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Bay Berger knows exactly what she’d be doing right now if she weren’t a model: folding clothes. “I’d be working at abercrombie kids, hating it. I’d also be a senior in high school, so I’d probably be in homeroom right now,” says the 18-year-old, checking her watch. Thanks to her proactive mom, who sent her photos — make that homecoming photos — in to Ford Los Angeles, Berger took the nonretail route to fashion, getting signed when she was 15. We caught up with the up-and-comer before she left the big city to spend the holidays in Texas.
We hear your mom had something to do with you getting discovered?
She sent my homecoming picture in to a lot of agencies. Within three days, I was signed to the agency Ford in Los Angeles — they hadn’t even met me yet. I just had to e-mail them a picture of myself with no makeup on and then a video.
How did you find out the good news?
My mom picked me up from school with flowers, screaming, “You’re a Ford model!” I was like, “What’s Ford?”
Your homecoming picture must have been pretty great.
Oh, god. I actually had gotten a spray tan, so I was really fake tan, which is so not me. My hair was half up, half down, with those curly tendrils in the front, and I had on this long green dress. It was very Texas.
Where in Texas are you from?
A place called Beaumont, an hour and a half east of Houston. It’s small, not like a suburb but still pretty small, but definitely not rural — just boring.
You signed with Ford in L.A. when you were 15. Did you move out there at that point?
At first I was sort of going back and forth. I was staying with my mom’s friend who lives there, so I’d stay for a few months, then I’d come back for a few. I did that for like a year.
How did school fit into that plan?
I went to high school for freshman and half of sophomore year. Then my agency was like, “We want to send you to Japan.” I really wanted to go; I begged and said I could take school online. So I went to Japan for a little bit. Then I was in L.A. for a while, and just arrived in New York in the beginning of October.
Was all that moving a difficult adjustment?
Well, it’s not like I had lived in Texas my whole life before I started modeling. I was born in Kansas City, and lived in Florida and Louisiana before Texas. So I always knew that Beaumont wasn’t like the whole wide world. But I have to say, it is different. Even living on my own now is tough. I don’t know what I’d do without HopStop.
Has your style changed since moving here?
I don’t really have a personal style — I like looking like a hobo, sort of. I like the big, oversize stuff and the sleekness of black.
Do you dress differently when you’re back in Texas?
I used to wear totally boring stuff, like what everyone else in Texas wears: Uggs, American Eagle and Hollister. I used to think I needed to fit in, but I don’t really care anymore — I dress the way I dress. I remember once I showed up in motorcycle boots, which everyone in New York wears, and people were like, “What are you wearing?”