A dream come true at the Kansas City Fashion Week


Courtesy of Andrew Dang

Model Jenna Hainke walks down the runway during Kansas City Fashion Week. Hainke began her modeling career at 15 when a talent scout approached her about the opportunity.

An alarm rings, marking the hour at 9 a.m. A shower turns on. A red-haired model rids herself of any moisturizer and makeup. She ices her face. A little past noon, she breathes in the warm, summer air, and makes her way across Kansas City to Union Station.

There, she meets her designer for the day. It’s an instant friendship — like two familiar souls destined to meet. After six hours of going over the game plan and sitting in the hair and makeup chair, the doors open to the public.

It is now 6 p.m. She breathes in deeply, trying to calm her nerves. Sometime after 7 p.m., the anxiety transforms into excitement. Her heart beats loudly as she steps out into the lights of the runway — it’s a dream come true.

This was Jenna Hainke’s daily routine during Kansas City Fashion Week, which took place from Sunday, Sept. 15 through last Saturday, Sept. Hainke, a Wichita State junior studying English literature and creative writing, walked the runway for three nights out of the four. She said it was everything she had ever dreamed of.

“It was literally insane in the best way possible. It was the most amazing week of my life,” Hainke said. “I met 1,000 people and I made some connections with some designers. It was amazing. I would do it everyday if I could.”

Hainke modeled for Sarah Wilson Knitwear, Kyndra Jade’s“My Blonde Ambitions,” and Project Runway contestant Joshua Christensen.

Before modeling entered her life, Hainke said she tried to play sports in order to “fit in.” As a child, she even tried acting and creative performances.

“The culture of my high school was really like, ‘You play sports or you don’t really matter,’” Hainke said. “I would want to play all the sports so bad, because I just wanted to have that passion and I wanted to fit in. I would force myself to play sports that I hated.”

A few years later, at the age of 15, Hainke was approached by a talent scout who worked for a local modeling agency, Models and Images. After a 20-week training period, Hainke had finally found her passion.

“I literally fell in love with it, in just an instant,” she said. “When I started modeling, that’s when I finally felt that passion for the first time.”

With unrealistic beauty standards posted across city billboards and scandals of publications using photoshop to whitewash and slim down women in order to sell their content, models have had to face their own handful of stereotypes.

“The biggest misconception that I wish people would understand is that modeling — and it’s so hard for people to believe — but very little of modeling is based on how you look,” Hainke said. “So much of it is the talent; so much of it is performing. You can put the prettiest girl on the runway, but if she can’t perform, then she’s not going to get any work. she’s not going to get any contracts.”

With some inspiration from her agent, Hainke said she’s grown to firmly believe that anyone can become a model, just as long as they have the drive to learn how to properly work the runway and move in front of the camera. She also admits that the beauty industry has caused damage to its followers, but that society has helped it grow from its mistakes.

“I do think there was a stigma in the past — not in the fault of everyone, but there was a culture that idolized unrealistic standards,” Hainke said. “I think that is a reason why that kind of stereotype exists, but I think now, it has changed so much. If you go to an agency, 90% of the time, they’re going to have a curve model development or a petite model development, which is also something really hard to be in, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that either.”

Regardless of if people understand her passion, Hainke continues to do what she loves with her head held high.

“I would love to do it as much as I can for as long as I can,” Hainke said of modeling. “So, if that means it’ll just be a hobby or a side thing for the rest of my life, then I’m okay with that. But if it means that it can be a fulltime career one day, then that’s awesome too. I’m just grateful for every moment of it that I get.”