Dreaming the Big Dream: Elizabeth Caulfield

A young girl of just 14 walked into a room four years ago surrounded by at least 400 people. She describes the setup as an “E” without the middle. Nervous to the point of shaking, she walked up and down for the people sitting around watching her. There were 30 agencies there, and all she hoped for was one person to find her compelling enough to offer a contract. With no prior experience in the field of modeling, she was almost certain she did not make the type of impression that would last. She turned to her Dad when it was over, the person who brought her to this event, and said certainly “Dad, they hated me. I don’t know what I’m doing.” This organization which set up her first ever introduction into the fashion world was called ProScout, and to her surprise, she found out after this two day event that she, Elizabeth Caulfield, had the most “call-backs” than any other model there, with an astounding 15 agencies showing interest in her.

Her journey had just begun, and the next step was actually picking an agency to sign with. She had to visit all 15 agencies that wanted to sign with her, yet her age restricted her from choosing some of them, such as Ford Models and Elite Model Management, who told her to come back when she turned 18. The agency she ended up choosing was called Click, and her reasons for choosing this agency are simple and sweet coming from the small town girl. Click is family oriented, and she thought it was important to have an agency where they care more about you than a bigger agency.

Now 18, Elizabeth, or “Biz” to her friends and family, is ready to take the next step into the world of art that is modeling. After she graduates high school, she has plans of moving to New York City to model full time, and as she greets me in the Barnes and Noble at Rowan University, it seems, to me, all too possible for her to crack into the mainstream fashion industry. Her dark brown hair, that has a natural wave and looks, right now, the epitome of bedhead, flows almost to her hips, and as she searches for me in the Barnes and Noble, I can easily see her head peeking over the bookshelves. With a fresh face clean of makeup, save a little bit of mascara accentuating her long eyelashes, she appears a little disheveled. My first thought upon seeing her, and a thought that popped up multiple times throughout the interview was: limbs. She is 5’8”, all legs and arms. She is wearing horn-rimmed glasses, a red shirt that says “Penn State Homecoming,” black leggings, and gray Ugg boots, somehow managing to look blasé yet completely chic at the same time. When we begin to talk about modeling, I notice as she sits up eagerly in her chair and crosses her legs, there is nothing blasé about her or her feelings for something that gives her happiness

Since her birthday in November, doors into the modeling world began to open up for her. With credentials behind her in the form of ads for Boscov’s, Salt Magazine, 5 Below, an Italian magazine that she does not name, among other miscellaneous photo shoots that she refers to as “childish” but also necessary because “it’s a start,” she sounds ready, maybe even eager to pose for something a bit more sexy. Although she would never pose nude because “that’d make my Dad feel awkward,” she says with a laugh, “I’m not doing that to him.”

Her laugh, her voice, much like the rest of her, is sultry with just the right amount of husk that forces me to lean in a little bit closer when she speaks. It is inviting, and curious, with a gloss of innocence protruding, so if you ever forget by looking at her, you can hear the 18 year old girl when she speaks. That innocence translates into easeful hopefulness when she tells me about her plans, her dreams that she does not describe as such. “So, do you have any aspirations when it comes to modeling?” I ask her. “I don’t know,” She nearly cuts me off, laughing nervously, “I’m just going with the flow.”

“I think you can do it.” I can’t help but believe what I’m saying. There is a presence about her, a humbleness, but also a quiet ambition. “We’ll see. I don’t like to think about it. It makes me nervous.” She is all breath in the last few sentences, and then proceeds to fidget in her seat, toss her hair behind her shoulder and smile a strained, little, not the normal toothy smile I have gotten used to seeing. I ask her about her inspirations, and the confident, self-assured, driven model relaxes in her seat, smiles with all of her teeth, and delves into who she finds admirable in the modeling world.

Her inspirations are not the social media crazed models of the time, but older models, models who had to work their way to the top. She names Victoria’s Secret, concludes that all of their models work hard, and usually start from nothing. Tyra Banks is another model she looks up to, because she started from nothing and worked her way up as well. She respects Banks, and how she left modeling to find models, because she does not like the image associated with models today, being so “skinny, and no boobs. She doesn’t like that.” This is detrimental, and a big reason why models are criticized today. Too skinny? Unhealthy? While some people, like Biz, are born that way, some models “strive to be skinny.” Biz tells me how some girls will get “you need to tone up,” or you need to lose weight from their agency, but she is not that easily persuaded. While she’s never gotten that, she says, “I’d obviously ignore them” if anyone told her to lose weight, “because” she laughs a little and looks down at herself, “I obviously don’t need to lose weight.” I agree emphatically.

