G-Eazy’s “Me, Myself and I” rings throughout Mitsu Sato Hair Academy as sophomore Astrid Cifuentes taps her fringed, black suede heels to the beat.
Oh, it’s just me, myself and I.. I don’t need a hand to hold.. I got that fire in my soul.
On her left, a hair stylist straightens a strand of Cifuentes’ thick, chocolate hair. On her right, a different stylist crimps it. When they’re through, she takes selfies with them; one with her tongue out, another with her eyebrows raised.
Her face then becomes a canvas for her make up artist, who applies sequined eyebrows and paints Cifuentes’ lips coral. This along with the rest of her routine takes 45 minutes – it’s going to be a long night.
That day, Cifuentes walked in Heels for a Cause, a benefit runway show – an example of one of her modeling gigs. Her work ranges from photo shoots for quinceanera dresses to advertisements for hair and makeup businesses.
Cifuentes is a petite model, standing at five feet, working for the Career Images Agency. Her stature and age, 16, are no testament to her mature demeanor.
“Yes I’m short, but I also get called a lot because I’m so professional and I carry myself really well,” Cifuentes said.
Cifuentes’ involvement in the Hispanic community, along with her Latina look, attracts even more bookings. In fact, this summer she’ll be filming a commercial with Univision Spanish network, the largest Spanish-language television network in the world. They even asked her to be their Kansas City weather girl.
“[I] have a curvy, Latin body,” Cifuentes said. “So [my Hispanic features] help a lot [booking jobs].”
Modeling claims most of Cifuentes’ free time; she rarely sees her friends on the weekends. Some days she’s even forced to miss school for meetings, shows or photo shoots.
“[Astrid] is the face of my business right now,” Tiffany Porras, Cifuentes’ makeup artist, said. “She’s really outspoken, and she’s feisty, but she’s really professional for her age.”
That feisty attitude comes to life behind the camera. During shoots, Cifuentes tosses her hair back and elongates her neck and if the set has no music, she requests the Miley Cyrus Bangerz station on Pandora so she can “feel herself.” When Rihanna or Beyonce blasts during a shoot, Cifuentes said, it gets fun.
Cifuentes knows that with this fun comes training and discipline. She nags herself to point her face toward the light in order to avoid shadows, and to ensure that her hands look natural – like they’re moving through water.
“People think you just stand there and look pretty – it’s not that,” Cifuentes said. “You have to think about it. You have to know your poses, and bring a bubbly and sassy attitude to the shoot.”
Cifuentes’ rate is $50 per hour for shoots and shows, which happen at least once a month. That money, she predicts, will make a dent in her college fund and then, hopefully, take her to law school. But after that, she’ll hang up her dresses for good.
Despite the work she puts into it, Cifuentes is only modeling for the contacts and the experience.
“I want [my name] to get as big as possible,” Cifuentes said. “I don’t really [model] for the money; I just want to have contacts and leave a mark. I want my children to know who I was and how I carried myself.”
In order to expand her line of contacts, Cifuentes’ works with Career Images agency. Her agent, Raymond L. LaPietra, founder and CEO of Career Images model and talent agency, has been in the industry for 34 years.
“[Cifuentes is] brand new,” LaPietra said. “Very few people know about her. But with her being with us, she’s getting the chance to get exposed, do bookings, build her resume, get experience, and slowly, layer by layer, build herself.”
Although brand new to LaPietra, Cifuentes has been modeling since she was a baby; her parents takes credit for that. Because her grandfather was a photographer, the family flaunted their daughter, not only on camera, but in pageants and made Astrid the face of many Guatemalan businesses.
When Astrid was three, Griselda brought Astrid to America from Guatemala.
So now, behind clouds of hairspray and stylists at Mitsu Satu, Griselda smiles proudly at her daughter. In a shirt reading “I can’t keep calm I’m Guatemalan,” she asks – in Spanish – what Astrid wants for lunch.
Her limited English often forces Astrid to communicate for her. Having to fill that role, Astrid said, has been a major factor in developing her level-headed nature. Everyone she meets is struck by a five-foot-tall petite model with not-so-petite maturity.
“When I first came [to one of her runway shows], I arrived early for prep, and [Cifuentes] was actually the one who greeted me,” LaPietra said. “She knew my background, reputation and ended up scoring her bookings right away. We’re just getting started.”
So far, with LaPietra, Astrid has booked a cover with Quinceneras Magazine and walked in a show with 18 agents and 70 models, but she plans to expand her network even further.
“The way you promote yourself is to do stuff. [Astrid] is going about [promoting herself] right,” LaPietra said. “The more I book around, the more [Astrid is] going to be known and seen.”