Becoming a model is no easy feat, but here to guide six young hopefuls with dreams of reaching supermodel status is Yolanda Hadid with her new competition series Making a Model (executive produced for Lifetime by: Mary Donahue and Mioshi Hill). The series debuted Jan. 11 on Lifetime with the former model and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star welcoming the teens and their moms to New York City. After a slow start, the reality competition quickly heated up and Mikayla Gilles on Making A Model emerged as a clear frontrunner.
The eight-episode series follows six aspiring models from around the country. Through weekly challenges and photo shoots, the ladies compete for prize money, while living in a New York City apartment with each other and their “momagers.” Also making guest appearances periodically on the series will be Hadid's own supermodel daughters, Gigi and Bella, to share their words of wisdom with the next generation.
In the premiere episode of Making A Model, viewers were introduced to the girls. After settling into the apartment and scoping out the competition, each duo was tasked with pulling off a spur of the moment photo shoot in the middle of Times Square. The daughters were to model, while moms handled the shoot's creative directing. Most of the girls struggled to put their best “smize” forward due to bickering with their mom, while uncomfortable high heels stopped others from performing. Although, Mikalya Gilles and her mom, Karen, managed to work together perfectly and were named the first week's challenge winner — an honor that comes with a sweet $5,000 check.
Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, 16-year-old Gilles had no professional modeling experience before being cast on Making A Model, according to the Chicago Tribune. Unlike the other contestants on the show, Gilles isn't home-schooled and is instead a senior at Saint Ignatius College Prep, her mom noted in the show's introductions. When Gilles is not pursuing her modeling dreams, she runs track, performs in musicals, writes music and is passionate about the piano.
“My ultimate dream is to be a model and a musical performer … and I want to be an advocate for my community," Gilles told The Chicago Tribune. "I could go on and on about the black community and the things that I would like to see changed, but more than anything, I would love to contribute to a positive message for young black women and men.”
Going on Making a Model gave Karen an opportunity to grow closer with her daughter and to learn things about Mikayla that she didn't know before. “You think you know your child, you think you know everything that he or she is capable of doing, and I just constantly was impressed by my own daughter,” Karen told The Chicago Tribune. “I call her my steely girl. She’s just got this great presence and she was able to participate in the challenges and really excel.”
Not only was Hadid impressed with Gilles' photoshoot, but also the chemistry between Mikayla and her mother, calling them "very much in sync." Impressing Hadid so early in the competition is a big plus for Mikayla, because at the end of the eight-week bootcamp, one hard-working winner will receive a management contract with Hadid, plus the opportunity to be represented by IMG models in New York.
Similar to Lifetime's other hit reality series Dance Moms, mothers play a huge role on Making a Model. In an interview with Yahoo, Hadid shared her hope for Making a Model: That other young people who watch the show — aspiring models or not — will take the away the message of the importance of keeping family close and staying true to themselves when pursuing a dream.
Given how she slayed that Times Square photo challenge, I'd say Gilles is doing a great job in this department. And while it's still too early in the season to pick a winner on Making a Model, Mikayla's performance this week proves that she's a force to be reckoned with — professional experience or not.