TWICE a year hundreds of bright-eyed and beautiful women come to New York for fashion week, hoping to grace renowned runways.

Though the opportunity to model in NYFW is an amazing one, it's not all it's hyped up to be.

Taking place every February and September, with the SS24 shows opening Thursday, September 7, NYFW showcases designers from all over the world.

Meanwhile the models are working from sunrise to sunset attending go-sees, also known as castings, vying for walking spots alongside hundreds of others.

The U.S. Sun spoke with two models taking part in the process – about their much less glamorous lives behind the scenes.

Kenna Dudley, 21, lives in Phoenix, Arizona, but flew in for several castings at the start of September – without a place to stay.

She is signed with several agencies in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, New York, and Atlanta.

This is Kenna's first NYFW, but she's modeled in similar fashion events like Phoenix Fashion Week and National Bridal Market.

She attended New York castings for design brands like Flying Solo and Art Hearts Fashion.

"You run across the city in the heat from casting to casting, and it’s not uncommon for your agent to send you castings at the very last moment possible," Kenna said.

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Although it's hard work, castings are essentially an extended job interview – meaning your time crucially isn't paid.

Most agencies don't guarantee their talent lodging, so most have to figure it out on their own.

That could mean hitting up a friend to crash on their couch or floor, shelling out big bucks for a few nights in a hotel, or flying in the day of the casting or show and flying out after.

Kenna chose to stay in an Airbnb outside Manhattan, splitting the cost with other models.

If they're not cast immediately, many are encouraged by their agencies and friends to stay in the area to network and hope for a last-minute chance.

"Some designers and casting agents are extremely sweet and accommodating. Some on the other hand will blatantly ignore you while you walk," she said.

Queens native Suriah Iqbal, 27, is modeling in her third NYFW this year.

Despite being new to the industry, living in New York has allowed her to advance her career quickly (and avoid shelling out for Airbnbs).

Having to compete against experienced out-of-state models like Kenna for lucrative walking spots is perhaps her biggest challenge.

At 5-foot-5, she said: "I’ve felt intimidated waiting in line with models that were taller than me, more high fashion looking, and just looked like they knew what they were doing."

For those not in the industry, perhaps the biggest surprise is how many of the shows are unpaid – seen as a way to gain exposure and add to portfolios.

By the end of the day, you’re stinky, exhausted, and dehydrated

"NYFW is essential to your modeling resume. Adding NYFW is like a stamp of reputability, a feather in your cap that you are experienced in the industry," first-time attendee Kenna said.

"I’m still extremely new to the industry, so exposure is super valuable to me right now," Suriah added.

In the end, Kenna said she attended at least a dozen castings and ended up booking three unpaid shows.

"The challenging part is that there is no shortage of models that want to walk in NYFW. There’s little incentive for designers to pay their models," Kenna admitted.

Suriah is only walking in one show this year for a lingerie brand.

Kenna mentioned that if a designer likes you they may ask to work with you on paid jobs in the future, which has worked in Suriah's favor.

"Exposure and posting my NYFW content on social media have helped me get connected with someone who works with a dream brand of mine, Tarte Cosmetics," the Guyanese model shared.

But it's not all sunshine and rainbows for these driven young women.

Kenna shared: "I had a designer mutter comments about me right in front of me.

"By the end of the day, you’re stinky, exhausted, and dehydrated."

Suriah recounted: "I accidentally cut my hand right before I had to walk for February NYFW. An open shaving razor cut my hand. I kept applying pressure, but it wouldn’t stop gushing blood."

She sprayed it with hairspray to stem the flow while she walked the runway, which she does not recommend.

"I once had a lingerie fitting with no changing room, so I had to get fully nude in the same room as hundreds of other models," Kenna added.

At the end of the day, the show must go on.

Both models agreed with these New York Fashion Week perks:

  • You are getting your face in front of designers, whether you're booked or not.
  • Sometimes models walk for free because the notable name or brand is payment in itself.
  • The after parties are another opportunity where you connect with industry people, photographers, and scouts.
  • Even if you're not walking in a show, the city is filled with people who could see you and lead to your next big break.

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Creatives of every form from every corner of the world come to New York for NYFW, making it such an opportune time to network.

For any prospective models looking to grace the covers of Vogue, you have to start small before you get big, and New York is a stop along the way.

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