Grace Hartzel in Vol. 1 of PATTERN Magazine

Back in the days before she was walking in every major fashion show around the globe, and literally on every 5th page of Vogue’s 2016 September issue, Grace Hartzel was a gangly teenager living in Zionsville with her family, attending school, and hanging out with friends. Before her meteoric rise in the modeling world, we were fortunate to work with her, and feature her as PATTERN’s first cover model. Here’s a fun little video that Jeremiah Nickerson (@idiewest) made during the cover shoot, as well as my interview with her when she was just 15 years old that was printed in our inaugural issue.

I met Grace on a sunny Sunday morning in April of last year (2010). Her dad dropped her off at the Firestone Service Station on 38th and Lafayette. The service station was a wonderful, greasy mess of old tire racks, empty car bays, hanging electric wires, and lockers of indeterminate color where once mechanics stored their coveralls and street shoes. Perfect location for a fashion photo shoot!

Grace looked just like any other fifteen year old who just got yanked out of bed on a Sunday morning. Only much taller and thinner and with piercing blue eyes. She had a sweet smile and a sweeter demeanor, but when I finally got her in front of my camera, the sweetness fled in a second and was replaced by such intensity and fire that I might have squealed just a little. As a fashion photographer in Indianapolis, always in search of great print fashion models, I knew that I’d just struck gold. While that was my first time working with her, Grace could be considered a pro. Modeling since thirteen, agency represented, having recently walked in a Vera Wang bridal couture show in NYC and shooting on a regular basis, it’s clear that she is on her way to a very successful career in modeling.

Since, April, Grace and I have worked on several projects together, and every single time, she has not only impressed me with her talent and skill in front of the camera, but also with her attitude behind the scenes. Down-to-earth, polite, helpful and easy going, this girl is going to go far!

Polina Osherov: How were you discovered?

Grace Hartzel:  I wasn’t really discovered but some of my 7th grade teachers kept telling me that I should try modeling! I never really thought i could be a model. i was just the tall, skinny, weird kid. {laughs} Finally, I begged my mom to take me to an open call at Factor Women in Chicago… it was Elite Model Management at the time. We went, but my mom kept telling me not to get my hopes up, that it may not happen. But they ended up signing me, saying that I was a “new found gem”. My mom and i were completely surprised but so excited!

PO: You recently modeled some gorgeous wedding dresses at the Vera Wang’s Fall 2012 Bridal Collection in a show in New York, what was the most surprising thing about the experience?

GH: The most surprising thing were the dresses themselves! The theme for the show was “witchcraft” and she had created these nude and black dresses; Very unusual for the bridal-fashion industry. Something that had never been done before so there was lots of press attention and it was so amazing to be part of it.

PO: Did you get to meet Vera Wang? Any backstage drama we should know about?

GH: Yes I did! She is so sweet and so creative and interesting. She is exactly what you would think! So amazingly talented! As far as the drama, I chipped my nail polish and the person doing nails got really mad. {laughs}

PO: You’re still in high school, and quite busy with modeling, how do you keep up? Also, what’s your favorite subject and which is your least favorite?

GH: When i was in New York i was always online doing my homework that the teachers were emailing me. You just have to keep up. When I got back, I stayed after school every day for like two weeks until everything was finished. I love biology and I don’t like geometry at all.

PO: I hear you on geometry! Quite a few famous models have talked about being the tall, skinny, awkward girl in school who often got picked on, has that been your experience? And if so, how do you deal with it?

GH: Yeah! I used to be the tall, skinny, awkward girl that was the school funny kid, until I started modeling. Then I found a new confidence and felt better about myself and got more friends and started talking to more boys. One of the things I love about modeling is that it definitely makes you feel better about yourself. Still, some girls are not very nice about it and make fun of me and call me “anorexia” and “skinny girl”. I get made fun of for being a model and everywhere i go i get death glares from girls and that hurts. But I’m learning to pretty much just ignore the stares, although sometimes I will call some people out and tell them to please stop staring, you’re being rude!

PO: You are definitely quite tiny, but I will vouch for you anytime as far as not being anorexic, but rather genetically gifted with just the right proportions for modeling. Born that way, right? Plus, I saw the way you chowed down on a bag of trail mix at our last shoot! Is that your snack of choice? What’s your favorite junk food?

GH: I love trail mix! Especially at shoots! It’s soooooo yummy! {laughs}  Also, I love fruit snacks and protein bars at shoots. But what I love the most are Oreos. Sooooo good!

PO: I’ll keep that in mind with the Oreos! What does your family think about your modeling adventures? Your mom and dad seem super supportive; what about your siblings and grandparents?

