Walking The Model Walk
Cue the group of north Scottsdale boys, bored, awkward, impatiently (if unconsciously) waiting for their small bodies to grow. Enter a tall, graceful girl, and the boys erupt in joy over having something to do: unleash their insecurities in a flurry of teasing.
“Here she comes!”
“How’s the weather up there, Giraffe?!”
Being unusual in adolescence is like having a target on one’s back that says “Tease me!” Malloy Sells is unusual in the most obvious way: Height.
Now 17 and preparing to graduate from Pinnacle High School, she is an even six feet tall. “I was always tall, always taller than everyone,” she says, rolling her soft brown eyes. “‘Giraffe,’ that was my nickname. I got called that so much, it stopped bothering me.”
Though her height made her subject to teasing in the school world, it has become a huge advantage in the universe of modeling.
It remains to be seen whether Malloy Sells can become one of those supermodels so famous they are known simply by their first name, like Twiggy, Iman, Giselle and Tyra. While calling her “America’s Next Top Model” might be slightly premature, it is safe to dub Malloy “Scottsdale’s Next Top Model.”
She was named one of the top young runway models by Phoenix Fashion Week 2013, and recently walked the runway for Phoenix Fashion Week 2014.
This young model’s budding career is quite impressive. She has been published in Get Image Ready, Elevé and Scottsdale Living magazines, and in April competed to be Miss Teen Arizona as part of a national pageant.
Now is as good a time as any to request that, if you have that popular stereotype of an airhead model in your mind, please burst that bubble. “She doesn’t fit that one at all,” says her mother, Donna Sells. “Never has.”
“All models are not airheads,” Malloy adds, looking at her mother with a smile. “But I will meet models that are really lucky they’re pretty, because they don’t have a lot else.”
Malloy has plenty between her ears. She is carrying a 3.6 GPA, and has received a scholarship to study to be an emergency room physician’s assistant at ASU’s College of Health Solutions. She plans to follow her parents’ footsteps into the medical world. Her father, Chris, lives in Texas, where he is in medical sales. Her mother, who is from New York (where Malloy was born), is a nurse who is an administrator with Lincoln Scottsdale Health Network.
In addition to medicine, height runs in this family. Malloy’s father is 6-feet, 2 inches tall, and her mother is 5-foot-10. “I have always been the tallest,” Malloy says. “I’m still one of the tallest models.”
Being a model is harder than it looks – much harder, Malloy says. “It was definitely tough to learn. The hardest part was making it look so easy. So many aspects of what we’re trying to accomplish, you have to make it look natural. The steps have to be super exaggerated, but it can’t look that way. You have to turn a certain way, a circle turn, or a back step. Then there’s how long they want you at the end of the runway.”
“I thought they just get up and walk,” Donna adds. “It really isn’t easy.”
“It took me a good four months to learn the steps, and every designer, every director wants something different,” Malloy says.
She got plenty of practice last year when she walked the walk for three days of Fashion Week. “We lived on Red Bull,” Malloy says.
Her mother rolls her eyes, groaning, “Don’t tell me that.”
Donna’s daughter turns 18 June 8, and the last few years of modeling have been a rollercoaster.
“I think it’s been really exciting,” Donna Sells says. “Good for her self-esteem, and she’s made some really good friends. It’s been good for her overall. There’ve been some ups and downs. Overall, you have to grow up.”
To be a model, you have to take your lumps, as casting agents are brutally frank. Imagine being told your elbow is too fat!
“There is more rejection than there are positives,” Malloy says.
“It’s brutal,” Donna adds.
“It really is,” Malloy confirms. “Sometimes it’s hard to pick yourself up and go to the next casting. If it wasn’t for my mom, I would have quit.”
And then there was the agent who told the slender Malloy that if she didn’t lose weight, she would get cut from the agency. Malloy, who had put on a few pounds while vacationing, dropped the weight – and then dropped the agent.
Though quiet and laid back, Malloy is no stranger to performing before crowds. She was a national champion horseback rider when she was younger, and later played volleyball.
Sports have some similarities to modeling, but not much, she says. “When playing sports, the attention is on your team. When you’re on the runway – I hope this doesn’t sound vain - it’s all about you. You have that minute where everyone is looking at you.”
Exciting, and not a little terrifying.
Malloy says that when she’s backstage at a big show, she tries not to focus on the moment when all eyes will be on her, distracting herself by chatting with the other models, makeup people and designers.
April 13 at Tempe Center for the Arts, Malloy competed to be Miss Teen Arizona. Her platform: anti-bullying. The former “giraffe” has been talking to schools around Phoenix about bullying, and had a TV appearance on Channel 12 News April 2.
She shared that she was bullied for years, not just over being tall, but being overweight, awkward and wearing glasses. “I used to eat my lunch in bathroom stalls because I didn’t want to be bullied,” she said on the TV show.
Writer Tom Scanlon
Now, she has found the self-confidence, not only to stand up to bullies, but to stand up to the bright lights of the runway scene.
So you want to be a model? Malloy has a few tips:
“To anyone who wants to become a model I would advise them to start young,” she says. “The more exposure you can get before you turn 18, the better.
“I would also have to say never give up. This is a tough industry, and if a potential client doesn’t like the way you look, they will have no problem saying so. If you can’t shake it off and proceed with your next endeavor, modeling isn’t for you.”
And you have to be ready to put yourself in unusual situations. “The most awkward modeling I’ve had to do was a lifestyle shoot where ... I was posing in a leotard and heels in the middle of a street in downtown Phoenix. Not only was I afraid of being run over, but there were random people trying to talk and touch me while I was shooting. One guy even bought me a pair of sunglasses from a nearby shop! It was a sweet gesture, but still very awkward.”