Like many twins, Baylee and Kelsey Soles seem to radiate a certain telepathy that includes knowing glances, shared laughter and a tendency to finish each other’s sentences.
But this pair of newly minted Dreher High School graduates also share something else: A laser-like focus on building careers as top international models.
This is no whimsical teenage fantasy. The 17-year-old Hopkins teens have already signed with a New York agency, DNA Model Management, and appeared in magazines such as Dossier and Vaga and in New York fashion shows. Among their credits, Kelsey has walked the runway for designer Marc Jacobs and Narcisco Rodriguez and Baylee has modeled for Theyskens Theory and the Rachel Zoe Show.
Next week, they head to Australia and New Zealand to begin their first international modeling stints – while they also tackle online college courses through Southern New Hampshire University.
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With their dizzying height of nearly 6 feet, their long sandy blond locks and fresh-faced looks, the Soles sisters began attracting attention on their first family trip to New York to celebrate their 16th birthdays.
“Everybody was stopping them asking who they modeled for,” Cheryl Soles, their mother, said.” It sort of got their minds thinking.”
Beyond cheerleading in middle school, where they were still so tiny they were “fliers,” the girls hadn’t pondered a career that would place them in the public eye, much less behind the camera lens.
But they began working with a local modeling agency, Millie Lewis Columbia Agency, in the fall of their junior year, and began working with Sheilah Dixon, their “mother agent” who has guided their fledging careers. With Dixon, they have traveled to New York to meet with modeling agencies and build their photo books. In January and February, they stayed in New York for Fashion Week, all the while maintaining their place in honors classes at Dreher through home and online schooling.
“Most of the time we work together,” said Kelsey Soles, who said they are each other’s best friend.
Dixon said it is her responsibility to make sure her young clients are well-rounded going into the business so they can develop balanced professional lives. In the Sole twins, she has already seen a spirit that she believes can keep them grounded as they reach for their dreams.
“They are amazingly focused and healthy-minded,” Dixon said. “I recognize that immediately. They were very teachable. Their parents were not helicopter parents and they had provided a life for their girls that was very healthy. It makes for a great start and from there we were off and running.”
As parents, Cheryl and Carl Soles said they were cautious about allowing their daughters to enter a profession that demands ultra-thin models and often masks a hidden culture of eating disorders and drug abuse.
“I have had to have a heart-to-heart talk,” with agency representatives, said Carl Soles, a businessman. “I told them I’m 64 years old and I’m not afraid to go to prison if anybody tries to hurt my girls.”
“You hear a lot of things about the modeling business,” Cheryl Soles, a medical records supervisor for South Carolina Heart Center, said last week. “All you can do is give them the foundation. They know they have to keep it straight and keep it clean.”
The girls, who turn 18 in July, look up to models like Canadian cover girl Coco Rocha, who has decried the industry’s obsession with thinness and insisted that models have rights, including the right to refuse shoots that involve nudity and cigarettes.
That has empowered the twins, who, guided by Dixon, are careful about the bookings they make.
“If I feel uncomfortable, I tell them,” Baylee Soles said.
Fortunately, the girls are interested in healthy eating – if they weren’t models, they would likely study nutrition, both said – and were told to gain weight to begin their first jobs. They weigh about 117 pounds each.
Their irrepressible excitement about their future is contagious, and, for now, they say they will stick together and make the decision to go their separate ways on jobs when they are older. “We can decide when we want to split,” Baylee said.
Dixon said she’ll continue to keep the “wolves of the industry” away from the sisters, always reminding them not to lose focus, whether they receive intense praise or brutal rejection.
“Baylee and Kelsey really do have their own style, their own way of working with the camera,” she said. “They are very competitive in a healthy way, not with one another, but with the industry.” In her 30 years in the business, she said the twins stand out “because of their attitude of perseverance.”
And then there is this: “They have the sweetest hearts,” Dixon said. “All I can say is keep your eye on these two.”