Eric Felchak, a junior business major, is not a typical student — he’s also a model. But he also is not a typical model.
“I’m not that tall for a model, I am about the shortest height allowed for a runway show,” Felchak said.
He realized this difference even in his first shoot, for Houstonia Magazine.
“I had to stand next to a girl that, with heels on, was like 6-foot-2 and I’m barely 6 feet, so to fix that they gave me a sandbag to stand on to be taller,” Felchak said. “I heard someone say in the background something like being short like Tom Cruise. But everyone was joking around and it was a very fun environment!”
Felchak’s career began a bit more out of the blue. He grew up a redneck who loved going back to the farm, hunting and fishing, so he never considered modeling as an option.
While in a makeup store, Felchak’s mom was talking to a stranger who, after seeing a picture of Eric, recommended they look into modeling. He then gave her the information for the agency Page Parkes. After talking with the agency, Felchak attended model camp in Houston. After three days of learning the ins and outs of modeling, Eric was one of three people signed from among the camp’s 25 attendees.
Modeling is not exactly a normal after-school job, but both Felchak and junior politics major Natalie Gempel juggle the job alongside schoolwork.
Gempel started modeling when she was 14. She had always liked fashion and the idea of modeling. Her older sister had been modeling for the Campbell Agency in Dallas for a little while, and, after an open casting call, Gempel signed with the same agency.
Being a model has its perks. One of the coolest parts, both models agree, is getting to be part of someone’s artistic vision.
Every shoot is a collaboration of the whole team looking for the perfect picture or runway show. At even one session or event there are designers, photographers, other models, hair stylists and makeup artists.
“I love doing photo shoots where you can tell everyone involved is excited and passionate about what they are producing,” Gempel said.
Felchak added that everyone is usually really nice, which creates a fun environment.
They also brush elbows with the rich and famous. At one studio shoot, Gempel saw Lady Gaga in the studio’s hallway.
“My mom was visiting that weekend, and she actually asked Lady Gaga for directions, not knowing who she was,” Gempel said.
Felchak remembers feeling a little starstruck at his first shoot, for Houstonia Magazine.
“There were four other models, but they were big shots in our agency, so I was very outclassed!” Felchak said. “They were talking about how they just got back from Europe and all these crazy places, and I’m sitting on the side saying, ‘well I play baseball at my college!’ ”
With these perks comes pressure to look a certain way, and that can lead to rejection and criticism from potential employers. Gempel says that though the pressure can be draining at times, you learn not to take it personally.
Modeling is an irregular job. According to Gempel, most shoots are from nine to five, so it can be difficult to shoot during the school year. Aside from scheduling, modeling is not the most consistent job.
“Some shoots are very lucrative, but some actually don’t pay and are more for your portfolio,” Gempel said.
Felchak also finds making time for work difficult. He explains that, because of baseball, he does not get to work as often as he would like, though the agency is very accommodating with his schedule needs. Luckily for Felchak, it does not seem like his busy schedule will put a damper on his career.
“My agent says that I am very young for a male model. I will get more and more jobs the older I get. That’s just the way it goes,” Felchak said. “Girls are usually the opposite. Girls are very young and guys are usually older in this industry.”
Both Gempel and Felchak have enjoyed the opportunities they have had in modeling so far and look forward to those in the future.
“I really enjoy doing it and am excited to see what it can and will bring in the future,” Felchak said.
With more shoots and experience, who knows what magazine we could open some day and see them?