By Doug Kennedy
Could you imagine sending your 15-year-old daughter, sister or granddaughter to New York City and Europe to work at such a young age? That is how old Jessica Stam was when she started her amazing modelling career; a big leap from growing up on a farm In Kincardine with six brothers, to the bright lights of New York City.
Her parents encouraged her to grab hold of this exciting opportunity with both hands. They told her that this was her moment.
She grew up with her dad Rick and mother Deb and her brothers Nathan, Aaron, Mathew, Christopher, Justin and Micah. During her childhood she would sing solo in church and she also performed in church plays at a young age. She also sang in the school choir and dreamed of becoming a dentist.
Her mother Deb said when Stam was 15, she was very enthusiastic and determined to not just be a model, but be the best model. She has remained focused and hardworking, keeping her head above water in an industry that presents many challenges and distractions. She has achieved her goal through hard work, the right modelling agency, a natural talent, her tall, slender form, unusually beautiful eyes, and bone structure. All the pieces have to fall together in order to have the sort of successful career that Stam has. She gives 100 per cent to what she wants to achieve. She is a caring person and when she comes home to Kincardine for visits she is still that small town girl that her peers know and love.
Stam’s entry into the industry came when she was first spotted at a Tim Hortons outside of Toronto by a modelling scout, who took her to New York, where she signed a contract with IMG Models.
After traveling back and forth from Kincardine to New York and Paris she eventually moved to New York City at the tender age of 17. It was not always easy in New York for her, and she shared an apartment as she struggled to make ends meet. All that was be about to change.
Her first big job was walking the runway at the Marc Jacobs Fashion Show. When that happened her first summer in New York, she said she was star struck to meet the designer and loved his attention to detail. She thought the clothes were so cool.
In 2002 she won the Los Angeles look contest. It was there that she met the famous photographer, Steven Meisel, who would later photograph her for Versace and Prada. This jumpstarted her career and soon after, he cast her in every advertising campaign.
“I guess I’m his muse,” she said, and she has credited him with helping her become a supermodel. She has appeared on the cover of UK, Turkish and German Vogue and in advertisements for Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Giorgio Armani and others.
In 2005 Marc Jacobs created a bag that was named the Stam Bag. It was a big success in the United States and Canada.
Stam walked a total of 64 shows combined, during the New York, Milan, and Paris fashion weeks in 2006. For the Victoria’s Secret fashion show in 2006, she opened the first ‘Pink’ segment ever. Her appearance also included a featurette showing a Victoria’s Secret commercial shoot and what a model sees when walking down the runway. In January 2006 in the Rochas ad campaign, shot and directed by Bruno Aveillan.
She was presented, along with nine others models, on the May 2007 cover of American Vogue as one of the world’s next top models.
In 2007 she was part of a crop of models described as “doll faces”. She remained part of IMG Models, a worldwide modelling agency and View Management in Barcelona and Bravo Models, out of Tokyo.
In 2007, during Paris’s spring/summer Haute Couture fashion show, she walked for Chanel, Christian Labroid, Christian Dior, Givenchy, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Also in 2007, Forbes named her fifteenth in the list of the world’s top earning models.
The Wall Street Journal featured her in its article on “How to walk like a model” and taught a DKNY intern her runway moves.
Stam transitioned from modelling into designing. First came a collaboration with Rag and Bone, on pieces for the spring 2010 collection. After that, she signed with Rachel Roy to co-design a capsular collection of jeans, a bag and a cardigan for her Rachel Roy label, which launched in 2011.
In 2011 she was named the face of Cover Girl, teaming up with makeup artist Pat McGrath for the brand’s Lip Perfection campaign. Although Stam has meant a lot of famous people, she still gets star struck when she works with her favourite fashion model designers.
Stam is on the industry icons list, compiled by Models.com. This directory lists models who have worked at the blue chip lever for more than six years, and are still working.
She has hosted the Yahoos fashion show, the Thread and has hosted the Marc Jacobs pre-show.
In 2012, Stam partnered up with Many Hopes and Adopt Together, to help foster kids in the United States and street kids in coastal Kenya. In 2013, Stam represented Peace Jams as an ambassador at the Social Innovation Summit, held at the United Nations Plaza.
She lived in New York for 15 years before moving to Los Angeles, where she lived for five years. She just recently move to Maui, where she lives with her husband, her three-year-old daughter and a three- month-old son. She is concentrating on raising her two young children, loves being a mom and does not want to miss their childhood. She has decided to be a lot more selective about her modelling jobs and when to travel.
Her advice to any young women or men wanting to get into the modelling industry would be to get in touch with a reputable modelling agency and send some basic digital photos taken by a friend. You should not need professional photos taken before you sign up with an agency.
This is a truly amazing story about a local girl who chased her dreams and became one of the top Canadian models of all time. Congratulations to Stam for attaining a really successful career that is far from over. Like many stories I write about local people having great success, this story would have been longer if I had listed everyone one of her accomplishments.