Ask most models where they were discovered and the answer is: the mall. All that fluorescent light, polished glass and shopping, set to a soundtrack of pan pipes and pop – it is the domain of many a teenage hopeful. In a sense, Charlotte Carey, now 21, is no exception: “I was a mall rat and was scouted there!” But the peroxide blonde with the wide-set, feline eyes and distinctive beauty spots wasn’t just picking out cute skirts. She was ditching school, a habit that would eventually get her expelled.
“I just didn’t believe in school,” Carey says, her gentle California cadence turning each statement into a question. “The only thing I was interested in was band class, and then my band class blew up and the room burned down. If it wasn’t for me ditching, I wouldn’t have met a scout. At the time I wanted to make money to buy clothes, but retail stores thought I looked too young to work there. So I thought, fuck it, I am going to try and do this modelling thing.”
Born in Burbank to an Indonesian mother and a British father, Carey was sent to Sumasa as a baby after her parents divorced; she lived in Indonesia until she was six. “I moved in with my aunt because my mum couldn’t take care of me and she wanted to finish school,” Carey says. “Growing up there was definitely very different to how my life is now. We had a farm and my Grandpa would kill animals and go fishing for dinner. We would sleep on these straw rugs. In Indonesia everyone has, like, bad teeth, because dental is pretty expensive. So my most vivid memory of my time there is my aunt putting me in the bathtub and pulling out all mine with her bare hands. My teeth are pretty nice now!”
She didn’t meet her father’s family until many years later, when modelling work took her to London. “I haven’t actually met my dad yet,” she says. “He lives in South Africa, but I do hope to soon.” A high-school dropout, complete with that hair and a nipple piercing – Carey looks like a classic tearaway. Yet she is more complicated than that, and it shows in her pictures. “I am actually really shy,” she says. “I used to have trouble talking to new people. But then when you really know me, I am pretty wild. My friends call me crazy.” She plays the flute, and has played the piano for 11 years, but in the New York apartment she shares with friends, she also likes to paint her body: “Like, actual paint!”
Since signing with Wilhelmina last year along with the support of casting director Angus Munro she has scooped a coveted spot in Diesel's recent 'We Are Connected Campaign', shot for British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, the Playboy X Diesel calendar and several prominent indie titles. Carey seems not to have chosen modeling – it chose her – but there is no back-up plan. Channelling her restless energy into images has been the making of her: she has no idea what else she would want to do. “I love just having fun, and not being scared or thinking about the politics of the industry – I am shorter, so that has a lot of drama to it. It’s most likely I can’t do shows. Who knows? I am just trying to enjoy it and live in the moment.” §