The youngest ever runway model for the esteemed Wilhelmina Modelling Agency in New York is Caymanian.
Nicole Whittaker, 16, has had a whirlwind six months since being talent spotted in the most curious of circumstances.
“In October last year  I was pumpkin picking with my family in Pennsylvania, when this very tall beautiful lady name Elena approached me and [asked if I] would be interested in modelling,” Nicole tells Weekender.
“I told her, ‘I love modelling but you would have to speak to my mom first’.”
After that was set up, and a quick mentoring session later, it was time to hit the agencies. The very first one they went to was Wilhelmina where the director of Runway signed Nicole on the spot. It was, says the Caymanian, the realisation of a dream.
“I always wanted to be a model; when I was a little younger I always stood in front of the mirror posed and took pictures, or always made my little sister take pictures of me,
“I love to watch shows like America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway and now the new one called Faces,” says Nicole, who now attends Bayonne High School in New York.
The very first job that the George Hicks graduate landed was for Teen Vogue Magazine’s prom edition, which appeared as a full three-page spread in the New York Daily News.
“[That was] also a big honour for me – but the best feeling in the world was when I walked into the Teen Vogue building. I could not believe I was here.”
Now Nicole is in the industry she loves, she says she would love to get some advice from her role models.
“One of my dreams is to meet Tyra Banks and Rihanna,” she continues.
“Tyra because I always watched her show, America’s Next Top Model, and I just love her. I think she had a hard road ahead of her when she first started but never gave up.
“Rihanna she is from another Island, which I can relate to, and people has always she we look so much alike, but she has also done very well for herself. I have never met Selita Ebanks but I would love to. With us being from the same country, I sure she would have a lot of tips for me.”
Indeed, when Nicole tells people that she has just moved from Cayman to New York the response is usually very positive.
“A lot of people say, ‘Wow I have been there and it is so beautiful, why did you leave an island to come here?’ [It is] always great and positive things, or you will hear people say they would love to go to Cayman.
“For those people who haven’t been there, I tell them the Cayman Islands is very beautiful and would be a great place for you to visit. I go back almost every year because my dad [Randy Whittaker] and grandmother live there.”
Nicole credits her mother, Stephanie Nicoletta, with her amazing support without which none of the success would have been possible, plus everyone for their good wishes.
“I want to tell my friends and family back home, that I miss them and will always remember them telling me that one day you are going to be a model, especially my nanny, who had the biggest dream for me,” says Nicole.
So what’s next for this rising star?
“In the summer I will be doing a lot of castings, so that I can land more jobs and built a great portfolio to better myself in the industry,” she tells us.
“I will also be preparing myself for fashion week which is in September. I just started so again I know my road will be a very long one, but I will have to stay strong a positive, because it is a very competitive world.” Sage advice indeed. Any closing words of wisdom for anyone looking to follow in the footsteps of Nicole Whittaker?
“The advice I have to give is to do well in school, don’t ever give up on your dreams, and never take things for granted.
“I know I have just started and it is going to be a long journey, but I intend to be strong and I know I have the support of my Mother who is there with me every step of the way.”
You can add Weekender to the list of well-wishers, Nicole. And when you see Tyra, please give her our number eh?