On their first trip to New York City, a few of Christiév Carothers’s teenage charges found the perfect souvenir: subway tokens. “They didn’t want to put them in the slots, and they couldn’t understand why the turnstiles wouldn’t turn,” recalls Carothers, who had come to the Big Apple to show off 18 models from her agency. “I was holding the subway doors open, shouting, ‘Put the token in the turnstile.’ An amused straphanger said, ‘You’re not from here, are you?’ ” Christiév replied, “No, we’re from Oregon.” That’s Medford, Ore. (pop. 45,000).
Subway riders may have scoffed at the fresh-faced out-of-towners, but in fashion circles, Carothers’s crop of country cuties is turning heads in New York City, Paris, Milan, Tokyo and Greece. “I tell the kids, ‘No one has ever become rich and famous modeling in Medford,’ ” says Carothers.” ‘But this is a great springboard.’ ” Indeed, in January Janet Traynor, 20, was on the cover of Teen magazine, and last September Kristin Gossett, 15, was on the cover of Italy’s Rakam magazine. When Elite and Ford came to Medford to scout, Elite signed Gossett on for a 60-day shoot in Tokyo that will pay her $25,000.
Is there something special in Medford’s water? “The girls from Oregon have gorgeous, gorgeous skin,” says Angelika Thibiant, director of new faces at Elite in Los Angeles. “Our models act un-affected and unspoiled because they are,” says Carothers.
As first runner-up in the 1982 Miss California-USA pageant, Christiév, 27, started out on the other side of the camera. But she gave up the runway when she married Dennis, 35, a singer turned stockbroker, and had a son, Christopher, now 4. When Christiév started her agency two years ago, her ambition was to put on fashion shows at the local mall. “Now I’m getting calls in the middle of the night from Tokyo.” And that ain’t hay.