As with most pictures, looking at a photograph of Kiersten Proehl doesn’t show the whole truth.
For instance, one might think she is a very serious 20-something, living in some Upper East Side apartment and shopping at Gucci or Prada.
That perception is the whole point, because Kiersten Proehl is a 16-year-old model from Prior Lake. She’s also a goofy kid.
“It’s kind of funny — a lot of photographers always want her to do this intense look,” father Adam Proehl said. “Sometimes we jokingly call it the ‘model pout’ look … she’s just kind of a goof.”
Kiersten Proehl started modeling a year and a half ago and has already worked in 20 fashion shows, strutted catwalks for Fashion Week Minnesota and for one of the four major fashion shows in the world — New York Fashion Week.
And that’s not including about 50 photo shoots.
“I remember being five or six and every time I wore a dress I would make my dad go out in the driveway and take pictures of me in the dress and doing all these cute little poses,” Kiersten Proehl said. “I remembered that all throughout middle school.”
Entering the business
She had always towered over peers. In second grade, she was about a foot taller than any of the boys, Adam Proehl said. At 16, she’s 5 feet and 9 inches tall.
In middle school, friends started telling Kiersten Proehl that modeling was something she should try.
She decided to go for it. She said she thought at the time “You know what — why not? What do I have to lose?”
Kiersten Proehl came to her parents a few years ago, wanting to go to an open casting call at the Mall of America.
Her father took her to the call, but the family became suspicious when the casting directors wanted her to head to Hollywood straight away — and pay a lot of money to do so.
“They were trying to fill a 14-year-old girl with these pipe dreams so I was like, ‘Alright, let me do some poking around locally,'” Adam Proehl said.
The family found a local agency, Caryn Model and Talent Management, and the young model signed with them.
The big leagues
Kiersten Proehl modeled for six months before she walked in Fashion Week Minnesota. In September, she walked in shows for New York Fashion Week.
“I met with some agents out in New York and one of them decided they wanted to work with me for fashion week,” Kiersten Proehl said. “I just decided to say ‘yes’ and go out there for some castings and shows.”
The family was unprepared for the hectic nature of New York Fashion Week. In Minnesota, casting calls — where models meet with directors and maybe try on a dress or walk for them — are organized and go smoothly.
There was a lot more of everything in New York — more casting calls, more locations, more models.
“They were like scattered all throughout the city so you might have four or five in a day but it’ll take you all day to go to them because you have to run from one point to another point and back,” Kiersten Proehl said.
The family didn’t stay in New York the whole time, which meant constant flights back and forth between the Twin Cities and the Big Apple.
“I wish we would have known that it takes a long time for fashion week and to plan to be out there for two weeks … because all of that plane time is just crazy and coming back to Minnesota for like two days and flying back was a lot,” Kiersten Proehl said.
Even the shows are hectic. Kiersten Proehl said she usually doesn’t remember anything about being on the catwalk.
“Really all I remember is bright lights,” she said. “I have to watch videos back to remember what song was playing and I don’t usually see anybody in the audience. Even if you are walking for a minute or something, it just feels so quick.”
Making the grade
The photo shoots, casting calls and fashion shows came with a major time commitment. Kiersten Proehl switched to Minnesota Connections Academy, an online school which allows her flexibility — 30 hours of school per week are required, but they can be done at any time.
On the first day of high school for Prior Lake, she was doing her first day of school on a laptop in Manhattan.
“If I need to take a day off for a six-hour shoot, I could do that and then I could just make up my school on a Saturday when I’m just hanging out,” Kiersten Proehl said. “I feel like that’s probably been the best for me.”
As with any activity for a teenager, the mantra remains the same — you can do it if you keep your grades up.
“We don’t demand straight As but we usually say you at least have to have a B average to be able to do this, just like any extracurricular,” Adam Proehl said. “This is her hockey. I’m not sending her to hockey camps and doing ice time or things like that. Some parents go to soccer games and hockey games — I go to fashion shows.”
Being a model has taught Kiersten Proehl the skills necessary for any age in any profession — responsible social media use, confidence in one’s abilities, handling rejection, timely and professional responses, being on time, working hard… the list goes on.
“Everyone she works with always wants to work with her again,” Adam Proehl said. “She’s the one that shows up early and she doesn’t complain and she just works hard. As a parent, I think I’m most proud of that.”
Building a career
Kiersten Proehl said she’d love to make a career out of modeling, but doesn’t know what the future holds for the industry or for her.
“That would be super cool if I could do it,” she said. “You never really know when stuff is going to change because a lot of times that industry likes a certain look, so if you’re not fitting that then you’re kind of out of it. It’d be really cool if I could though, because I’d love to do that.”
The past few years have also taught Kiersten Proehl what she loves about fashion and what types of projects she wants to be a part of, Adam Proehl said.
“She’s very choosy about who she works with now,” Adam Proehl said. “She’s kind of figured out who she wants to be. She doesn’t want to model for a Target or a Kohl’s … she’s turned down opportunities to do that. She wants to do the high fashion stuff and that’s OK.”
Few models make it big in such a competitive field, but with more paid gigs coming her way, it’s a pretty good job for a young adult.
“What most find they’re able to do is they’re able to make enough money to really help pay for college, things like that,” Adam Proehl said.