‘Insane’ journey for NI supermodel from grammar school to Dior

‘Insane’ journey from Omagh to Dior via TikTok

4 hours agoBy Matt Fox, BBC News NIChloé Le DrezenIMG model Alice McGrath was scouted on social media in 2021

It has all the makings of a feel-good film.

County Tyrone teenager Alice McGrath shares a video of herself online, in full Loreto Grammar School uniform, and is thrust into the world of couture, campaigns and catwalks.

It is the sort of story you could get carried away with, but Northern Ireland’s latest supermodel is just as surprised as you are.

“It’s honestly just luck, it’s insane when I think about it,” the 19-year-old told BBC News NI.

“It’s something I’d never really thought about myself, but I’m tall, and all my aunties would be like, ‘awk, you should be a model’.”

Tina Barney, courtesy of DiorThe Omagh teenager has appeared in advertising campaigns for numerous high-end designers

Seemingly, her aunts were right.

Around the time of her GCSEs and the second pandemic lockdown, Alice was discovered on the social media video platform TikTok by a talent scout from IMG models.

The video itself was unremarkable, she said, as she was dressed in her uniform and eating lunch, but it prompted a query – ‘what height are you?’

“All my friends kept replying to the comment like: ‘ah she’s five foot’,” Alice laughed.

After checking the scout’s credentials, a video call was arranged to discuss what could possibly happen. A few weeks later Alice travelled to London, where she was signed with the agency.

Getty ImagesAlice’s first catwalk was for JW Anderson last September (left) and she later opened the Dior S/S 2024 show

However, she kept that news private to begin with.

“I didn’t tell anyone, if it didn’t work out no one could say anything to me,” she said.

“It’s an industry where there’s a lot of stigma around it, I feel like people would have been like ‘who does she think she is?’

“I was so young, I was in school, I was already like a foot taller than everyone else, I didn’t want to make my life any more difficult.

“I kept it very on the down low until September 2023,” Alice explained, which was when she made her runway debut for Magharafelt-born designer JW Anderson.

Isaac CalpeAlice in Mon Chéri by Isaac Calpe, styled by Maria Davila – Elle Mexico, May 2024

“I was so nervous, when I was doing the first castings, I was really fresh out of school.

“I think about it now and I’m like: ‘how in the name of God did I book any shows?’

“I was so quiet and so shy.”

After her first runway, Alice was ready for more, booking further catwalk appearances for the likes of Chanel, Erdem and Dior.

“Opening the Dior show I didn’t realise how big of a deal it was at the time, they didn’t tell me until the morning I got there so I couldn’t think about it,” she said.

“A lot of girls never get to open a show, and that was my second job.”

She has built a strong relationship with the French fashion house, appearing in their recent advertising campaign and walking in several other shows, including their Cruise 2025 display in Scotland earlier this month.

‘It takes a village’

Getty ImagesHer latest runway appearance was in the gardens of Drummond Castle earlier this month

Although she’s always had a keen interest in fashion, Alice has found herself surprised by the workings of the industry.

“I thought everyone was going to be so mean, you see TV shows like America’s Next Top Model and everyone’s super bitchy, but it’s not like that,” she said.

“There’s so many people for different shoots… there’s lighting, production, the photographer, models, hair and makeup, there’s a lot of people on set every day”.

One image “could take a week” to produce, she explained.

“There’s so much work that goes into everything, especially the shows, there’s so many people backstage it’s so busy, but it takes a village I suppose.”

Isaac CalpeAlice in Mon Chéri by Isaac Calpe, styled by Maria Davila – Elle Mexico, May 2024

So what’s next for Omagh’s latest export?

Had her original plan come to pass, Alice would be finishing her first year of studying finance and economics at Queen’s University Belfast.

“I don’t think it was necessarily right for me, so this is a blessing in disguise,” she said.

“You never know what’s going to happen, this industry changes so fast… I’m taking it as one year at a time, so just focusing on what I’m doing now.”

Getty ImagesImages of Alice can be seen adorning shop fronts worldwide, including this boutique in Bangkok

Although she is enjoying the glamour and globetrotting, Alice stills sees herself settling in Northern Ireland, where she said family and friends are “really proud” of what she has achieved.

“My parents own an opticians in the town, everyone that comes in now is just asking about me. Dad just talks away about me,” she said.

“My two grannies have all the magazines I’m in and they insist I bring them home. Anytime I come back my case is so heavy.”

And while the polished editorial spreads may dazzle some family members, others have their own measure of success.

“My granny was showing her sisters my Dior adverts, but they were more impressed with the Irish Times article I was in!”

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