At just 15 years old and 5 feet 9 inches tall, Lucy Raborn was accustomed to people telling her she should become a model.
On a whim, during a recent trip to New York City, Raborn met with an agent.
She left the city with a modeling contract — a contract with one of the world’s most recognized agencies, Ford Models.
Now, after spending the summer in New York, she’s back at home and starting her sophomore year of high school at St. Joseph’s Academy.
“I still can’t believe that it happened so quickly,” Raborn said. “It was a great opportunity for me to meet different people and to be exposed to the world at a young age.”
The initial trip to the city took place during her spring break. She, her mom, a good friend and her friend’s mother were planning to do some sightseeing and shopping.
The Raborn family had a contact with Ford Models, so Raborn and her mother, Mary, decided at the last minute to arrange a meeting.
“People had always said I should model because I’m tall and because of my body shape,” Raborn said.
During the two- to three-hour visit, Raborn said, two agents who work with Ford’s female models snapped some pictures, commented on her body shape, and engaged in small talk about Louisiana.
“We didn’t know any of this was significant,” Raborn said.
The mother and daughter pair left the Ford office and headed to a nearby diner for lunch.
Within an hour, they received a phone call that the head of the women’s division wanted to meet Lucy Raborn.
The family took the contract home, and ultimately, decided this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Lucy Raborn said.
Raborn and her mother spent most of their summer living in a Manhattan apartment (her father, Dr. Tim Raborn, flew up every other weekend), while the teen worked on building a modeling portfolio and attended different castings arranged by Ford.
The three-year contract with Ford Models does not guarantee any money, Raborn said.
It does, however, allow Ford to submit her pictures to various clients and send her to castings when he’s in town. The agency receives 20 percent of any money Raborn makes modeling, she said.
“It was scary that within a month, there were people stopping and asking me for directions,” Raborn said of living in the city.
Raborn said she would get an email each night from her agent telling her what she would be doing the next day — every day was different.
“My very, very first shoot was in the Bronx in a cemetery for a vintage clothing line,” Raborn said.
Another photo shoot took place in Greenwich, Conn., where Raborn was able to work with an 18-year-old female photographer and another Ford model.
They shot pictures at a beach, a forest and “a bunch of cool locations,” Raborn said.
“It felt like I was hanging out with friends,” she said.
Through a contact she met at Glamour magazine, Raborn had her most memorable experience of the summer — working on a commercial for Samsung that will air in Korea.
She even had a speaking part in French, a language that she doesn’t know.
“It was fun. Everybody was really nice,” she said, adding, “It was really cool hair and makeup.”
Raborn said she is thankful for the support of her parents and other family members.
“They’re fine with it as long as I keep my head straight,” she said. “It’s a great industry, but with everything, you have your temptations.”
She said she’s already had to deal with the rejection that comes along with being a part of the industry.
“I’ve been told I’m too big and I need to go workout,” she said. “I just brush it off.”
She has made major changes to her eating habits, giving up cupcakes and “pretty much all sweets.”
“I used to only eat junk food,” she said.
Her diet now includes lots of grilled fish and chicken, and only water to drink.
“And I love Dr. Pepper so much,” she said.
She’s also enrolled in yoga classes to work on balance and to maintain her body shape.
“The industry is completely based on your looks,” Raborn said. “If this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be worried about it.”
The photographers, makeup artists and hairstylists she worked with came from all over the world, Raborn said.
“Everybody is interesting and has their own story,” Raborn said. “People aren’t afraid to be different.”
Her plans are to continue high school, while Ford submits her pictures to clients.
She would like to return to the city over school breaks, and eventually attend New York University.
“If anything were to take off big time, I’d love to do it, but I’m not betting on it,” Raborn said.
“It’s all so random. You could get rejected 100 times, and then one person likes you and it all takes off from there,” she said.