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It’s no revelation that gap teeth have been embraced, even celebrated by the fashion world. First there was Brigitte Bardot, who earned her French bombshell status despite her subtle dental imperfection, and then Lauren Hutton, whose gap-toothed grin made her the all-American girl next door. Nowadays, Lara Stone, Lily Aldridge and Georgia May Jagger sport their spaces proudly. But for newcomer Gabriela Fuentes, the 18-year-old Santiago, Chile native, the journey to accepting her quirky smile was gradual. “When I was a kid, the gap [in my teeth] was so big. It wasn’t fun for me,” she said, through a heavy Spanish accent. “I had always wanted to fix my teeth. So I put braces on. When I took them off, my teeth moved back like this. So I said, ‘Well, this is my destiny.’”
Fuentes, who is repped by Elite, is a recent New York expat — she’s been staying in a Manhattan apartment with her mother for the past four months while developing her portfolio. Shortly after her arrival, the blue-eyed beauty got a break by landing a spot on Marc Jacobs’ runway for the designer’s most recent resort presentation (she was the only “new face” on the runway). She also nabbed an editorial in Creem magazine and will be back in New York and Europe in September for the spring show season. Fuentes sat down with WWD on a recent afternoon to talk about her weirdest photo shoot moments, her favorite models and her dream of riding in a hot-air balloon.
WWD: Tell me how you started modeling.
Gabriela Fuentes: I sent my picture [to an agency], but I was 13. I was so small. I had to wait a year to enter into the agency. I started doing runway classes and taking some photos. Then, there was an Elite Model Look [the international modeling contest] in Chile, and I won the second place.
WWD: How did your career take off from there?
G.F.: I started to work right away. I went to London at 16 [for one month]. I went when I was on vacation, so I didn’t miss any classes in school.
WWD: Growing up, did people ever tell you that you should model? Is it something you wanted to do?
G.F.: People would tell me I should be a model because I’m taller. [Editor’s note: She’s 5-foot, 9-inches.] Although here, I’m not that tall.
WWD: What have you been doing in New York?
G.F.: My mom is with me and my dad comes to visit us. I stay with my mom in Manhattan. It’s so crazy here, so busy. We’ve been getting to know the town, the museums. I went to the Met and [have been seeing] musicals; tonight we’re going to see “Les Misérables.”
WWD: What’s your family like?
G.F.: I have one brother and one sister, both older than me. My brother is studying to be a chef. And my sister works in a store — she buys [furniture] in China and around the world and then sells it. It’s my mom’s store, and she works in the store.
WWD: What do you think you might be doing if not modeling?
G.F.: I like fashion, marketing and publicity. I want to study that. The fashion in Chile is not that different [from in the U.S.] because everything from here eventually goes there. It’s nice. New York has a lot of clothes and now all the stores are coming to Chile. My favorite stores are Urban Outfitters, Topshop and Zara.
WWD: What’s your favorite part of modeling?
G.F.: Between runway and editorial, I can’t choose one. It’s great being on the runway. It’s a cool [feeling]. But the photo shoots are so entertaining and fun and you meet so many people.
WWD: How did it feel to walk the Marc Jacobs resort show?
G.F.: I loved the dresses. I was so excited. I was the only new face in the show. I was like, “Oh my God.” I was so happy, and the people were so nice. I had walked runways before, but not [major] shows like Marc. This was my first big international show.
WWD: What’s the hardest part of this job?
G.F.: I think the hardest moment is to be away from your family. When you live in Chile, it’s so far away. If I lived in Paris, I could go back and forth easily. But a flight to Chile is 12 hours long. My boyfriend is back in Chile — but he’s going to visit me soon. [Editor’s note: a week after this interview, Fuentes’ Instagram account, @gabifbaettig, featured selfies of the couple hanging out in Times Square.]
WWD: Are your friends back home supportive of your career?
G.F.: Yes, my friends support me. My girl friends are like, “Oh my God, do you get to keep the clothes? Can I borrow?” I’m like, “I wish I can!”
WWD: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to do on a photo shoot?
G.F.: Every model has to do summer shoots in winter — in Chile, the ocean is so cold, and sometimes you have to go in the water. Here in New York, sometimes they’ll ask you to lay on the floor and put your legs up and [make you pose] in funny positions.
WWD: Is there anything about the modeling industry that you’d like to see changed?
G.F.: The models can be so skinny. Health should be first. Everybody’s beautiful.
WWD: Are there any models you look up to?
G.F.: I like Barbara Palvin and Cara Delevingne.
WWD: What are some of your goals?
G.F.: I really want to be in Vogue magazine. I want to keep modeling because I like it so much. I would love to do more cool runway shows and also Victoria’s Secret.
WWD: And more generally, what’s on your bucket list?
G.F.: To be a cool model. I want to go to Greece. I want to ride in a hot-air balloon. And I want to rent a car and drive across the USA.