CARBONDALE — A Carbondale native walked in the New York Fashion Week show featured in the season finale of “Project Runway,” which aired Nov. 16 on Lifetime.

Sophia Baltz, 21, graduated from Carbondale Community High School in 2014. Her parents, who still live in Carbondale, watch the show “religiously,” she said.

“My parents have watched it, I don’t know, probably since it started, and I would always come in and watch a few episodes here and there, but they have been huge fans, so when I actually got the casting for this opportunity I was so excited to tell them,” Baltz said.

Baltz began modeling at 13, first locally, and then in St. Louis after graduating from high school. Last year, she signed with the prestigious Wilhelmina Models in Chicago.

Baltz is 5 feet, 9 inches tall, but her measurements fall somewhere between those of a traditional runway model and a plus-sized model. When she first started modeling, she struggled to become thinner before deciding it wasn’t healthy for her. Since then, the industry has become more size-diverse, she said.

Being a part of New York Fashion Week as a curvy model was exciting in itself.

“It’s almost been unheard of for curve models to be able to walk in New York Fashion Week, because that has been such a strict size 0 industry, especially when it comes to runway. So to be able to book a job in New York Fashion Week during my first year being signed was just amazing on its own,” Baltz said.

Baltz was assigned to the designer Ayana Ife, who specializes in modest fashion. (Kentaro Kameyama was ultimately named the winner of Season 16.)

“(Ife is) Muslim, and she’s trying to bring more conservative looks onto the runway. So it was really interesting — she put a couple of girls in hijabs, and it was just a really cool collection. I really liked my outfit, and it was cool to see something she made that was conservative was still very high-fashion-looking without showing skin and all of that,” Baltz said.

Details had to be hidden from the public while the episode was being filmed in September, as the season was still going on.

“It was very hush-hush. We couldn’t take any pictures behind the scenes or anything like that. So it was a little nerve-wracking and kind of tough, because it being my first show, I just wanted to take pictures of everything and show my parents — FaceTime them and be like, ‘Oh my God, I’m with Tim Gunn!’ But I couldn’t really do that,” Baltz said.

Her number one piece of advice for runway modeling? Pretend you’re just walking down the street.

“Don’t look at the sides, because then you’re just going to get stressed. I looked at the side once and there was Heidi Klum and Jessica Alba sitting there, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, they’re watching me.’ So I would just say to pretend like you do it every day, and to keep on going,” Baltz said. “You can look at the crowd when you’re done.”


On Twitter: @janis_eschSI



Janis Esch is a reporter covering higher education.

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