In almost every way, Hilary Rhoda picked the wrong moment to go into modeling. At 16, when she was getting started, it was 2003, the era of the Brazilian and Eastern European supermodels, when the names and physiques of the moment were Gisele Bündchen, Alessandra Ambrosio and Natalia Vodianova.
Rhoda, meanwhile, hails from suburban Chevy Chase, Maryland. From the age of 10, people had compared her wholesome looks to Brooke Shields. "When I first started modeling, people said, 'Oh, she's too American-looking'," says Rhoda. "I was going to castings and not getting anywhere." It wasn't until her agent took her to Paris in 2005 that her career truly took off. Nicolas Ghesquière cast her on sight to walk in the Balenciaga show, identifying something eternal in her all-American elegance. By the end of the week, she was opening for Valentino.
Soon, Estée Lauder came knocking, and Rhoda won her first major beauty-advertising contract. Shortly thereafter, the New York Times announced it was time to