Bright lights, big fashion and high heels.

Hopkinsville teen model Laurissa Kabithe spent her spring break walking the runway at Nashville Fashion Week.

The Trigg County High School senior made her runway debut Wednesday night at the OZ Arts Nashville, a contemporary arts center.

"I had to walk three times. I was a little nervous because I hadn't walked before. I didn't want to fall. Before I went out (onto the runway) my heart was beating so fast," she said. "In Nashville Fashion Week, the crowd hypes you up a little bit -- cheering. That helps. So, when I went out, I walked as best as I could, really confident. When I got off (the runway), I thought 'Hmm, that wasn't so bad,' " she said. "For the other two (walks) I was more relaxed."

Nashville Fashion Week features local, regional and national designers and industry professionals in a five-day event to herald "community spirit and concentration of creative, fashion-forward and entrepreneurial talent." Fashion week started Tuesday and ends today.

For the runway show, regional designers Love + Oskar, Lily Guilder Design and Ona Rex dressed Kabithe in bold fall colors of yellow and orange fashions with vibrant makeup to complement the look.

Although she was not familiar with the designers, "I still liked the clothes," Kabithe said.

The 17-year-old daughter of Dr. David and Tanisha Kabithe of Hopkinsville said at the end of the night she was surprised with the reactions of the organizers and crowd.

"The casting director was telling me that my walk was really good," she said. "After the show was finished people were coming up to me and telling me my walk was the best in the whole show. I was really shocked. People were trying to shake my hand. One woman wanted to take a picture with me. She said I was her favorite model of the whole night. I was just speechless because I didn't expect that at all."

After her first runway experience, Kabithe said she wants to participate in more.

"I was really nervous if I would be good at runway. Watching the video that my mom took and hearing feedback from strangers, made me feel better about it. Now, I really like it because I'm more comfortable with it."

Pursuing her dream

"My all-time favorite models are Naomi Campbell and Gisele (Bundchen)," Kabithe said. "I think they do really good on the runway and in their print work. They are really expressive and just good with the camera. That's just something I've wanted to try to get really good at."

Following years of pursuing a modeling contract, Kabithe signed with AMAX Talent and Creative Management in Nashville last October.

"At one point I started to give up because for years I kept submitting and submitting to agencies and was never hearing anything back," she said. "I submitted to AMAX twice. So I took matters into my own hands and did a test shoot and saw them in person. I was trying to prove that I could do what they wanted. I really wanted this and I feel like I have the work ethic for it. It's something that I really want to do."

Modeling for Kabithe comes with challenges.

"I practice my walk at home. I have to look in the mirror because I have scoliosis and sometimes you can see it when I walk," she said. "I have to make it not show when I walk. It's really noticeable to me. It doesn't cause me a ton of pain, it's just visible."

The 5-foot-9 teen also has to be mindful of her body measurements as a model.

"Since I want to do high fashion, I do have to have certain measurements," she said, noting that the ideal size for models is a 32-34-inches around the bust area, a 24-inch waist and 34 inches around the hips.

See Model/Page C6

"When I'm working out and eating right, it's not tough, but when I get really busy with school and kind of slack off then I get off the measurements," she said. "Lately, I've gotten all my schoolwork done and been able to focus and eat right. There are a lot of models in my agency who aren't skinny and they are doing fine."

Kabithe said she wants to be more than just body measurements in the fashion world.

"I want to be more of a model where their personality counts. A lot of models they just do it to be a coat hanger," she said. "I really think modeling should be less about your size and more about your talent. There are plenty of girls who fit the measurements, but don't really have the work ethic. There are girls who are bigger, but who are really good with the camera and have a really strong walk and really want it, but can't because of their measurements."

Kabithe said having a positive view of your body is important for all people, even if they are not modeling.

"If you're working out and eating right and not getting any smaller, then you're just not meant to get smaller. It's just how you look. It's beautiful. It's OK," she said.

Kabithe's parents support her modeling dreams.

"Her father and I are very excited about her talent in modeling. We are thrilled that she has found something she is so passionate about," said Tanisha Kabithe. "She's very driven and has always sought out knowledge about the field of modeling. She did all of the research on her own and has proven to us that with hard work, we can get closer and closer to achieving our dreams."

Finding balance

Kabithe will graduate high school in May. She has accepted a scholarship to the University of Louisville, where she plans to pursue a degree in either marketing, business or communications.

"If modeling goes really well, I still want to get my degree. Modeling is not long term, but I really want to do it. I want to have a degree to have something to fall back on," she said.

"(I want) to be able to balance it. I know it can get very overwhelming at times. I haven't gotten to that point where it feels overwhelming, but I just really want to balance (modeling) with school."

While juggling her school work, Kabithe is looking forward to more modeling opportunities.

She recently did a test shoot for a hair company to get photos for her modeling portfolio. Her first paying jobs are later this month and in May.

"They're not super high-paying, but they seem high-paying because I've never worked before," she said, smiling. "The money doesn't really matter to me because I just like the experiences. The test shoots, I really like those."

Her agent has submitted her portfolio for a casting call for the 2019 Symphony Fashion Show on May 14 at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville. Wes Gordon, creative director of Carolina Herrera New York, is the featured designer for the event.

"I really hope I get that one," Kabithe said.

Her parents said they hope Kabithe will seek out mentors in the profession as she learns more about modeling.

"We also would like her to continue to develop in her self-confidence as she grows into a beautiful and intelligent woman," Tanisha Kabithe said.

As she continues to model, Kabithe has set some personal goals.

"My all-time goal is to be on the cover of Vogue," she said. "I really just like being about to say a lot without saying anything at all. It's just a hobby right now, but I really hope to get to the point where I can inspire other people."

Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or

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