At just 10 years old, Leila Hammad-Therrien has already been "working" for 8 years. From gracing the pages to Babiekins Magazine to walking the runway in New York Fashion Week, the Fitchburg resident lives the life of a child model -- though she's quick to say that might not mean what you think it does.
"I think people have many misconceptions about modeling," says the sixth grader, who one day wants to be a brain surgeon. Leila explains that modeling, even at her tender age, is about more than posing and pretty pictures. In a sense, a set can be like a real-life classroom -- a place where she gains people skills and work ethic, and even copes with rejection. Modeling has also opened up opportunities for travel and hands-on learning.
In April, Leila journeyed 4,500 miles away to Girdwood, Alaska, a small mountain town just outside of Anchorage that's surrounded by seven glaciers. The scenery made for stunning photo shoot backdrop, but also for the experience of a lifetime.
When she's not traveling or "working," Leila is just like any other 10-year-old: she likes to hang out with her 5-year-old twin brothers, draw or play street hockey. She volunteers for Haitian Outreach, has participated in helping feed the less fortunate, and she gives gifts to the less fortunate during the Christmas season.
"She knows that being a good person -- and school -- comes first, and will take precedence over anything else," said her mom, Dina Hammad.
We talked with the pair about how Leila first got her start in the industry and all the adventures along the way.
When and how did Leila get her start?
Dina: Leila started off doing little pageants and it was clear to see after winning titles that she loved the stage and camera, so we decided to try out modeling. Her first big break was in April of 2012. She shot for Babiekins Magazine, an internationally-recognized print publication, with global circulation. She did fantastic and started booking jobs immediately after.
What are some of the campaigns/companies Lelia has modeled for? Where have her images been?
Dina: Leila has worked for a number of large companies and campaigns including Barney's New York, Zara, BHLDN, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Party City, Rockets of Awesome, Agatha Cub and Zulily to name a few. Her images have been continuously in circulation through the web with larger campaigns such as Zulily and Party City, to name a couple. She has also been in Babiekins Magazine, Child Model Magazine and La Petite Magazine. She has walked in NYFW (New York Fashion Week) for many years now and has walked for large companies like Diesel. She absolutely loves to be on the runway!
How busy does it keep her?
Dina: Leila is usually busy with modeling, but the work does fluctuate. There are "slow" times in the industry where she doesn't work as much, but during the busy months, she is in NYC three to four times a month.
Leila, where is your favorite place modeling has taken you?
Leila: I love going in to New York City, and I loved going to Miami, Florida for a magazine shoot. But my favorite place so far was definitely Alaska! It was so beautiful. It was so much fun and I had so many friends there with me!
What's your favorite memory from modeling?
Leila: I have a lot of amazing memories, but one time on a group modeling adventure, I got to go parasailing for the first time! It was lots of fun and I was surrounded by a lot of friends.
Do you think people have any misconceptions about modeling?
Leila: Yes, I think people have many misconceptions about modeling. Some people think is just taking photos, or that I may not be happy doing it. And I think some people may think it's not a safe industry to be in. I love what I do, and I love seeing the outcome of some of the campaigns and knowing I helped create it. Modeling is also extremely safe. I'm always with my mom and I am signed with two reputable agencies. I am signed with City Model Talent New York, and Dynasty Model and Talent in Boston.
What has modeling taught you? About yourself, hard work, other people?
Leila: Modeling has helped to teach me to be confident in myself. It boosted my self-esteem and has taught me to work hard and follow through with goals that I have set. It has taught me that strong bonds with people are important, and that modeling is more than just pretty pictures. It gives me a stage to talk about things that are important to me.
What advice would you give to aspiring models?
Leila: Always have fun. Don't take yourself so seriously, and never give up. Sometimes you will not get a job because someone else is a better fit. You have to have a positive attitude and understand that the right job will come for you.
Dina, do you have any advice for parents who are interested in getting their children into modeling?
Dina: My advice is to make sure you are working with a reputable agency. Do your research. And if they are asking you for money, they are probably not a legit agency. You may have to pay to have good pictures taken, but other than that, don't pay anyone for your child to model.
What kind of adventures and opportunities has this allowed for your daughter?
Dina: Modeling has has allowed Leila to travel and see different parts of our country. It has taken her to the west coast, down south, and all around the east coast. She has learned that she loves to travel and would like to continue to do so. She has made many connections and bonds both in her personal and professional life.
What do you think she's learned through these opportunities?
Dina: Leila has learned so much: compassion for people, how to have a voice for herself, and how to persevere. It has taught her that you have to work hard for the things that you want and that things do not come easy unless you do so.