Cantley teen Pamela Bernier had no idea that a trip to the Wal-Mart cosmetics aisle would be her ticket to Milan, writes Susan Mohammad.
Susan Mohammad, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Thursday, July 13, 2006
In a sweatshirt and sneakers, 13-year-old Pamela Bernier looked just like most girls her age, losing herself in the cosmetics aisle in search of the colours that could erase insecurities. Only she didn't look like most girls her age to Sophie Beaudoin -- the Ottawa-based modelling manager who would offer the shy girl from Cantley who was shopping at a Wal-Mart in Gatineau last September the chance of a lifetime.
"It was like hearing angels sing when I saw her. I just remember her face and hair. It was just like seeing someone come out of a magazine, but she was dressed like every girl," said Ms. Beaudoin, owner and director of Models International Management.
Ms. Beaudoin was shopping for supplies for her modelling academy when she saw the teen (who is now 14) with the perfect pout, satin-like skin, and bright blue eyes all contained in a five-foot-nine frame.
She thought Pamela had an agent already, but went to give her a card anyway. She was shocked to hear that the teen who may now walk the gleaming catwalks of Milan and New York during Fashion Week this fall had never considered modelling before.
"I was like oh, my God. Someone told me I was beautiful and called me a model," said Pamela by phone from New York yesterday.
She said her mother was hesitant to call the agent because Pamela was "too young." Pamela begged her aunt for days to do it instead, and her aunt finally did.
Since taking some basic modelling courses with Ms. Beaudoin in Ottawa last winter, Pamela has graduated from doing free fashion shows at The Bay in Ottawa, to making up to a few thousand dollars a day in New York, Montreal or Toronto.
"It's very overwhelming for everyone, obviously it's my dream to find someone who is going to be a supermodel. It's amazing," said Ms. Beaudoin, adding that Pamela was booked for a shoot with ELLE girl magazine through Polaroid shots before she even had a portfolio.
She said French Vogue and W Magazine have expressed an interest.
A regular day for her is rising at 5:30 a.m. to spend the day meeting with photographers and going to castings. Her mother, Christine Charette, has taken time off from work to travel with Pamela. More than anything, she hopes her "perfectionist" daughter will remain happy in her success.
"I wouldn't call at first, I thought she was too young and it's a hard world," said Ms. Charette, who became used to to her daughter trying on her dresses and shoes at a young age.
"I said, 'If it makes you happy then I'm with you one hundred per cent'."