When Hanna Stagg, 25, graduated from Elon University in 2008, she escaped the bucolic countryside of North Carolina by becoming a physical education teacher in the Dominican Republic. The daughter of international school teachers, Stagg lived out her childhood as a quintessential nomad, traipsing around the United States, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Stagg left her teaching job in June 2010 and became a model one month later. She has worked with Wilhelmina modeling agency in New York City and Miami, and the Metropolitan modeling agency in Paris. From swimming as a “mermaid” to being treated as a celebrity supermodel, Stagg has been featured in runway shows, AT&T, Women’s Health Magazine, Crystal Clear Water, Maaji, Agua Bandita and Takashimaya.
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Tacoma, Wash. and lived there until I was 2, and then moved to Springfield, Mass. until age 4, and then New Delhi, India until 8. I lived in to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia until I was 10, and in Beijing, China from 10 to 16, and then in Singapore until I was 18. I went to Elon University in North Carolina for four years, and then moved to the Dominican Republic until I was 24. In the past year, I’ve been in New York, Paris, Los Angeles and Miami.
2. Did your parents’ jobs as teachers make you want to follow in their footsteps?
Absolutely. I wouldn’t change anything about how they raised me, so I just wanted to keep living a very similar lifestyle. I tried out a bunch of different career options in university – journalism, photography – but I kept getting drawn back into education and helping people. In my junior year, I declared my major in education with a concentration in physical education.
After discovering I was going to be in education, I knew the only place I could teach was overseas. About three months before I graduated, I went to a job fair and I got nine different job offers around the world and I chose the Dominican Republic.
3. How did you go from physical education teacher to model?
I had a little bit of experience in Singapore where I had been approached on the street fairly regularly about doing different modeling work. At the time I hated it because it wasn’t for me. When I was at university and later when I started teaching I started regretting not following through with it. But, I was also glad that I had got my full education and had a great back up if modeling didn’t pan out. I wanted to give it one more final shot so I wouldn’t regret not ever doing it.
4. What’s the typical day of a model like?
It totally depends if you have a casting or a job. For a day shooting a commercial, you have a call time of about 7 a.m., so I’m up at 5: 30 a.m. You get there and eat, then go to hair and makeup which can take two ore more hours. Then you go to wardrobe, have your wardrobe selected for you, and then go to shooting which can take up to 12 hours. Then I go home, hit the gym and sleep to get ready for another day of fun.
For castings, it’s like tryouts. You check your email in the morning to see if any castings have come in from agencies or freelancers, get dressed, put on full make up and you have to look really good. Go to the different castings which can range from a headstand for a yoga shoot, you may have to wear a black velvet onesie for a run way walk, you may have to try on a swim suit and see if you fit the designer’s clothes well. Then I’m back home, then to the gym, and probably being invited to some party with a designer or an owner of a club or something like that. The amount of things you can be asked to do can vary and be very amusing.
5. What do you love most about your job?
I like how it’s so entirely different from anything I’ve ever done before. It’s challenging in a way I’ve never been challenged before, you have to put yourself out there and get ready for rejection all the time. Travelling every two months, networking and making a new group of friends every two to three months is challenging because you have to start all over again all the time.
6. So far which has been your favorite modeling job?
One of them was a job I got through Wilhemina Miami, for a Dutch water company called Crystal Clear Water. I was the lead in it, and I had to walk by a window in a restaurant and I had to look in it and do some ‘readjusting’ and the people in the restaurant went crazy and walked away. The amount of star treatment was out of control! I had one person there fanning me, doing my hair, holding a stool for me. It was such a huge production.
The other one was the mermaid shoot I did with a photographer in Virginia Beach. We had hand-made shell bras and silicon mermaid tail. The whole shoot was done under water with the photographer using scuba gear and I swam back and forth in the pool and got to be a mermaid for a day which was a pretty ridiculous experience!
7. How does being a Third Culture Kid benefit your career?
Being a TCK has taught me to be flexible, and always prepared to be on the move. I can adapt to different situations very easily. I’ve been full-time modeling for a year and in that time I’ve lived in NYC, Paris, LA, Miami and back in NYC. Without being raised in eight different countries, there’s no way I could’ve moved as much as I have in the past year.
8. Is there anything about being a TCK that held you back in your career?
No, I don’t think so. The only thing that may have held me back is that I chose to go to university in a small southern town where there’s no modeling.
9. What advice would you give to TCKs who want to pursue a modeling career?
If you’re in a big city, start off in high school and make sure you go to university in a large city such as Barcelona, New York, Milan, Tokyo, those sorts of places. And only do it if your parents are O.K. with it, it’s not a career for everyone. Don’t just go into modeling and forget everything else. My parents were O.K. with it because I had already gone to Elon and worked for two years.
10. Do you think you’ll stay modeling in the States for a long time?
I’m hoping I have another year in me, I just turned 25, and in modeling world that’s fairly ancient. If they want to keep me around that’s great, but if not I have a great career to fall back into.
Check out Hanna’s work at her website. Photography credits: Joey Wright, Rod Roberts, Chris A. Crumley.