By Katherine Bird
The Tower (Grosse Pointe, Michigan)
Never did Estella Ottaway ’11 see herself as a model, let alone making a career out of it.
However, a series of jobs with companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Kid Rock have made her an established member of the modelling community.
Ottaway has appeared in music videos for Chris Young, Kid Rock, Big and Rich, Dallas Smith, Mitchell Tenpenny and Sammy Arriaga.
In additions, she has done work with e-commerce clients such as TJ Maxx, Rue La La and Zappos. And while in Miami, Ottaway did catalogue work for international companies, allowing her to travel, which she said is her favorite part of the career path.
“Many people had suggested that I try it (modeling),” Ottaway said. “Junior year of college, one of my friends suggested that I sign to an agency in Nashville. I figured that since I was pursuing music, I could use this as an opportunity to work with professional photographers to use the photos for my music career as well.”
Though her experiences at college directly prompted her to a career in the fashion industry, she said her experiences at South incidentally influenced it through her show choir director at the time, Ellen Bowen.
Ottaway said Bowen suggested she attend Belmont University, a music school in Nashville. If she had never made the decision to move there and pursue music, she said she may not have started modeling as well.
“My breakthrough moment would be when I realized that you don’t have to pretend to be anyone else but yourself in front of the camera,” Ottaway said. “If you pretend to be someone you’re not, the camera can tell. Once you are fully comfortable with yourself, that’s when you will bring forth your best work.”
Ottaway said she has made a lot of friends through modeling and currently lives with a group of girls in Miami who have become some of her best friends, including Jade Roselle-Jefferson.
“As a model, she is strong, gorgeous, and I’m sure very easy and a pleasure to work with,” Roselle-Jefferson said.
Ottaway and Roselle-Jefferson are both signed with Wilhelmnia Models in Miami but have not done a shoot together yet. Ottaway is also signed with Block Agency in Nashville, Tennessee.
“We met Oct. 19, my first day getting to Miami and into the model apartment,” Roselle-Jefferson said. “She had an awesome energy about her, very warm and welcoming. And we instantly connected since we were the only two Americans in the room at the time and the same age as well.”
In the modeling industry you have to have tough skin, Ottaway said. There’s so much competition in Los Angeles, Miami and New York that you have to learn not to take things personally but as a growing opportunity.
“There have definitely been times where I doubt myself, but I have to remember that clients are looking for specific things,” Ottaway said. “Even if they aren’t looking for my specific qualities does not make me a lesser person. I think a lot of models forget this. You cannot make a career in this industry if you take things personally.”
Andrew Ottaway, Ellie Ottaway’s dad, wasn’t sure his daughter would make a career out of her modeling until she started spending time at different locations for her career. He thought she would make a career out of singing but the more she got into modeling, the more he said he was convinced.
“At an early age, she was drawn to performance,” Andrew Ottaway said. “When she was little, she did ballet. Even though she didn’t like the practices, she loved the recitals. She enjoyed performing in front of people.”
Ellie Ottaway said has always been lucky to have a supportive and encouraging family who believe in her more than she believes in herself.
Even though her father misses her, he said he understands that there a very few places where modeling takes place, and she needs to travel to these places to make it happen.
“I’m grateful to have met her and can call her a friend of mine,” Roselle-Jefferson said. “She’s going to go so far and have a very successful path in life because I truly believe great things happen to good people and Estella is an amazing person inside and out.”
Photo Credit: Unsplash