Model Selena Forrest says being discovered at 16 helped her escape a life of poverty after her family were forced to flee Hurricane Katrina.
The rising star, 18, was spotted by a scout two years ago and has already modelled for Chanel, Louis Vuitton and DKNY. But previously, she said, she was living a different life in a drugs den.
“In America it’s hard — my family fell on hard times, that’s what happened. It’s not about how I got there, it’s about how I got out of there,” Forrest tells ES Magazine, out tomorrow.
“I was in a bad environment before I was blessed with my job. I lived in a straight trap house — a place where people buy drugs and shit like that. I tried to keep my mind right and have faith in myself and believe in myself.”
Forrest grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, but the family relocated in the wake of the devastation left by Katrina in 2005.
“We had to get out of our neighbourhood. But it wasn’t like a tragic time. I was so young that it was fun — we were eating military-style rations that came with candy bars, so I was super-happy about that.”
She was spotted by the scout as she was drinking with friends in Huntington Beach, California: “A security guard stopped us and took the alcohol, which was the downside.
“But there was a lady who came running out of a restaurant and said, ‘Have you ever thought of modelling?’”
Initially Forrest could not afford to get herself ready for casting calls — and removed her own braces with pliers after a dentist quoted $1,100 to do it.
She said she had noticed the “competitive” streak among models at casting calls and went out of her way to be friendly: “I make sure I say good luck to everybody. There needs to be a lot less taking each other down.
“There’s definitely enough room for all of us at the top. I hope we all make it — I’m not in competition with anybody but my old self.”
Read the full interview in this week's ES Magazine - out tomorrow.