Katelyn Smith, a 16-year-old Nebraska fashion model, recently walked at New York Fashion Week in September 2021. Her career started in 2017 when she made a dress entirely out of duct tape and wore it on the runway for a 4-H event. Her dress was later put in the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

In February 2020, Smith walked for Omaha Fashion Week, where she met a scouting agent from Develop Model Management. Smith decided to sign with the agency, and her modeling career began. 

“When I first started modeling, I knew nothing about the industry,” Smith said. “I went to a couple workshops for Omaha Fashion Week, and I started learning more about [modeling], and I became really passionate about it. I always wanted to be like all the other girls who were so fashion forward, and it was cool to finally get the chance to do that.”

Smith started modeling at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so there weren’t any live shows for her to walk in. 

“It was really hard. We couldn’t do much,” Smith said. “They thankfully had outdoor photoshoots to help us build our books and make them stronger so that we could get signed on with other markets.” 

Thanks to Smith’s stronger portfolio from all the outdoor photoshoots she had partaken in over the pandemic, she was eventually signed at Select Model Management in Chicago and then Women Management New York. 

Since she was signed with a New York modeling agency, in September she was able to walk in a runway show for Proenza Schouler and, shortly after, a runway show in Milan for Hugo Boss. 

“I think walking for the Proenza show was the best experience of my life,” Smith said. “I just couldn’t believe the girls I was modeling with. I still feel like I’m never going to have that feeling again. It was just so special to me.” 

While Smith is far younger than the median age of 23 for the average runway model, she said she thinks this is a positive aspect for her fashion career.  

“I feel proud of myself, and I feel like now I can do so many things,” Smith said. “Being so young and being so far in the industry just has a huge advantage on what I can do in the future.” 

Right now, Smith just wants to finish high school and hopefully walk at more New York fashion shows in the future. 

“I hope to do some more jobs in New York City and see where that goes. I know it’s kinda limited now, and when I’m 18 I can do more things on my own,” Smith said. “But right now, I want to finish high school and soak up all those mems.” 

Her Develop Model Management agent Alyssa Dilts has owned and directed the agency for almost 10 years and started out modeling, much like Smith, in her teenage years. She got out of modeling and became a modeling agent, and in December 2011, she opened Develop Model Management. 

According to Smith, Dilts has been her agent from the beginning of her modeling career. 

“I met Alyssa and Develop [Model Management] at my first casting for Omaha Fashion Week in February, and that’s when I signed with them,” Smith said. 

Due to Smith being so young, Dilts had to chaperone her on her journey to New York Fashion Week and Milan.

“I had to go with her because you’re not allowed to be that young in such a crazy, fast-paced environment,” Dilts said.

In all the models she looks after, including Smith, she said she values their dedication to their fashion careers and their all around good personalities. 

“All of our models across the board are just good people with good hearts that have these dreams to represent brands,” Dilts said. “I’m proud to represent these types of people.”

Smith said she wants to tell aspiring models to keep working hard and having fun. 

“Make goals for yourself and start out small, and you’ll eventually reach the bigger goals,” Smith said. “No matter what though, do what makes you happy.”