Erica Ransfield was walking down the aisles of The Warehouse when she got a phone call telling her she had been chosen for a different type of walk — the catwalk at fashion week at San Francisco.
Before giving her the news, her agent asked if the 23-year-old PA from Papamoa was sitting down. "I replied 'No' then I ran to the outdoor display furniture then said 'now I am, what's the news'?"
She learned she had been chosen to model in an upcoming San Francisco Community Week fashion show.
Ransfield is one of six models from her New Zealand agency, Ataahua Models, heading over to the US, some for the San Francisco show, and others for New York fashion week.
It has been a whirlwind for Ransfield who answered a casting call on Facebook from the agency who was looking for Māori wahine.
"I took a shot in the dark, put myself forward and received a call back. I headed to Hamilton like a nervous wreck and had my first ever proper shoot ... I remember watching YouTube videos the night before. I searched 'how to model' ..."
The first shoot she did with the agency was a whenua/mother earth theme. The project was called Nga Ahuatanga o te Taiao, with each of the girls cast as an element, fire, water, wind, earth, spirit, the darkness and the stars.
"I was covered in vines, plants, very natural makeup and of course a moko was printed on to my chin. We even had a florist come and arrange a big leaves nest for me to lay in for some of the photos."
A few weeks after that audition agent Niketa told her she had been chosen. Erica says it is empowering to be a Māori model representing New Zealand.
"I think that there are not enough 'opportunities' or 'support' for our young Māori people to showcase their talents and their beauty and to get to that kind of point in a career. As a culture we are quite humble people which makes us shy to put ourselves forward and to stand out."
Despite being new to the modelling world, she feels supported by her agent which is specifically committed to developing the potential for Māori and Pasifika women.
"Having a support person or team who we are familiar with and can relate to helps a lot, which when, in an industry like this, is hard to find when you're a Māori. I didn't want to put myself into a team or agency I couldn't connect with, especially when I had spent majority of my life surrounded by my culture. I know who I am, what I represent, and I didn't want to have to be a certain way or conform to anything else to fit into an agency."
Joining her in San Francisco are Georgia Le'Mon, Te Rangiwheriko Tairua-Bracken, Monita Skipworth and Marie Rueben. Some of the girls will also walk in New York fashion week joined by India Rose Davison.
"I'm extremely proud of how far we have all come in such a short amount of time, but all of us work very hard to do our best and we always aim high. The girls are all so beautiful! They're very genuine on the inside and that reflects in their photographs. We're like sisters really, we have good friendships with each other which I think keeps us all empowered and confident."
The girls are fundraising for the two trips — the New York team flew out on Wednesday with the San Francisco team following on September 19.