NY catwalk long way from West Taieri

University of Otago zoology student Tommy Spence (21) is modelling at New York fashion week. Photo supplied.
University of Otago zoology student Tommy Spence (21) is modelling at New York fashion week. Photo supplied.
A Dunedin student is still in shock after going from being a farmhand to modelling at New York fashion week.

Third-year University of Otago zoology student Tommy Spence (20) - who previously worked as a farmhand in Cromwell during the summer - travelled to United States in search of modelling work during the mid-semester break but never expected to be offered work on the spot.

''At the very best, I was hoping to head home with an agency booked in either Los Angeles or New York,'' Mr Spence said from New York yesterday.

Instead, he was booked with the agency Major Model and asked to stay on for New York Fashion Week.

So, rather than flying back to Dunedin and completing his last semester of studies, he modelled in his first of at least four New York fashion week shows yesterday (NZ time).

The whirlwind success still felt like a dream and the shock really began to set in after Aliana McDaniel, of Ali McD model agency, who was with him in the United States, left New York last Friday.

''It's weird the first day that Aliana left, because it kind of hit me that I was alone in New York city.''

He was living in a model apartment near the Hudson River and would soon move into another apartment in Manhattan.

That was a long way from rural Woodside, in West Taieri, where he was brought up.

He said casting for shows had been an interesting ''experience'', but picking up four modelling shows - with more likely to come - was better than he could have hoped for.

''You wait two hours with a couple of hundred other hopefuls and you get a minute to talk to them and walk in front of them and they look at your book and study your face quite intensely and then you leave.

''So you don't really know [if you were successful] until your agency rings you up.''

He had previously modelled for Ali McD and realised it was something he was keen to pursue as a career after enjoying modelling at Dunedin's iD Fashion Show, which he had done twice.

''When I was high school I used to get a bit of stick about it, because I used to play rugby [and] I always used to have a retort that `there could be worse things that hanging out with the best looking girls in the city'.''

The plan was to return New Zealand in November in time to take up another ''dream job'' as a Milford Track guide for the summer.

After that, he hoped to go to Europe and ''ride it out'' with his modelling career as long as possible.

He realised there was an ''expiry date'' on modelling and still planned on keeping up with his studies.

Ms McDaniel said the speedy success was a huge boosts for her company and Dunedin.

She believed his success came down to his ''distinctive look'', which meant he could fit in with both the ''commercial market as well as the fashion market''.

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