Is there something in the Wichita water? First came “It” girl Lindsey Wixson, and now Maria Bradley, another 17-year-old beauty who calls the Midwest city home. “I’m from Kansas, but I’m not like a use-the-outhouse kind of girl,” says Bradley. After opening Alexander Wang’s show last September, the DNA-repped brunette added Proenza Schouler, Versace (a Milan exclusive) and Balenciaga (a Paris exclusive) to her spring 2012 roster. More recently, she just shot pre-fall look books for Proenza and Wang. Oh, and her British Vogue spread just hit stands.
How did you get into modeling?
People always told me I should do it, but I never really thought about it. When I was like 13 or 14, I was randomly flipping through some photo albums and found my mom in this catalogue thing. It was minor to her, but I thought it was like the coolest thing ever. So I was like, “Mom, when are you going to start letting me model?” and she was like, “I didn’t know that you wanted to.” She knew someone at a local agency [Models and Images] and helped get me started.
Were you intimidated going to the agency for the first time?
Not really. I mean, it wasn’t anything like the agencies here. We did a few walks on a lifted runway, and we didn’t just do modeling. It was a lot of, like, manners.
Like a finishing school?
Kind of, but more of a modeling school. It taught me a lot of confidence. I remember once the owner made me do a talk in front of all these people because she knew I was terrified of public speaking. I was thrown into situations that I wasn’t use to, and I had to adapt, which is very important in modeling.
When did you first come to New York?
My mother agency had connections with Factor Women in Chicago, so I went up there for a test shoot. That photographer sent photos to Tom Ford. I guess then a casting director saw the test shots and sent those photos to Anita Bitton. Then Anita booked me for Wang, and it just dominoed from there.
So Alexander Wang was your first show?
I had done local shows in Kansas, but in a mall, and there’s a curtain we’re all behind. This was nothing like anything I had ever done before. When I got there, I walked into that giant warehouse on the pier, and I was like, “Oh…my…god.”
What was most surprising?
Just the sheer scale of it all. My dad came to the show with me. He was backstage, too, and I don’t think he realized the enormity of this whole world. It was like a stadium setup back there, with like 100 people running around.
How did you find out you were opening Wang’s show?
I was doing looks all week with some other girls, and they kept putting all the pictures up, you know, like look one, look two. And they kept putting mine in front. I didn’t even know what “opening” meant until the minute before I got on the runway. The girl behind me in line, Laura [Mullen], who is this really cool chick, was like, “Hey, dude, it’s a pretty big deal that you’re first.” I was like, “Thanks, but you’re making me nervous.”
And right after that you went to Europe. What was it like walking in Milan and Paris shows?
It was my first time out of the country — it was mind-blowing, really. I had no idea the fashion world was like this. I mean, when I shot in Kansas, it was like at a Humane Society, holding puppies, and now I was thrown into this.