Without makeup, Alora-Rose Morgan looks like any other teenager in the halls of Fitch High School.
But she isn’t. When she's not in class, she’s answering casting calls. Morgan walks the runway for emerging designers in New York City and elsewhere, and was on the cover of Runway News in January, 2013.
She’s 16 years old.
“When you look at a lot of the high fashion models, if you passed them on the street, you’d never notice them,” said her mother, Sarah Morgan. “That’s the beauty of high fashion. When they’re out there in sneakers and spandex and workout clothes, they blend in with the crowd just like anyone else.”
Alora-Rose Morgan was a dancer first. She started taking ballet at age 3, loved it and stayed with it, dancing in the Hawaii and Florida state ballets. Then she suffered a stress fracture in her spine the summer before her freshman year. She tried to keep dancing, but couldn’t do what she used to and became frustrated.
She told her mother she wanted to try modeling. She'd seen other dancers do it.
"I like the photos and getting pampered and getting my hair done and makeup done," she said. "It's all like, a happy environment."
Sarah Morgan works as a surgical technician and knew nothing about the industry. She and her husband, who serves in the Navy, have two other children; a son, 19, who’s studying massage therapy, and a daughter, 18, who wants to become an orthodontist.
But Morgan said she wanted to help her daughter, who was then 14, so she took her to Black Dog photography in Mystic, and they shot a portfolio. Then the Morgans started submitting a card with the photos to agencies and casting calls in New York.
In October, 2011, Sarah Morgan took her daughter to a casting call in New York for emerging designers. More than 300 models were walking in at any given time, Morgan recalled.
"I know I was really nervous," Alora-Rose Morgan said. "I was just focused on getting what I had to get done and hopefully I would made it."
The casting group chose 150 models, including her. That February, she walked for six designers over two nights in Manhattan. Since she was used to dancing on stage, she was nervous, but only the first time.
Designers noticed. They began asking for her. She’s walked 20 runway shows in the last year and a half.
There have been some challenges. She's between agencies at the moment, because her former agency in New York refused to market her, saying she was "fat", her mother said.
Alora-Rose Morgan had been requested for a runway show in Milan, Italy, but the agency declined to go forward; they didn’t want to be known as marketing a "fat" model.
She is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 125 pounds.
The agency insisted she lose 10 to 15 pounds.
"It make me really upset bcause I work really hard for my body," Morgan said. "The fact that they called me fat, it kind of tore me down because I work really hard to be healthy." She didn't buy into it.
Sarah Morgan told them they were promoting underweight, unhealthy young women and fired the agency.
Alora-Rose Morgan is now back to dancing along with modeling. She maintains As and Bs at Fitch despite missing days to answer casting calls. She said she wants to work in sports medicine or physical therapy someday, helping people like the doctors who helped her after she injured her back.
On April 6, she's dancing in the Fitch High School talent show at 7 p.m.
"As of right now (modeling) is just something that helps. It makes me happy," she said. "If something big does come of it like a huge client, I would love to do it. But I'm more focused on my schooling right now. But the modeling would really help me get through college."