-- Six months ago, Matthew Noszka was working construction with his father in the summer in Pittsburgh and playing basketball at college.
“I was basically working odd jobs,” Noszka, 22, said. “And then when basketball season came around I kind of focused my time and effort into that.”
“We took a photo and I was just standing there,” he said. “I had cut-off blue jeans on and some beat-up boots, nothing glamorous. But I was lifting a lot at the time.”
That photo changed his life, because it caught the eye of Wilhelmina agent Luke Simone.
“He just looked like the all-American dream,” Simone said. “He looked like this all-American guy that was blonde and he looked like he was 6’2’’ in the photo and I’m like, ‘He’s a tall blonde guy and I’m like OK.’”
Simone tracked Noszka down and got in touch with him.
“He sent me an email and I didn’t really know what Wilhelmina was at all,” Noszka said. “It wasn’t a big thing in Pittsburgh, so I asked my mom about it and she watches ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ so she said like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s a big modeling agency.’”
The fashion world is constantly mining social media, hoping to discover the next fresh face.
“I think specifically with Instagram it allows you to have instant and direct access to see somebody’s personality, so it really makes the casting process for people within the industry and agents like myself so much more seamless and easy,” Simone said.
Noszka isn’t the only one. Tyra Banks discovered Chantell "Winnie" Harlow, famous for embracing her vitiligo, a condition that causes skin discoloration, on Instagram. She is now the face of Diesel and Desigual.
And after skateboarder Ben Nordberg’s photo caught the eye of a modeling agent, he began appearing in DKNY ads with super models like Cara Delevingne.
“Without a shadow of a doubt there is absolutely no doubt that models are being discovered on social media and that trend is going to continue,” said famed photographer and author Nigel Barker, who is also a former judge on “America’s Next Top Model.”
“I know that magazine editors are scouring Instagram and Facebook and Twitter.”
But with millions of photos posted on Instagram, every hour, finding the total package can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
“You’ve got to have that personality,” Barker said. “It’s less about whether you’re full-figured, it’s less about whether you’re a certain height or a certain color.”
For Luke Simone, Matthew Noszka’s Instagram feed had everything he was looking for.
“He had a lot of videos, showed this tall blonde good looking guy,” Simone said. “He also was playing basketball so I saw him dunking ... So the fact that he’s also athletic is huge.”
Once a model is discovered, having a huge social media following is almost as important as looking perfect in a sample size.
“Cara Delevingne, I mean it’s very interestingly enough what she does in social media,” Barker said. “The actual sort of sticking out of the tongue, goofing off, being really normal, being really natural, being a girl. Those same antics are played out in her advertising campaigns.”
Delevingne has almost 10 million Instagram followers, making her even more in-demand for advertisers interested in tapping into that established fanbase.
“The magazines are seeing a model now has hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of followers before they’ve even got a cover,” Barker said.
And Delevingne is in good company. Kim Kardashian’s little sister Kendall Jenner is a rookie in the modeling world, but her over 20 million followers on Instagram helped her land a lucrative deal to be the face of Estee Lauder and other big gigs, such as walking the runway for Diane Von Furstenberg.
Matthew Noszka’s new jet-set life is something his father hasn’t quite gotten used to.
“He saw me with a hairdryer, before which I never even thought about using one, but it does give some volume to your hair,” Moszka said. “I was using it and he walked by the room and you could just sense that he stopped and came back and I looked at him and he just like shook his head and just laughed and he was like, ‘Oh, that’s my other daughter’ because I have three sisters.”
Like other models, Noszka is now working on building his social media following. Six months ago he said he had around 1,000 followers, and now he has more than 10,000.