Cherie on Top
introducing miss witter, a model citizen from seattle
There are only a few professions in which you can be considered a seasoned veteran before you become an adult. Chess master and Mousketeer come immediately to mind. And, of course, fashion model. Indeed, as a model, you can be a phenom, a rookie, a seasoned vet and all washed up in the course of your senior year in high school. So those who survive, like Cherie Witter, are special.
The reason is that modeling takes, as Cherie would say, "a major amount" of dedication. Especially in an area that's somewhat off the beaten track for the fashion industry. The towns where Cherie grew up -- Marysville, Everett, Edmonds, Bellevue -- appear only on fairly detailed maps of the hilly farm and forest land, lakes and seashores surrounding Seattle. Although it's a picturesque area, it hasn't been a center of fashion since the boom days of the Klondike gold rush. Of course, few people today wear miners' boots. And with the gold all but played out, people in Seattle have been forced to build ships and planes, catch fish and harvest timber.
Cherie began her career in her freshman year of high school, putting on noontime fashion shows for the other girls in the school. By the age of 17, she had enrolled in modeling school in Bellevue. By 18, she had been signed by an agency in New York, and a few months later she was in Paris.
"Paris when I was 18," Cherie recalls, "was really an experience for me. Compared with Everett, Paris was like a dream. I'd never been far from home, much less out of the country. I couldn't speak French, but I enjoyed it. I think I appreciate it more now, looking back on it, realizing how beautiful it was and how much I have gotten out of it.
"Modeling happened very fast for me. It kind of all happened at once."
Between jobs, Cherie teaches aspirants at a modeling school and agency in Bellevue.
"I do informal lectures -- just talking to girls about modeling and about what I've done and about what they can look for with modeling. The pros and cons."
Among the cons Cherie dislikes is the beautiful-but-dumb stereotype. "Because of my looks, people think that I'm not smart, that I don't have anything upstairs and that I'm naive. And along with that comes people's trying to take advantage of you. Well, I just have to watch out for that.
"I feel as if, at times in my life, I've been fighting what I have on the outside. I feel that, when people meet me, I don't really have a chance to let them know what I'm about of to prove that I'm worth knowning. And I don't like having to prove that to people.
"But a lot of people who meet me are surprised. and they tell me they're surprised; that's what's funny about it -- they're honest. They say, 'I'm surprised, really surprised that you have not only your looks but you have something upstairs too.' I like that."
Photography by Arny Freytag, Richard Fegley