Kerlin, Amanda 1985(?)-
Kerlin, Amanda 1985(?)-
Born c. 1985. Education: Attends Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Home—New York, NY.
Writer, novelist, and model. Became an international model at age fourteen; appeared in magazines such as Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire, and Teen Vogue.
(With Phil Oh) Secrets of the Model Dorm (novel), Atria Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Amanda Kerlin is a former model whose experiences breaking into the industry in New York form the basis of her debut novel, Secrets of the Model Dorm. Kerlin wrote the book with Phil Oh, a DJ, entertainer, Web site proprietor, and fashion consultant who rented a guest room for a time in the same tumultuous complex where Kerlin and her fellow models lived. In the novel, Kerlin and Oh describe the turmoil, debauchery, and vindictiveness seething in the cramped living quarters of what they refer to as the "Model Dorm," a small set of apartments maintained by the modeling agency where the young women live while establishing themselves in the highly competitive New York modeling world. Though the book is fiction, much of the story is based on Kerlin's experiences and Oh's firsthand observations.
Kerlin herself entered the modeling world at age fourteen, signing with an international agency and working in Paris, Cape Town, Milan, and New York. Among her credentials are advertisements for upscale retailer Abercrombie and Fitch, Naturalizer Shoes, and fashion designers John Galliano and DKNY. Kerlin was already experienced in the modeling and fashion world when she first came to the model dorm, and this background helped her maintain stability while other residents around her gave in to sex, alcohol, drugs, and the charms of rich men.
Heather, the protagonist of Secrets of the Model Dorm, is an aspiring model who leaves her Virginia home for New York City and the promise of a glamorous, lucrative career in modeling. When she signs on with the unnamed agency, she is assigned a place in the Model Dorm, where she shares crowded rooms and too-small bunk beds with several other hopefuls, all vying for any available job and pursuing their opportunity to be discovered and made famous. In the harsh world of New York modeling, the women know that they have only a limited time in which to score a major job and become a hit. Several of her colleagues, unable to land enough work or evicted because of misbehavior, are dismissed by the agency and never heard from again. With this factor a constant source of stress in the background, the women succumb to newfound freedom in a major city where drugs, booze, willing men, and rich suitors are plentiful and easy to find. The glamour quickly fades in the wake of the hedonism, selfishness, and unexpected squalor of a dorm room that no one wants to clean.
Many beautiful and colorful characters populate the novel. Svetlana is a Russian model with an unending taste for cocaine and a tendency to hang around with members of the Russian mafia. Australian Kylie is friendly, but maintains her figure through consumption of an unending supply of Metamucil martinis. The promiscuous Christiane is constantly having sex with her newest male-model boyfriends, disrupting the tentative peace and borrowing the other girls' clothes without their permission. Despite the tensions, a sense of unity does develop among the girls, who band together for support in an unfamiliar atmosphere at the edges of a merciless industry. Through it all, Kerlin's alter-ego Heather observes her friends' actions and takes stock of her own desire to stay in the modeling industry.
A Blogcritics Web site reviewer called Secrets of the Model Dorm a "sweet and sour tale of a dream questioned and an unlikely required textbook for those with the stomach to stroll the catwalk." Curious readers "looking to learn more about the dark underbelly of the mannequin experience should pick up a copy" of the novel, commented WWD reviewer Vanessa Lawrence. "Readers will be engrossed by this inside look at the lives of ingenue models," remarked Kristine Huntley in Booklist.
Kerlin has abandoned the modeling world for a stint as an art history major at Hunter College, while Oh has become the owner of a fashion Web site, Street-Peeper.com. Though Kerlin learned a great deal about herself and the modeling industry through her experiences in the real-life model dorm, she told New York Sun reporter Samantha O'Brien that she wouldn't want to do it again. "I might live with one, maybe two models, but never a group," she told O'Brien. "Paying my own rent is a big step toward adulthood. That kind of drama is more fun when you're a teenager."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2007, Kristine Huntley, review of Secrets of the Model Dorm, p. 55.
California Aggie, March 1, 2007, Talia Kennedy, review of Secrets of the Model Dorm.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2006, review of Secrets of the Model Dorm, p. 1191.
New York Sun, February 1, 2007, Samantha O'Brien, "Secrets of the Dorms Where the Models Live," review of Secrets of the Model Dorm.
Publishers Weekly, January 16, 2006, Matthew Thornton, "Model Behavior," review of Secrets of the Model Dorm, p. 8; November 27, 2006, review of Secrets of the Model Dorm, p. 34.
WWD, February 3, 2007, Vanessa Lawrence, "Bad Behavior," review of Secrets of the Model Dorm, p. 6.
Blogcritics,http://www.blogcritics.org/ (January 11, 2007), James O'Neil, review of Secrets of the Model Dorm.
Bookgasm.com,http://www.bookgasm.com/ (January 8, 2008), Rod Lott, interview with Amanda Kerlin.
Model Dorm MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/themodeldorm (January 8, 2008).
Secrets of the Model Dorm Web site,http://secretsofthemodeldorm.com (January 8, 2008).
Simon & Schuster Web site,http://www.simonsays.com/ (January 8, 2008), biography of Amanda Kerlin.