She saunters casually in my direction, exuding an air of confidence without a hint of arrogance. Wearing a black motorcycle jacket, singlet, jeans and leather books, she looks every bit the off-duty model, except maybe for the beaming smile which spreads across her face.
Warm, talented and endowed with a mentality far beyond her 19-years, Canadian model Penelope Boucher is one to watch. Standing at 5'9, with dark brown tresses and killer green eyes most girl would envy, this is a model determined to survive and thrive in the industry, and make a few friends along the way.
"I know that modelling per se won't be a long-term career for me, but I plan on sticking out the industry by eventually moving into the business side of things. Modelling is great for making new connections with people," exclaims Boucher.
Boucher's break into modelling came at the age of 17, when a girl she attended art-class with in high school became a booker. Through her friend, Boucher scored a 2-year contract with Elite Model Management in Toronto.
"I always had people tell me I was tall and skinny and should give modelling a try. I was rejected the first time I sent my photos to Elite! It just goes to show you shouldn't give up!"
Like any young teen, Boucher struggled with body image issues. She feels the modelling industry has helped her to accept and develop more confidence in her appearance.
"At school I was taunted for my skinny frame. I once heard a girl say, 'Does Penny have a problem? Is she anorexic?' Comments like that really hurt. I must say, being a model generally doesn't have anything to do with being beautiful; there are times when I feel very self-conscious."
Boucher's style could aptly be described as "glamour grunge". The way she dresses reflects the quirky side of her personality.
"I have always known my style and I must say I was definitely a kid who marched to the beat of my own drum. My parents would have to sit on me to dress me, because I only wanted to wear my Elmo outfit and cowboy boots. I have always known exactly what I want and what I want I set out to get," says Boucher.
Preferring to shop at thrift-stores and to hunt through sale racks, Boucher admits to becoming bored with clothes "rather quickly". Although she admires the style of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and covets the clothing of couturier Ellie Saab, Boucher ultimately does her "own thing".
"I love the whole 60s and Tim Burton themes with heavy eyelashes. For example, I'd buy a cool tassel skirt, hike it up and pin-it, and then paint my eyes like a cat. Whenever I have my make-up done my little sisters always want to touch my face," she explains.
With three little sisters, Boucher strives to be a positive role model. She says her family helps to keep her keep her grounded.
"At home I don't tell people I'm a model because they instantly judge. They think 'you're a model so you must be stuck up'. But I'm not at all. I love shooting - it's a lot of fun - and I look forward to the day I can show my grandkids photos from my modelling book and they say 'but you're old and wrinkly now grandma!'"
Boucher's modelling work so far includes an impressive number of magazine campaigns, including for Plaid Magazine and Remix Magazine, store campaigns for Glassons and H&M, TV commercials and runway for the Greta Constantine presentation at Toronto Fashion Week (Boucher also modelled for our debut shoot "The Illusion of Romance"). She takes rejection in her stride, emphasising knock-backs come with the job.
"Maybe person A, B or C won't like me, but then there is someone out there who will. You can't take it personally if you’re not what some brand or magazine is looking for. You can't let it get to your head," she asserts.
In her down time, Boucher loves to paint abstract art using watered down ink and pastels. Austrian painter Egon Schiele is one of her many sources of inspiration.
"I love the fluidity of painting. I love the human body and biology. I personally like art that's abstract, but only to the point you still know what it is. I'm just happy when I get into the zone painting. It's nice to get lost in what you are doing," Boucher says.
Despite merely scraping into the Generation Y category, Boucher shares traits with older generations, confessing she owns a VHS player through which she watches oriental movies. Her ideal date is to "snuggle-up with a movie, eating pizza" rather than frequent a party or club. Her favourite movie is "Memoirs of a Geisha", which is a touch ironic as her next stop following Australia is Asia.
"Next for me is Asia. I've been told I have the Japanese Anime Manga doll look with my pale skin, big eyes and long eyelashes. Here's hoping they love me in that market!"
With her down-to-earth attitude and "can do" approach to life, how could anyone not love Boucher?
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