FARGO - Audra Mari, a senior at Fargo Davies High School, looks glamorous decked out in a dress made of magazine pages on the cover of Mpls. St. Paul Magazine's 40th anniversary issue.
But what went on behind the scenes to produce the elegant photo was anything but.
"I was starting to sweat and then it stuck to me, but I was trying to make my face still look like I was having fun," she said. "It was tough."
Since Audra had to be sewn into the dress, which was comprised entirely of folded magazine pages, she couldn't move around much and had to be content with changing her arm positioning and facial expressions for her first magazine cover shoot.
"I love how it turned out," Audra said of the cover.
It was a crazy experience, but it was also exciting, said Audra, who has been modeling for the past three years. The 18-year-old has done runway shows and a Halloween ad for Target.
"I love getting to see what designers have created," she said. "Modeling is kind of a form of art, I would say. It's fun to express myself in different ways."
Kaley Mari, Audra's mom, said she couldn't have picked a better cover shoot for her daughter.
"She has worked so hard and has had a lot of ups and downs on this ride so this was just an amazing feather in her cap to get," she said.
Audra said people have been telling her since she was 12 that she should model, but she never had time because of her involvement in hockey, soccer and volleyball. She gave all of that up to try modeling and said she views it as her new sport.
Practicing for sports and making it to a state competition is like doing runway shows and smaller modeling jobs. It's the work people don't see in preparation to be able to travel for modeling, she said.
She has to work to get as many jobs as possible. She also works out every day and eats a high protein, low carbohydrate diet to maintain a model's body.
"In the modeling world, everybody always wants to be as thin as they possibly can be," Audra said. "That's what the designers like. The clothes fit the size 0 or the size 2 models the best. It's the model's job to be that skinny. If you're not going to fit the sample-size dress or outfit, they're not going to book you for the job."
She said models are often blamed for being too thin, but they are only doing their job.
Kaley said Audra is going about it in a healthy way.
"She has always exercised, but now it's just more specific to elongating the muscles and not doing that bulky work that some of her sports required," Kaley said. "She's in great shape, she looks awesome, and this is what she wants to do."
Audra has also been involved in pageants. She is Miss North Dakota Teen USA 2011 and was first runner up at the national competition.
"That was the best that North Dakota has ever done in the Miss USA system at a national pageant for Miss or Teen," Audra said. "It was really exciting. It was good to show that people from North Dakota, we have people here who are a good representation of what they want the organization to be and can actually do well at nationals. It was a really good accomplishment."
Audra will likely complete for the Miss North Dakota title in the next two or three years, Audra said.
"The modeling led to pageantry and the pageantry led to more modeling experience and being able to travel and get paid more and do bigger jobs," she said.
Audra has done a lot of her work in Minneapolis. She has also modeled for Sherri Hill, a pageant and prom dress designer, in Atlanta.
She is working with modeling industry veteran Paul Fisher of The Network talent agency and plans to go to New York this June to meet with big designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and Victoria's Secret, she said.
"If they're interested in me, I'm taking a year off of school, and I'm hoping to move out to New York City by the beginning of September, end of August," Audra said.
Kaley said she supports her daughter's dream and will help her follow it.
"It's a tough industry and you hear a lot of negatives. You don't hear a lot of positives," she said. "We just hope that we've raised her right and she knows the difference between right and wrong, and she would apply that to any work or any job or any dream that she has."
While her friends and family have been supportive, Audra said some people have made fun of her and called her names because of her modeling.
She's kept in close contact with her friends from Miss Teen USA because they understand what she's going through, she said.
"Beauty can be a double-edged sword," Kaley said. "Audra's been bullied a lot, and she had a real difficult transition to high school from people she didn't even know. She's ready to walk away from that and try something else."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526