Walking the streets of New York City, the variation in style alone is a feast for the eyes. A fashion capital of the world, the concentration of talent and creativity makes it is a popular destination for Irish models.
This is what attracted Miriam Matabaro, an Irish model who left her home in Dublin in November to pursue her modeling career in the Big Apple. With an Irish mother and a Tanzanian father, the Dubliner’s exotic look helped her nab her latest job as the new face for FashionMack.com.
“I decided on New York City because I love the city, it has great energy and it inspires me,” she recently told the Irish Voice.
Working alongside stylist Rohn Padmore, who has dressed the likes of Madonna and Kylie Minogue, Matabaro admits her FashionMack shoot has been one of her most exciting jobs to date.
Rebecca Morgan, managing director at Morgan the Agency, one of Ireland’s leading modeling agencies based in Dublin, says that New York is “like honey to a bee” for Irish models.
A bigger pool of talent in New York means more competition for Irish models, which in turn makes it more difficult to succeed.
“New York tends only to become an option when a model’s book is well established, or else when they are very new,” says Morgan.
“Traditionally, they wouldn’t go unless they had an agency,” she added.
Like most industries, one of the greatest barriers of relocating to the U.S. is access. “the biggest drawback to the states is the visa issue,” Morgan points out.
For Queens resident Matabaro, the brunette says she is not intimidated by the tough competition in a city like New York.
“The most challenging thing is being extremely busy one week and being very quiet the next week,” she says.
“Everything sometimes comes at once and you have to be ready. It's not like going to work every day. There are no guarantees.”
While chatting to the Irish Voice, she lists off numerous casting calls she is preparing for before detailing what happens during an average casting experience.
“We are normally given time slots and there are usually a lot of girls there, around 15 or 20,” she says.
The Dubliner admits it can be daunting during the casting call if you spot someone with a similar look to your own.
“You go in and show them your book, they will have you walk and you leave a card with them,” she says.
“Some others may ask you to try on their clothing. It really depends on the casting director.”
Another Dubliner who was attracted to a modeling career in New York, Cerri McQuillan, arrived here almost four years ago. By her own admission, her soft looks mean she is more suited to a commercial market in the U.S.
One of her most glitzy jobs was when she landed a coveted position on the reality TV show Project Runway and the show’s spin-off Models of the Runway.
“I just went to a casting and got a call back for it and before I knew it I was shacked up in a house with a bunch of chicks, saying to myself 'What the hell did I just get myself into?’” she joked.
McQuillan was originally spotted while working as a waitress in Howth, Co. Dublin. Her pale complexion, blue eyes and soft features caught the eye of one of her customers who happened to be an Italian talent scout.
“I was only 15 at the time so I waited until I was 16 until I went to Milan and started working there straight away,” she told the Irish Voice.
The 25-year-old worked extensively in Europe and Asia before moving to the U.S.
“New York City is one of the biggest fashion capitals in the world. What is great about the Dublin scene is that is gives new comers a time to shine, build their experience and confidence before hitting the bigger markets,” she points out.
“Dublin is an extremely small market but it has developed enough now that if you decide that a bigger market is not for you, there is still great potential to make a decent living.”
McQuillan said one of her favorite things about working in New York fashion world is the ability to get a job done.
“The industry in New York is pretty nice because the level of professionalism is much greater,” she says.
“For me, I like to get things done and that is exactly how New Yorkers like to do it! It was very refreshing working in that environment.”
After booking jobs with well known names such as Revlon, Target, and Marc Jacobs the Dubliner decided to retire from the industry last year.
“I personally decided to take a break because of many things. I didn't believe in the industry and what it stands for. I don't agree with the effect it has on our younger generation,” she told the Irish Voice.
Proving that New York isn’t the sole destination for Irish models, in West Hollywood Kildare native Hannah Flattery is carving out a strong modeling career for herself.
“When I got here I knew I was supposed to live here,” she said. “I found that everyone was welcoming and friendly”.
A graduate of University College Dublin, the 25-year-old made the move to LA two years ago and is doing mostly catalogue, commercial and TV modeling work.
At almost six foot, the blue-eyed blond took part in LA Fashion Week and was named Sexy Superfan of the Month for the December 2011 issue of World Wrestling Entertainment magazine.
“I have a couple of different agents, so I am always going out to castings and auditions,” she told the Irish Voice.
“I have a blond American look and so does everyone here, but they love the fact that I am Irish.”
Flattery first got involved in modeling when she a student in Dublin. Although she enjoyed her modeling experience in Dublin, she explains that the scene in LA is very different.
“In Dublin, everyone knows everybody,” she told the Irish Voice.“LA is way different and has a lot more competition.”
“I can do a variety of stuff and there is always a job if you are hungry,” she said.
“People's bodies are perfect and you have to compete with that. Everyone is so health conscious here.”
The Irish look can be an advantage to some of the girls coming out here. Representing models across the U.S. in cities such as LA, New York, and Miami, a ZARZAR Modeling Agency spokesperson told the Irish Voice that Irish models can really stand out at a casting call.
“Irish models add a different look and their accent is very much liked by many casting directors and clients,” a spokesperson from ZARZAR Modeling Agency in California said.
“But the accent can be a double edged sword according to our Irish models, as sometimes a client would like an all American girl and the accent could be used against them in booking with a client”.
Despite the barriers that exist for Irish models trying to make it in the US, the ladies who the Irish Voice spoke to are testament to the fact that they continue to leave their mark in a highly competitive industry.
“There is a niche market there for everybody,” Rebecca Morgan of Morgan the Agency pointed out.
“I think there is a charm that Irish people have. It's definitely a plus for them.”