The Stomps of a Short Model
by Isobella Jade
January 2008

I might be the only person in the world who says she will wear high heels no matter the height of the hill, the weather, or the length of the road, and defiantly when I am eighty. My heels give me confidence as I arch my back and prance ahead five inches taller with them on, but they also help me pay the bills. I am a petite model and in my heels for the past six years I have been overcoming the daily struggle of my modeling pursuits, being a height challenged model. In photographs I have been told I look up to 5' 8" but in all honesty, when bare foot, I am maybe 5' 2." The height I wish I was is 5' 4", and in high heels I am usually that height. It is also the title of my book Almost 5' 4" but still it is 6 inches shorter than most fashion models. I have a lot in common with Seabiscuit and I sort of think my whole story is a Seabiscuit of Modeling tale.

During the past 6 years I have accepted that I will never know what the air tastes like as a tall Giraffe, but that's ok, because I have found my own way.

There is a part of the modeling business that isn't talked about enough and is the short models "in" to the modeling world. A lot of models who won't be accepted by the fashion agencies can in fact still find work through being a body part model or a print model. I have experienced a side of modeling that has nothing to do with height, and a side that involves the benefits of actually being short and proportioned. I wear a size six shoe, and I have dainty fingers and ears, and miniature features. These things are what help me book work. My height has nothing to do with the type of modeling I do. My persistence has helped me become a model and I market daily my hands, feet, curves and thighs, and by doing so, I have managed to get ahead despite being perhaps the tiniest working model in New York City. And I am still at it.

At my modeling castings and auditions, the words "how tall are you?" do not usually come up. Even though I am always the shortest model there.

Before I started to be curious about the world of modeling in 2001, I had never considered that my feet would also be an asset for becoming a model, or my hands, eyes and even my curves and behind. Until then, the only way I used my feet was to run. I was a Cross Country runner and in 1999 I ran the Empire State Games, Junior Olympics and was 15th in the State of New York for Class A. Even then, on the track, just like Seabiscuit, I was the shortest on my team but still over coming Goliath. It has sort of always been in me to fight for what I want as the runt of the group.

My very first modeling job was shoe modeling for Brown Shoe and to this day I use my feet to get work as a model in New York City. It might sound anything but glamorous but my feet are what got me my first modeling agent. I had many rejections for being "too short," but it turned out that my feet would be my ticket, my entrance in. They would allow me to get in the door. I started to understand that there was a demand for shorter girls like me; I just had to approach the modeling business with an attitude that involves what I do have, and target agents and agencies that specialized in those areas. I also take into consideration that my whole body is the reason I wake up every day to call myself a model. I have accepted what I do have to offer as a model, instead of dwelling on what I don't. Height.

Standing as tall as I can, I have gone on modeling castings for everything from socks, hosiery, shape wear, and jewelry. I have gone to castings for Wendy's, Clinique, Insinkerator, Verizon, Vaseline and Victoria Secret, for my "parts". I have found that only a small part of the modeling industry actually has anything to do with height. The commercial modeling world is very accepting of anyone as long as you have great skin, energy and the drive.

Over the years I have done technical shoe modeling for Talbots, Brown Shoe and Marshalls. I have done hand modeling for Bon Appetit magazine, hair modeling for Wella, and fit modeling for Teen Vogue. I think of my resume as inspiration for other girls or underdogs of any pursuit. Knowing I have done photo shoots with Time Magazine, Braun Razor and the TLC network based on my proportioned petite parts (none of these jobs have had anything to do with being "tall enough") is proof that anyone can accomplish what might seem at first sight impossible.

Sure it hasn't been easy and I have had to work really hard to even get the castings and opportunities and jobs I do get, but I try to stay open minded and push aside the short sighted industry perception that being tall is the only way to work as a model.

The word "model" can be deceiving especially with reality shows giving a narrow minded view of the industry. Down here, down below, at my height and perspective, the air is full of opportunity, you just have to visualize it, and chase it and be smart about how to market yourself as a model. If you have a great skin tone, a burst of energy and good proportions then no matter what your height, you can get an agent and book modeling work. A lot of girls only think of two things when they picture a model, Vogue and Playboy, and while these magazines do in fact scream models, there is so much more out there for a petite girl to conquer. Hair magazines, beauty products, skincare products, and even Poland Spring water need models for their ad campaigns and commercials. (For shorter men a size 8 shoe is what is needed for shoe modeling).

Of course I do notice that I am the shortest one at my castings and jobs. Even in high heels at my photo shoots, I am shorter than the makeup artist or the casting director, who hired me in the first place. But still being booked and working as a model gives me only more reason to pursue and continue trying to beat the odds.

I wrote a book about it, I speak on a podcast about it, I run three blogs daily about it, and I try to prove each week that modeling really is about marketing, having quality images, and getting over that you might be the shortest person out there. But in all honesty, at the end of the day, taking off my heels never felt so good, when I know I can get work regardless of my height.

Isobella Jade is the author of Almost 5'4", she speaks weekly on her podcast called Model Talk, and can be reached through her website