Top models can be discovered everywhere from the mall to a McDonald’s, but in the case of Bedford teenager Sara Grace Wallerstedt, it took a sharp eye at an open call to recognize superstardom was in her future.
Dropping by the Dallas agency Wallflower Management with her mom during spring break of last year, Wallerstedt’s otherworldly looks immediately drew the attention of owners Brenda Gomez and Tammy Theis.
“We were really crowded, but we were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, look at this girl,’” recalls Theis. “She’s so unique — she’s parts of different people. She’s got the longest neck like Audrey Hepburn, and those tilting up eyes that remind me of [Asian model/actress] Devon Aoki, and she has the freckles and coloring of Sissy Spacek.”
The agency offered the then 16-year-old a contract right away, and soon afterwards Wallerstedt was off to New York for her first round of go-sees and a signing to the Manhattan-based agency The Society.
“I had a pretty minimal fashion awareness, but I had always gotten told, ‘You should be a model,’” says Wallerstedt, who has also modeled for local store Forty Five Ten. “I was always going with the flow, I had no expectations, and it all happened so quickly. One of my first shoots that wasn’t in Texas was with [superstar photographer] Steven Meisel, and my agents were freaking out, and I was like, ‘What the heck?’”
Drawing on her background performing in band and dance, Wallerstedt uses her intuition in front of the camera, going off what the clothes “make me feel.” Theis says the model’s subtle movements were completely intuitive from the very beginning.
“She makes little changes that change the whole mood of the photo. She’s never timid — she didn’t try, she just is. Everything you put on her looks expensive and cool at the same time, and she makes really high lady fashion look cool and young.”
Wallerstedt’s “pinch me" moment happened when she saw herself in her recent Prada campaign, and landing the March Italian Vogue cover was another giant vote of confidence in her nascent career. One of the most significant “gets” in the fashion world, it solidifies her status as the industry’s next “It” girl.
“It’s the gold or platinum standard of magazine covers,” says Theis. “They have the best printing and a huge amount of advertising and are always doing the most forward, amazing images.”
Having already walked the runway for the likes of Prada, Proenza Schouler, and Calvin Klein, Wallerstedt is on exclusive hold with Klein for advertising next year. Her brilliant career may just be beginning, but she’s making a point of finishing her senior year of high school before jumping into the industry full time.
When she’s not posing, Wallerstedt volunteers with her school’s Girls Awareness Program at the Euless Animal Shelter, and, in an alternate reality, imagines herself with a career in veterinary science. But with her innate ability to make the camera love her, its not likely she’ll be off the catwalks any time soon.
“I don’t want to say I’m not looking at goals, but getting the cover of Italian Vogue was one of the things I wanted to do sometime — I just didn’t think it would be now,” she says with a laugh. “I’m kind of letting it hit me as it comes. I’m still figuring it out, it’s still very new to me.”