickly out of favour. With Valencourt however, that wasn't the case. Rather, this model stepped away from the industry on her own terms.
An exceptional student, Valencourt didn't just enjoy her studies, she loved the classroom so much she planned on making her career as a high school teacher. "Michelle is a very bright girl academically," says Miller. "I fully understood her reasons and need to be in school. My feelings were mixed as I felt Michelle was on a good curve, however I totally supported that decision."
Valencourt still modelled in her spare time, taking regular turns at Toronto's L'Oréal Fashion Week, and finding regular work through designers like Joeffer Caoc.
Last summer Valencourt finished high school (her grad dress was designed by Caoc) and almost immediately went to Tokyo to restart her career. Following that she worked in Barcelona and Milan, and recently travelled to London, where I caught up with her.
Valencourt will be featured in IMM's 13th Annual Cover Model Search, April 30th in Barrie.