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Agency for young models has auditions in Forest Hills

Olivia Mignone, (l.) the founder of Shortstack modeling, reviews an application with Tanya Rios (c.) and Gabrielle Neglia.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Young women leave Shortstack modeling with the ability to pound the runway, but it starts with walking the auditorium stage at JHS 190 in Forest Hills.

The modeling agency held its second week of auditions Saturday at the school, at 68-17 Austin St., seeing about 15 contestants who could become one of the lucky 24 to have a spot in the agency for the year.

“We’re really just looking for girls who have a passion for modeling,” said Olivia Mignone, a 21-year-old Bayside resident who founded Shortstack when she was 15.

Shortstack not only trains teenage girls and young women who are shorter than the average required height for a model, but also works to build their self-esteem. Shortstack participants have the opportunity to model clothing from stores such as Hot Topic, David’s Bridal, Banana Republic and even some young designers, including one who was 10.

During the eight-month program, the participants do photo shoots, community service and fund-raising events in Queens and Manhattan, and the program ends with a charity fashion show in Manhattan in June 2013. Models must be from 4-foot-8 to 5-foot-6, but can be any weight or body type.

Cassandra Hart, a Woodside resident who went through Shortstack last year and now works as a runway director for the agency, said she thinks the program is a great thing. She said girls who come through the program gain a lot of confidence.

“My only regret is I wish I would have started younger,” said Hart, who is 21.

Mignone held the auditions Saturday with Shortstack’s program directors and Hal Eisenberg, of Windows of Opportunity Inc., which oversees Shortstack and numerous organizations aimed at empowering youth.

During the auditions, the contenders were asked some questions about their interest in the program and availability, and also did a short runway walk on the school’s stage. Mignone said they look for a young woman who has a good personality, is unique, is outgoing and wants to be a model.

Mary Diaz, a 21-year-old Jamaica resident, said she was interested in auditioning because she has done music, singing and dancing and wanted to do something else that was in the arts.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do stuff for charity.”

Mignone said JHS 190 has long partnered with the school for the program, offering room space for auditions and rehearsals.

“The school’s really great,” Mignone said. “They help us out a lot.”

Mignone said she always wanted to be a model but realized at her height, 5-foot-1, she would not be eligible to work with major modeling agencies. She met with Eisenberg during a charity show and they set up the program.

“It’s taking an industry and trying to shift it for the better,” Eisenberg said of the program.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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