Interview with Canada’s Top Model : Michelle Valencourt

By Dan Grant

If you aren’t fully fluent in the world of fashion you’ll have to trust me on this: W, Pop, British Vogue, The Face, i-D, Dazed & Confused, Jalouse and Marie Claire are some of the top publications on the planet, and if you’re a model these are the places you want to appear. Michelle Valencourt was in every one when she was just 14, and even if you missed the honey-blonde model in Flare or Fashion, or her worldwide Burberry campaign, you still may recognize her from Vervegirl’s 2006 Holiday Glamour issue. That was her final cover before hanging up the heels at the ripe old age of 19.
    A native of Barrie, Ont., Valencourt had known for years that teaching would be in her future. Now starting her second year of studies at Brock University, the 5’10” Political Science major has almost completely set the modeling industry aside.
    What Valencourt didn’t realize when she was 14 was that tastes change quickly. Despite her immediate success, the 5’10” model chose to take a break from the industry to finish high school. She graduated with a (better than) 90 per cent average, but realized upon re-entering the highly competitive field that the industry hadn’t been waiting for her. Trips to Tokyo, Barcelona, Milan and London didn’t produce the same excitement they had four years earlier, and by October she was safely installed at university in St. Catharines, with no regrets.
    Wellmaybe a few regrets. “I didn’t develop a jaded attitude towards the modeling industry, but I couldn’t understand at first why people wanted me when I was 14 but not when I was 18.  I didn’t think my look had changed that much, but when I got back I wasn’t in demand. That was frustrating.”
    Valencourt had always lived by the mantra ‘patience is a virtue,’ but now realizes she didn’t listen to her own advice. “I wasn’t patient with myself.  I look at girls like Andi [Muise, another model from Barrie] who waited four years before she got her big break, and now she’s doing Victoria’s Secret, Armani”
    Despite questioning her timing, Valencourt has no plans to return to her life as a full-time mannequin. “I think it’s cool for me to say I grew up with Daria [Werbowy] and [Jessica] Stam, and to say I know those girls. The people I met and the experience of travelling really shaped me and without that I don’t think I would be who I am. It definitely influenced me.”
    In her first year of formal studies, Valencourt staged Brock’s first fashion show and started a program to look after underage students. “So many things I learned in modeling I’m going to be able to apply to that: the homesickness, travelling and healthy eating I think if I didn’t have my experiences I would be an immature 19-year-old who doesn’t know what’s going on around me. Modeling makes you click into reality.”