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The timeles Laing
published: Monday | September 3, 2007

Laing - Contributed

In 1985, a tenacious 28-year-old Laing set her sights on becoming the Caribbean's first supermodel. Reared and ready to realise her dream, she entered Pulse's Jamaica Fashion Model competition.

But she had to overcome several deterrents. International modelling for Caribbean nationals was then uncharted territory; Laing was also older than the traditional age at which a model would begin her career; a disapproving husband and an unsupportive family. Her dream seemed destined for immediate failure.


Determined to have her moment in the spotlight, she proudly declared that she would take the risk to go abroad and model. As if a work of self prophecy, Laing won the competition and left a teaching job to dive into a whole new life in New York.

Althea's inevitable success was born out of sheer determination. She learnt that a team from Essence magazine was on the island and she went to their hotel and precociously presented herself. "I heard that the Essence magazine people were on the island, so I introduced myself to them and said quite bluntly, 'here I am and I'm ready to work'."

Althea's audacity and perseverance won her the coveted cover and the title of the first Jamaican model to make the cover of an international magazine. Her strong features dominated the glossy cover of the September issue. "Essence was a huge deal for me. In those days, the magazine only featured celebrities on its cover, and to know that a Jamaican model, an older one who was so heavily criticised, made it on the cover. I rejoiced and felt vindicated," beams Laing.

Her Essence cover launched her career. She followed up with asecond Essence cover in August 1990, several editorials and a slew of bookings for magazines such as Ebony, Black Elegance, Chic magazine and Caribbean Lifestyle.

Master in the Classroom

Ten years later traded in designer clothes and trotting across the globe for textbooks and classrooms in her home country. Now a English teacher at the May Day High School in Mandeville currently delights at the success of her students, especially in the recent CXC examinations. "My children did well, I got over 80 per cent passes and I'm really happy for all of them and to know that all of our hard work paid off."

Initially, Laing tried to combine her two loves of modelling and teaching, by opening a grooming school in 1995. Th Laing Grooming Institute was to be her vehicle to pass on her knowledge and experience as a model. According to Laing, because of the country's economic situation, things did not work out as planned. For upcoming models, Laing still stresses that enrolment in grooming school should be mandatory. "There is definitely a need for the grooming school experience as models need to have the social graces and the ability to communicate effectively both in social and professional settings. Clients want models that are beautiful, eloquent and well mannered. Look at Jaunel Mckenzie. She is a huge success because of her deportment." She notes that other agencies should "follow Kingsley's strategy. Spend resources on providing your girls with basic grooming because she could be the prettiest girl in the world, but if she cannot hold a decent conversation, she won't get the job."

Staying Positive

Laing's mantra for staying positive? Confidence and a strong sense of self is key. "You have to believe in yourself, it is also about staying focused and knowing what you want despite the odds and adversities." Over 20 years after her own modelling success has great hope for Jamaica's future in model and fashion exportation. According to Laing, the work that Pulse is doing is quite significant in this regard, "the girls are doing well and our fashion presence on the international scene is very significant."

Laing will be a special guest at this year Pulse Caribbean Model Search final on Friday, September 7 at the Hilton Kingston. She is slated to walk the runway with the original Pulse supermodels.These include Kimberley Mais, Jheanell Azan, Romae Gordon, Angela Neil and Lincoln Wynter.


Tuesday, Sept. 4:

Pulse invades the Youthlink magazine! Keep up with your favorite new international stars including Gaye, Shevolee, Jeneil and Khalil! Answer the trivia question and you could be an audience member at the CMS finals this Friday at 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 5:

Keep listening to ZIP FM and 103 FM for a chance to win tickets to the show! Come and see designs from Mutamba, Keneea Linton, Poshe, Mushroom swimwear, Minka, Mosiah, J'Adore , Shimmer and Kevin Pound!

Thursday, Sept. 6:

One more day to CMS live event! It's going to be hot! Our exquisite girls and the dapper gentlemen are ready - Are you?

Friday, Sept. 7:

The CMS live show is tonight. Over 60 hopefuls will walk down the runway in the grand finale of a long, hot summer culminated with the highly anticipated 'Supermodel Reunion'. Original Pulse supermodels Kimberley Mais-Issa, Angela Neil Laing, Justine Willoughby, Juline Samuels, Romae Gordon, Jheanell Azan and Lincoln Wynter make a special guests appearances.

win... win... win...

Win two tickets to CMS finals on Friday, September 7, at the Hilton Kingston hotel by answering this question.

What year wa Laing inducted into the Pulse Fashion and Beauty Hall of Fame?

Send answer to:

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