Photos by Darren McDonald
“Hi, I’m Mario and I’m going to shoot you for Vogue next Wednesday.”
The universe must’ve conspired to sit Alannah Walton and her parents next to Mario Testino for dinner one night at a Chinese restaurant in Sydney. “I knew who he was but I didn’t want to go up to him and be the desperate model,” she says. Turns out she didn’t have to bother because he spotted her from the table over, came over and introduced himself, and less than a week later Alannah was on set for Vogue. “I thought he was going to be super professional and everything was going to be straightforward, but he was so fun and cheeky and he only took, like, 20 minutes to get the shot.”
Even for a photographer like Testino, who’s surrounded every day by beautiful humans, it’d be impossible not to notice Alannah. She’s incredibly beautiful, completely at ease in her own skin, and mature. She’s also 16, a fact that’s hard to comprehend when you’re sitting across from her. Not so hard to believe, however, is that she’s on the fast track to being Australia’s next big claim on the international modelling scene. She signed with IMG at 15 when she was found on Instagram.
“Jeni Rose, who is Head of Development in Paris sent me a message and said they’d love to meet me,” Alannah says. “I spoke to my parents about it and they said, ‘No, we don’t know who they are, wait till you’re 18.’” But after Mum and Dad changed their minds and gave the whole thing the green light, Alannah is now headed overseas after making her runway debut and walking a massive 12 shows at MBFW.
Turns out it wasn’t just the modelling agency who were keeping an eye on her through the interwebs though, and here comes the second big name drop. Top dog of Victoria’s Secret, Ed Razek, is a fan of hers. Convenient for Alannah, as she tells me her dream is to one day sign a contract with them, which is looking likely if she keeps going the way she is (Ed’s words, not mine). “I just got invited as the guest of Ed Razek to go to the Victoria’s Secret show, so I went and did that in Paris,” she casually mentions.
It’s going to be an insane next few years for the teenager from Manly in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and far removed from her original plans—she had been training for years in the hopes of swimming for Australia at the 2016 Olympics in the individual medley event. “I got so over it,” she explains. “I gave up last year on swimming because I’d been doing it every single day since I was five. It was exhausting, boring, and every day was so repetitive.” The fashion industry is notorious for starting models young and churning and burning its way through them. But Alannah’s already aware of this and says that her active upbringing with swimming and the support from her parents are going to help her stay in the game for as long as she’s enjoying it.
“A lot of people try to take an unhealthy road of trying to keep their body in shape…” she says. “My parents just care if I’m well, happy, and safe. As soon as they see it’s changing and going downhill, they’ll pull me out,” she says. More than her obviously endearing aesthetics, it seems that it’s going to be Alannah’s wise cool head and nonchalant confidence that’ll get her to where she wants to go in the modelling word. “We’re actually moving to Paris in July and my parents are going to stay with me for six months to get me settled,” Alannah tells me excitedly. “It’s so crazy. They’re so great. We’re all going to learn French together.” Oh to be young, beautiful, and headed to Paris.