What it Takes: Charleston Fashion Week model coach Michelle Wood

Q: What does your role as this year’s CFW Model Coach entail?

A:  My role for CFW this year is to get the models ready to ROCK the runway, to increase their knowledge of what it takes to be a model, help build their confidence and find their signature walk and style.

Q:  Why was a model coach brought on this year?

A:  I was brought on this year because of the experience I have had walking the runway as a model during Paris, Milan and New York fashion weeks and to use that experience to help the models step it up and reach their full potential.

Q:  I know that you have a background as a professional model in New York and Europe.  Tell us a little about your career and professional history.

A:  I have spent the past 16 years working as a print and runway model around the world.  I have been featured in numerous magazines and print campaigns that include Max Factor, Aveda, Clairol, Wella, and Antonio Fusco. I have walked the runway for designers such as Armani, Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren and Bill Blass. Throughout my career I have also done many national and international television commercials for clients that include Pantene, Target, Marshall's and Mod's Hair.

Q:  How has that driven you to coach a newer crop of girls (and guys) under the tents this year?

A:  I LOVE this industry and being a part of helping the new crop of talent realize their dreams is so exciting to me!! It is a full circle moment.

Q:  Walk me through a day in your life before and during fashion week?

A:  My day consists of models, models and more models. Not only am I the runway coach, I sometimes feel like a model therapist! A typical rehearsal last from 8:30am - 5:30pm for me. During rehearsal we work on not only their walk but on every facet of this business. I typically have over 100 models in a day that are divided into four groups every two hours. When I am not rehearsing I am PLANNING my rehearsal. I want to ensure that they get the most out of the two hours we have together so I really take the time to organize and plan what we do and what I say. During fashion week it will be my responsibility to make sure that they remember everything I have taught them and to be there to support and cheer them on.

Q:  What makes a good model?

 A:  A good model must be professional. As a model you are a self run business and to be successful you have to learn how to effectively run that business and surround yourself with people who are in your corner to help lead you in the right direction. A good model has to have thick skin. This is not an easy job and rejection is a daily part of this career.

Q:  Are you anticipating any nostalgia about your days walking the runway?

 A:  Definitely!! The feeling of walking a runway, the lights, the music, the camera's and the audience.......WOW!! It is a feeling that can not be described!! There is an energy that happens when the music starts that takes over. On the other hand though I am so excited to pass on the torch to the new models and I can promise you that I will be feeling every emotion that they do.

Q:  Any standout models/new faces you’ve seen this year?

A:  There are so many amazing models that I have worked with this year. It is almost impossible to pick a few.

Q:  Who are the model and fashion influences from whom you draw inspiration?

A:  There is not one particular model or designer that inspires me. Having been in the industry for so long I am inspired by talent, pure and simple.  I have had the honor of working for and with so many talented people they have each inspired me in their own way.

Q:  What are you most looking forward to during CFW?

A:  The excitement! Seeing the models I have worked with come to life on the runway. I feel like they are my children and I can't wait to see them bloom! I am so proud of all of them!

Q:  What’s the best part of your job?

A:  When they get it! When we work on particular issues during rehearsal and they correct it and come back even better.

Q:  Most challenging?

A:  I don't look at challenges as a bad thing, all good things come with challenges, and this has been an amazing experience.

Q:  Do you have plans to continue working with local talent after the shows?

A:  Absolutely! I also work for a local model and talent agency called Tout where my title is Director of Model Development.  Here I have the opportunity to help further a talent's career by teaching them the in's and out's of this industry and to help them reach their full potential.

Q:  Tell me a little about the Rock the Runway Competition, a new addition to CFW focusing on model talent.  How are you coaching models to prepare?  What will the judges be looking for, and how will this competition go down?

A:  The models will be judged on attitude, professionalism, style and of course their walk among other things. I have worked on all of these things with the models thru out rehearsals and have given them homework. By adding the competition this year the models have been given something to strive for and it definitely shows. Each and every one of them wants to win!

Q:  What’s it been like for you to work with local girls the CFW team after being in larger markets like NY, Paris and Milan?

A:  It has been an adventure. In the past I was the model and now I am the coach, which is a first for me; and for some of these models it the first time they are modeling. We have learned together and grown together. I have such an extended family now.

Q:  Where would you like to see fashion and the model industry go in this city?

A:  I would love to see us reach the level of New York. Fashion week has brought an awareness to our city that has definitely put us on the radar. I would like to see that momentum continue. Many of my past modeling clients have shot here but they would bring the models in from either Miami, Atlanta or New York. I want to show them that they don't need to do that anymore because we have the best talent right here!

Q:  What are your plans after the shows?

A:  To breathe!! Just kidding.

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