While Biz may be more self-aware and comfortable with who she is, there are some models, who she lived with over the past two summers while she worked in New York, that would take what the agency said seriously. So seriously, in fact, they would only eat, “like, two things a day.” There was a 15 year old girl that stayed with her that Biz said would eat miniscule meals, one or two bites, then say she was full. She looks at me, rolls her eyes, and says, “Like, no you’re not.” We both laugh. “I’m over here eating Doritos, she’s eating a salad, cause I don’t gain like that, and she’s like, ‘you’re over here eating Doritos,’ and I’m like, that’s cause I can, and cause I don’t care.” She drags out the last part, defending her right to eat whatever she wants, and showcasing her complete nonchalant attitude when it comes to her body. While she tells me the story in a joking way, her concerns are more serious. So serious, in fact, that her and her friend Phoebe, told the person who “babysat” them in New York, since they were too young to walk around the city without supervision, that this girl was not eating, and as a result this girl has to send her Mom pictures of herself eating.

It’s a fine line to walk, and Biz says it is simply because the girls love modeling so much, that they will do anything to achieve their dreams. It got to the point where all of the girls staying in that New York house wouldn’t be able to tell each other when they got a job, because the jealousies arise along with the insecurities. In a business based solely on looks, it’s hard not to take rejection as a personal slight, but Biz has managed to do just that. “If you want me, you want me. If you don’t, you don’t.” She laughs, shrugs her shoulders. “You’re either in, or you’re out,” She says, “They either want you, or they don’t.” This is a profession that deals with rejections daily, and Biz knows that. How does she deal with it? The rejection? The judgement? Well, she looks at modeling a bit differently than the normal person. While every model wants to be “the image,” she looks at it, “like, art. There’s so many different faces, so many different bone structures, and it’s just like, whoa that’s cool.” She begins to glow, and her hands begin to move excitedly as she talks.

It doesn’t take long for her to bring up the positive effects of modeling, and while she may have appeared as mature as anyone talking about the negative aspects, and her plans for the future, there is a childish glee, an eagerness as innocent as a 10 year old telling you about the first time they rode on that huge rollercoaster, with all of its ups and downs, when she talks about actually modeling. She likes the feeling she gets behind the camera, and describes it as “really cool.” She smiles abashedly, maybe a little embarrassed to be showing such excitement and hopefulness for something she admits, she never really talks about. This is confirmed by her sister, Courtney, who says, “At first it was a huge secret, she didn’t even tell her friends, because she was afraid people would think she was conceited.” Sitting before me now, Biz twists her fingers together, looks at me, and says, “When I’m behind there [the camera], it’s like corny, but I’m home. I just love it so much.” She goes on and says, “Sports were never my thing, like, school was never my thing, but this, it all just comes to me.” While school may not have been her thing, she does tell me her favorite class in high school is English, because she likes reading books that teach her lessons, and mentions her favorite, The Catcher in the Rye. She also tells me that she enjoys writing. While this last part catches me off guard, it is not something I find hard to believe. A girl this self-reflective has to read, I thought. It only makes sense.

She does pause to describe to me a photoshoot where she had to wake up at 4 in the morning, and she wasn’t home until nearly 7. All day behind a camera, without substantial food, because the photographers and people behind the scene are in a rush, and she admits she gets “cranky.” She says the rush is mostly due to lighting, and making sure they have the perfect sun light for the shoot. While some people behind the scene are nice and worried about the models, some are “rude. I’m their doll, but that’s true. Like, I literally am their doll.” All of this is worth it to Biz, who is, as Courtney pointed out, “becoming more confident and is realizing how talented she is.”

So talented, in fact, that she has hopes of becoming a Victoria’s Secret model. Although she describes it as a “basic” modeling dream, she says it’s ideal, because all of the models are “together. They’re friends. They’re all so different in their own way.” Biz says she would like to be with the same group of people every day, describing it as fun and comfortable.

Sitting back in her chair, relaxed with her disheveled hair and black leggings, it is obvious comfortability is important to Biz, who also is not afraid, even determined to take on the ever changing world. “There’s so much to do in this world.” She tells me with a deep sigh. “This is where you came from, but this isn’t your life.”

“Experiencing high school, at least the way I did,” She says as we walk to the front door of the Barnes and Noble, drawing the attention of almost everyone there, although she appears not to notice. “This is my senior year, like you literally have to expect and accept change.”

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