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
''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
''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
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''.