The search for the next big thing in modeling is over.
Kayle Anderson has been named the winner of the Elite Model Search, which asked women from across the country to submit video entries to be signed to modeling agency Elite.
The search looked for someone who is “diverse, original and authentic,” and Anderson, 17, fit the bill.
“It was unreal,” the Florida-based teen tells PEOPLE of being named the winner. “There was so much built-up excitement. As soon as they said my name, it took me a second to realize I won. It was amazing.”
Although she had no modeling experience prior to the competition, Anderson knew it was something she always wanted to do.
“I’ve always been super tall — I’m 5’10” — and I saw models that I took inspiration from and aspired to be like,” she says. “And I have an interest in fashion — I have a whole collection of magazines sitting in my room.”
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Because of her lack of experience, Anderson never expected to win.
“I had never done any modeling at all, so I tried out on a whim,” she says. “My first photo shoot was on Tuesday. It was my first time getting my makeup professionally done. It was surreal.”
She hopes the modeling industry can continue to diversify the types of women pictured in magazines and seen on runways.
“It’s important because there are all types of different women in the world, and we all need people we can identify with,” she says. “It’s important to give young girls examples, and show that even if you’re different or not the norm, you can still look up to people in the industry and aspire to do whatever you want to do.”