GH: My family is very supportive of my modeling and I am so blessed to have them by my side. My mom especially supports everything I do and i just think she is amazing. She went to New York with me and she always drives me to my shoots and to be honest I am positive I would not have made it this far without her. She is my idol and the best mother a girl could ask for! My dad and mom keep me grounded and on track with school and everything else and I thank them with all my heart. My grandparents are so supportive too!!! And my siblings! Like I said, I’m very blessed with a great family!

PO: You and I worked on the shoot Afternoon Delight and that was a pretty “grown-up” story, but you handled it like a pro. What kind of Jedi mind tricks do you use to stay in and channel a character that is much older than you?

GH: I pretty much just imagine that I am that character for that whole time of the shoot, it really keeps me focused. I also want to be an actress when I’m older so this is good practice.

PO: What’s the plan for after you graduate high school? Are you going to take off for NY to pursue modeling full-time or are you thinking about college?

GH: I think that after high school I am going to go to New York right away because it’s my dream to be there. New York, modeling, and fashion are my life! I want to work full time right after high school. I might go to college in New York and try to do both, modeling and college. If that is too difficult then, I will save college for later in life, but I will definitely get my college degree because I understand how critical it is to have that.

PO: What’s been your most memorable shoot and why?

GH: It was a shoot I did with photographer Billy Rood at Indiana Dunes. It was one of my first shoot/fashion films and I was so excited. I got to play a character who was a very weird little girl who has no home and is very shy. Doing that shoot made me realize how much modeling means to me and how much I enjoy channeling characters and bringing them to life in the photos.

PO: What would be your dream shoot and why? What’s the hardest, most challenging thing about being a fashion model?

GH: My dream is to be a Victoria’s Secret model. I look up to those girls so much! The most challenging thing about being in the fashion industry is that you pretty much have to be EXACTLY what the client or casting directer is looking for or you’re out. So it’s just a little stressful sometimes figuring out how to be perfect for them while being outgoing and super sweet at the same time. My mom always tells me that I’m perfect the way I am, so generally, I feel confident going into casting; as long as I’m myself, I will do great. The other challenge is that there is so much competition with other models to get that job that you’re all trying out for; be the prettiest. In the end, though, I try not to care too much and remember that whatever happens was meant to be.

PO: You’ve been to NY quite a few times, how do you like it there? Anything you don’t like?

GH: I loved New York! I miss it every day and i can’t wait to go back. The only thing I didn’t like were all the homeless because it made me feel sad.

PO: See any celebrities? You don’t really strike me as someone who would get starstruck, but who would you be absolutely thrilled to meet?

GH: I saw Dakota Fanning! She was walking around with her mom and a friend in Soho, shopping. Anyways, I followed them. {laughs}. She looked so cool and had great style. It was weird seeing her just walking around though. I actually did get a little starstuck when I saw her! It’s hard not to! She’s such an amazing actress. I would love to meet Karlie Kloss! She is my absolute idol! Stunning!

PO: Is there anything about Indianapolis that you would miss if you did move away to NY to model?

GH: I would miss my friends a lot and my school and also my agency here who has done so much for me! They are amazing! And, I would miss doing amazing shoots with you and your team!

PO: Awww!! Shucks! Thank you! We will absolutely miss you too! I have to know: Team Edward or Team Jacob?

GH: Definitely, Team Jacob! He is so hot! And he’s so sweet and always protects Bella. He is everything I would want in a friend! Also it’s so cool that he turns into a werewolf!

PO: I’m too old for all the Twilight drama, but if I was a 16 year old girl, I’d go for Jacob too. Favorite music or band?

GH: I love Vampire Weekend and Two Door Cinema Club, as well as The Black Keys. You probably have not heard of these because they are indie rock bands! I love different music that’s not mainstream. It’s so creative and interesting to listen to.

PO: I have heard of those, but wouldn’t be able to recognize their music. As you know from listening to my mix in the studio, I’m pretty much stuck in the 80s! Who is your favorite fashion designer?

GH: I definitely have a few favorite designers! Coco Channel is for sure one of them, along with Marc Jacobs. Also, I love fall fashion! It’s always so sophisticated and mature! I love it!

PO: Do you follow any style bloggers? If so, who?

GH: I follow Vera Wang’s blog! because I love her work. I also like to go on and; being a model you always have to know what’s going on in the fashion industry and be up-to-date.

PO: Any advice or words of wisdom for other young ladies who dream of being high fashion models?

GH: I think that as long as you’re able to be yourself and stay true to who you are you will go far. Also, remember that people talk. If you’re extremely nice and a hard worker, word will spread and you’ll get referrals and more jobs. Trust me! And, always dream big and believe in yourself, confidence is key, don’t let others bring you down.

PO: That’s great advice! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview and for being you! Can’t wait to see what the future holds for you. I think it will be a bright future indeed! Please remember us, the little people when you’re working the runway in a pair of wings, okay?

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