Olive Henry


Sadie McDonald, Assistant Copy Editor, Captions Editor

The floors were being redone, which meant no furniture in the living room. For senior Olive Henry it meant 20 long feet of practice space. Her first runway show was in two days. Lucky for her, she was given the music for the Kansas City Fashion Week five days in advance. She blasted the music throughout her house while she strutted back and forth from wall to wall. Over and over and over again. 

Henry’s first experience with modeling in the fifth grade at the Kansas City Ballet studio, where she did promotional shoots with six of the other more advanced ballerinas. 

She continued with ballet shoots for Kansas City Ballet until her freshman year. Although she would have liked to involve herself in more serious modeling, her mom, who was a model in high school, thought it’d be best to stay away from the toxicity of the profession until at least 16. Henry’s mom familiarized herself with comments about measurement and size critiques, and wanted to keep her daughter away from that until she knew she was ready. 

“Sometimes you’re just standing there while people say ‘your hips are too wide’ and ‘you’re not tall enough’,” Henry’s mom, Liz Benson said. “You have to be tough to model.”

During her junior year, when a family friend told her about a runway charity show called Rock the Vine she was thrilled to audition. 

A few months after walking in Rock the Vine, Henry auditioned to walk in Kansas City Fashion Week. After her audition of strutting and posing in front of the fierce looking designers, Henry was chosen to model in the show because she of her passion and looks.

“It was that first runway show that I decided I had to model more,” Henry said. “It sounds corny, but there’s a rush of adrenaline I get.”

Henry ran her fingers over the knee length, pink chiffon dress she wore. Her mind was somewhere else, analyzing the pouty expressions she had practiced earlier that day in her bedroom mirror. She stood up and turned her head to admire the flowery train flowing from the wiry corset that stabbed at her stomach. She would be modeling the flower-inspired dress for the finale of KC Fashion Week.

When it was her turn to walk the runway, she kept her head level and locked her eyes on a point ahead of her. Vigor coursed through her veins. Striding down the runway, Henry thought through her every move. The designer wanted the outfit to come off moody and intense, and that’s exactly what Henry was doing.

“I try to channel what the designer told me to think about,” Henry said. “And I pretend to be a character that would do all of those things.”

This past summer, Henry decided that the occasional runway show wasn’t enough. She desired to take her modeling career even further by finding an agent. She and her mother went to open call in Chicago at Ford Modeling. 

Henry wrote her name and email down on a card, before the people working there measured her height– 5’10. The receptionist, Brandy, took a few digital shots of Henry and then sent her to meet and interview with Chris, one of the agents. 

Henry and Chris clicked almost immediately. It helped that before her interview, Henry had done her research. She had studied other models that worked with Chris, so she was prepared to talk about something she and Chris could relate on.

“Talking to people about what they do makes them more interested in you,” Henry said. “You seem like more of a dynamic character than just ‘Hi here’s my name and how tall I am and I’m very pretty as you can see’”. 

After talking with Chris, she was immediately given a contract to sign with Ford Modeling. Henry didn’t realize that being given a contract right away was rare until she and her mom talked afterwards. 

They decided to take the contract home with them to look it over, before officially signing. But a few days after returning home, Henry made up her mind to become apart of the modeling business. 

At one of her beauty shoots, Henry sat in a chair waiting patiently while her makeup artist focused in on her nails. The artist painted gold across Henry’s nails, and down her fingers. 

Moving onto to the face, the artist picked up an eyebrow brush. Henry asked about the look as the artist brushed her eyebrows out, at the same time she pressed gold flecks into the brows. To succeed in the modeling world it was necessary for her to look unconventional, yet elegant.

She discussed with the photographer of the shoot different ways that she could make the photos alluring to their audience. That was what Henry found most enthralling about modeling. The idea of creating something unusual but interesting to look at. 

Henry looked over the mood board the photographer had sent her a week in advance. She eagerly worked on expressing moods through facial expression and body language. Although intimidating, forming unique angles and shapes with her body was one of her favorite parts about modeling. 

“I act like the camera is a video recording,” Henry said. “You can tell when something’s posed, and you want it to look natural instead.”

Henry scrolled through her Instagram. Occasionally she stopped to study posts from other models. She saved a post that struck her as peculiar, because of the way the model appeared to be moving. Over time Henry saved tens of posts that she could look back on for inspiration. 

For Henry modeling wasn’t superficial. It wasn’t the assumptions people made. It was an outlet to create something never been done before. Something raw and beautiful. And that’s exactly what Henry was doing.