Kenzie Roth: He's got the look
After college, Tualatin grad finds work modeling in Big Apple
After moving from Tualatin to New York City to pursue a modeling career a few years ago, Tualatin High School grad Kenzie Roth found it hard to get a good night's sleep.
'I lived in Manhattan for four months, four blocks from Central Park, right on this busy road with sirens, people yelling, the street sweeper, the garbage man, people honking their horns…it's completely different. At home you hear a siren every once in a while, but I swear I woke up at 6 every morning to that sound.'
Roth, 24, has since moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn where it's a little bit quieter. Despite the noise, New York is the perfect place to be for a working model, he said.
'It's a crazy industry,' Roth said. 'It's a lot different than when I started when I was 18. There are not as many jobs, and now there are so many models out there too. But it's fun. It kind of drives you and pushes you to be better than the next.
From taking polaroids to flying to Milan
Roth's mother, Theresa, thought her son would end up working with computers. As a child, Roth said he wanted to grow up to play basketball.
'He would spend hours outside shooting hoops when he was little,' Theresa said. 'He's always liked fashion though. He always had to have the best of the best. Modeling never really crossed my mind, but if you thought about it, it wasn't a real big surprise.'
One day, during his senior year in high school, Roth was shopping at Washington Square mall with his mother when a woman approached them to ask if Roth was a model. When Theresa said no, the woman asked, 'Does he want to be?'
'We kind of laughed it off, didn't think much of it at first,' Theresa said. 'But he had his senior pictures taken after that and the guy that did it said, 'Oh, Kenzie, you're a natural. You should get into modeling.' And you know, we didn't think anything of it then either.'
It wasn't until a friend said he had just spent his spring break modeling in Florida for the very same company that showed an interest in Roth at the mall that he began to consider modeling.
'So I went in and shot some Polaroids,' Roth said. 'They sent it to a client, and the next thing I know we're driving to Seattle so I can get my passport to fly to Milan for a magazine shoot. Things just started happening.
'It was crazy. I began to think, 'Maybe I can actually do this.''
Roth's agents told him he had more of a 'European' look than a 'hometown' look. As a result, Roth has spent time in Paris, Spain and London.
'Sometimes you travel to some gorgeous locations for a shoot. I would never have seen this if I wasn't in modeling,' Roth said. 'It's definitely really cool to be able to do that.'
After graduating from Tualatin High School in 2005, Roth tried juggling college and modeling, which proved difficult. After some debate, he decided to put his education first.
After earning his bachelor's degree in economics at the University of Oregon in 2009, Roth stayed at home for a bit and worked on getting into shape before sending some photos to his current agent. It was then that his agent asked him to move to NYC. Roth made the move in April 2010.
'I'm a mama's boy, and I know that my mom definitely doesn't like that I live here where we can't talk or see each other all the time, but my parents are supportive of me (and know) that I'm following my dream,' Roth said.
Roth said he plans on pursuing modeling as long as he's able.
'I use the term 'riding the wave,'' Roth said. 'For some guys it can last two years, but if you make a name for yourself some guys do it for four, five, ten years.'
What does it take to make a name for yourself?
'If the designer likes you, he likes you. If not, try again next year,' Roth said. 'You do have to make yourself stand out in some way, to be remembered. A lot of it is personality.'
Roth said travel is one of the best perks to the job - that and getting to meet interesting people from around the world, though he cautions that it's a job like any other.
'People think it's this big, glamorous job, and it's really not,' Roth said. 'I am selling clothes for a brand. At the end of the day it's still a job. You still have to pay the rent.'
He said the biggest hurdle in modeling is how fickle the business can be.
'Staying positive is probably the most difficult thing. It's so up and down, as far as getting jobs. But I've taught myself that it is what it is. You have to take it day by day and not worry about what happened yesterday, and just focus on the day ahead of you.'
Sept. 8 marked the beginning of Fashion Week in New York, a semi-annual, grand-scale event that features big name designers in fashion shows and parties. Roth, who modeled for three fashion week designers this season, says New York is transformed during this time of year.
'It's so hectic,' Roth said. 'There are models everywhere. You see them on the streets, and when it's all over they leave.'
In addition to his day job, Roth has picked up acting classes in his free time upon a recommendation from his agent.
'It's fun - a new challenge,' Roth said, now about a month into his classes.
With the rest of his free time, Roth either works out ('I'm basically getting paid to be healthy,') or explores the streets of New York, sometimes with friends from high school or college.
'I love it here, but I'm still an Oregon boy at heart,' Roth said. 'I'll live here for as long as I have to, maybe longer, but I think I see myself moving home at some point.
'I definitely see myself moving home at some point. Who doesn't love Oregon?'