STUDY: Students of Color Pursue 4-Year Modeling Careers at Gustavus

This piece is a public theatre project written by students in the course “Sex, Power, and Politics,” none of whom are members of The Fourth Crown writing staff.

SAINT PETER- With recruitment efforts for the class of 2019 reaching peak season, a new internal study from the Office of Institutional Advancement has revealed a significant trend in the number of students of color turned-models during their four years at Gustavus. The study consisted of hundreds of interviews conducted with current students and recent alumni, empirically proving that students who do not identify as white are more than 8 times as likely to turn to modeling as their white peers.

Junior Alfonso Ramirez arrived at Gustavus planning to declare a Biology and Molecular Biology Major, but caught the attention of talent scouts with the college’s Office of Marketing & Communications while attending his first Homecoming football game. “I was sitting up in the stands with a bunch of my friends, but Marketing kept covertly snapping photos of me. The photographer wasn’t even watching the game.” The next day, a photo of Ramirez cheering appeared on the college website.

Ramirez was surprised by his quick rise to fame, he says: “I’m just a regular kid from Maple Grove. Next thing I know, my face is on billboards from here to the Twin Cities!” Ramirez isn’t alone in his success – although Gustavus is a predominantly white campus, students of color appear in official college publications at a much greater frequency than their white peers.

Although only 13% of current Gusties are students of color, the Institutional Advancement study projects that  100% have or will experience  a taste of the modeling world. Senior Priya Singh is one of Gustavus’ most renowned models. “I’ve been posing in shoots since my freshmen year.””  Singh’s modeling career peaks every spring during Gustavus’ celebration of the Hindu Holi festival: “I’m actually not from India, I’m from Gary, Indiana, but marketing goes nuts when I attend Holi. They’ve used different photos of me to advertise the event for three years now. I always try and get my friends Molly and Sarah in on the shots, but they somehow keep getting cropped out.”

African-American student Jonathan Naski substantiated this trend. “Who knew that just walking around campus on move in day with my family could send the Marketing and Communications director Tom Kennedy  sprinting from Coed to the Campus center just to snap a family photo of us. After that we were everywhere- the Gustavus homepage, on the walls of the Campus center, Admissions’ brochureswe even got a full page spread in the Gustavus Quarterly. While the constant stares I get from my peers around campus are a bit much, I think I could get used to the celebrity lifestyle.”

Students express that it can be challenging to master the modeling poses. South African student Nadine Smith said: “I had never learned to play guitar or hacky sack until I got to Gustavus. After about four shoots, I at least know  how to fake it.”

Ramirez’ mother, Maria Ramirez recently came to watch her son perform in Christmas in Christ Chapel. After receiving brochures and hearing all about her son’s modeling career, she looked forward to witnessing the rich campus diversity. “I was certain the campus would be a miniature United Nations!” she said. “It was confusing to walk into the chapel and see all white people. At least it was easy to find Alfonso!”

High profile model Shakira Johnson wrote on her blog to fans: “My sister is a senior in high school right now, and she’s trying to figure out which MIAC school to attend next fall. I told her if she’s serious about her modeling career, she only needs to compare the homepages for St. Olaf, St. Thomas, and Gustavus to realize that Gustavus will take her modeling aspirations to a whole new level. Diversity is celebrated on this campus, even if only through the disproportionate amount of modeling opportunities students of color receive compared to our white friends. Now that is acceptance!”

The Office of Institutional Advancement study concluded by projecting that Gustavus students of color graduated well equipped to continue their modeling careers through graduate school and photographs on their company’s website.

Categories: CAMPUS NEWS