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This is Grace’s first visit home since New Year’s Eve. In the last two months, while her pals have been in school and planning for prom, Grace has walked in 40 major fashion shows and taken all of her classes online. She wants to make her time in Indiana count.
“After this, I’m meeting my best friends, Kristen and Ashley. I’m going to meet them at El Rodeo, then we’re going to another dinner place, then we’re going to a movie, and then we’re having a sleepover,” she chirps, smiling. “Tomorrow we’re going shopping!”
Her bubbly personality and energy are engaging; this is the aura that has helped her land major clients. But at home that enthusiasm has also been a mask to hide her concerns. Insecurities often swarm her thoughts—and remind her of all she has missed.
In microeconomics, there is a theory called opportunity cost. Put simply, the term describes what one loses by choosing option A over option B. Though she would probably never characterize it in this way, Grace’s opportunity cost becomes palpable back in Zionsville. When she eats crepes in Paris or walks in a fashion show for Chanel or meets new friends from Russia, Grace can’t imagine doing anything else. Here, she realizes precious moments have passed.
In February and March, Grace walked in the fall and winter ready-to-wear collections, which took place in four cities: New York, London, Milan, and finally Paris. Grace could tell this was a special time. Before, she had only landed a few jobs walking for big names; now, a solid lineup of top designers had booked her. In New York alone she modeled in 17 shows.
It was there, walking on the streets with the Clarkes, that she realized she was beginning to make a name for herself. When a group of giggly girls passed by and saw Grace, they stopped and started whispering. “Grace, they wanted a picture with you!” said Jeff. “They knew who you were!”
Grace was stunned. “How do they know me? We’re in New York!”
Outside of the fashion shows, photographers swarmed her. They started calling her name: “This way, this way, Grace, over here! Grace, Grace, over here!”
That attention may be only the beginning. While in New York, she did a test shoot for a powerhouse beauty brand. If she’s chosen to represent that makeup company in advertising, the exposure could boost her to another level. Thus far, much of Grace’s work has been for magazines and runway designers, who sometimes seek out models with an edge. Advertising or commercial-work clients, on the other hand, tend to seek out classically beautiful models. Showing she has appeal in that arena would round out her portfolio and open new doors—and cause another piece of her dream to fall into place.
And yet, some days the sacrifices seem too much. “I mean, of course I’m missing out,” she says, as she sucks down the rest of her steamed milk and honey. “In school you see your friends every day, and I’m not in school. I’m missing out on basketball games, football games. I was already in high school for two years, but now it’s junior and senior year—it’s just starting to get good.”
Grace had hoped to be able to attend prom, but she was slated to be in London at the beginning of May. She later sees her friends’ prom pictures on Facebook and feels a bit of sadness. She calls them and asks, “Did you have fun?” and inquires about their dates and dresses. Those poufy gowns covered with sequins pale in comparison to the couture pieces she’s sported down runways, though. And she hates that she thinks this way.
But that night in March, Grace stays up late with her friends talking about boys and school. It almost seems as though no time has passed, until she spots a thick SAT prep book on a desk; her chums will be taking entrance exams and applying to colleges soon. She isn’t envious, but the realization makes her feel a bit more removed.
It doesn’t help that her friends don’t always fully understand her job. Grace flips through a magazine and stops on a picture of Lindsey Wixson, a model with full, curvy lips and a gap between her front teeth.
“She’s literally done every Prada campaign,” Grace tells them. “I think she’s so beautiful.”
“Grace, that is the ugliest girl I’ve ever seen,” says one of her friends, laughing. Another time, Grace modeled in a fashion shoot for Wonderland magazine. The editors put her in a black wig with choppy bangs and pushed her elf-like ears out on the sides. She wore black leather outfits. It was a huge opportunity for Grace, and she proudly showed her friends.
“Grace!” one said. “You look scary!”
Still, Grace tries to stay connected through Skype, Twitter, and Instagram, though inevitably some relationships have dwindled. One pal, Daniel Sousa, says many of her female friends have broken off contact because of jealousy, or fears that Grace is snobby now. In the last few months, says Grace, some people have started to treat her differently when she’s back home.
“When I go out to dinner with my family, people will turn and look, or say things,” she says. “People who don’t really know me have started calling me ‘Grace the Model.’ I’m like, oh my gosh, please don’t call me that. I love modeling, but just Grace is fine.”A few days into her March trip home, Grace’s family loads up the Hartzel Land Rover and drives to Destin, Florida, for family time. She plays a competitive round of the alphabet game, bickers with her siblings, and takes turns sleeping on their shoulders on the car ride down. At the beach, the days are filled with volleyball (which she played in high school), slathering on sunscreen to protect her porcelain skin, and eating fresh seafood. She has long one-on-one talks with her siblings.
Before she started modeling, Grace would go out with her friends every night—to Steak ’n Shake to drink chocolate-banana milkshakes or to the movies. Many times, Kimberly had to give her a guilt trip. “Grace,” she would say, “don’t you want to spend time with your family?” Now Grace fully engages, soaking up every second.
The last night, Grace curls into bed with her mom. They talk about Grace’s success, and laugh, and finally fall asleep. One last precious moment between mother and daughter.
The next day, they drive home to Zionsville, and Grace packs her suitcase to fly back to New York, and then Paris for a couple of months, to shoot the next round of collections. The dropoff at Indianapolis International Airport feels too familiar; planes make Grace nauseous, so once on board, she plugs in her headphones and leans back in her seat. She closes her eyes and tries to savor the family memories.
Then her phone buzzes, and she looks down. It is her agency in New York. The next day’s schedule is ready.
Photos by Stacy Newgent; Instagram photos courtesy Grace Hartzel
This article appeared in the September 2013 issue.
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