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10-year-old model in Bel Air finds Life can be beautiful


How does it feel to be 10 years old, strikingly beautiful, and on the cover of a magazine that sells 1.5 million copies throughout the world?

"Cool," says Alexa VanTrigt, of Bel Air. Her face fills the cover of Life magazine for the month of July.

The Life job didn't pay much -- $250 -- but the exposure could help her land more lucrative modeling jobs.

Alexa's photo appears on the cover of Life for a story headlined: "How can we keep our children safe?" She has a serious, unsmiling expression on her face.

The story is about how difficult and dangerous it is to be a child today, and what parents can do to make their children safer. Included in the story is a photograph of Krystal Ray, a 3-year-old Baltimore girl wounded in a street shooting.

Alexa and her parents, Ed and Ann VanTrigt, read the story. They found it disturbing, but positive in that it attempted to deal with real problems. "Some of it, I couldn't even read, it was so sad," Alexa said.

So how does a fourth-grader at Homestead-Wakefield Elementary school in Bel Air end up on the cover of one of the world's best-known magazines? Good looks, luck, and hard work, it turns out.

In 1991, Alexa and her parents, Ed and Ann VanTrigt (pronounced van-trit), were shopping in a mall in Myrtle Beach, S.C., when a talent scout approached them and suggested Alexa should be a model. The VanTrigts lived in Myrtle Beach at the time.

It wasn't the first time they had heard how pretty their blond, blue-eyed daughter was. But it was the first time from someone in the modeling business. They decided to give it a try.

Mr. VanTrigt, 42, said they put together a portfolio of their daughter and began having her try for modeling jobs. She got work in several real estate brochures for Myrtle Beach, and a small part in a tourism video.

Last year, the family moved to New York for the summer to make a more serious effort at landing modeling work for Alexa. The youngest daughter, Annalies, 4, also became a model.

Last February the VanTrigts moved into a townhouse in Bel Air. Alexa began school at Homestead-Wakefield. Her first trip to New York for modeling work was April 18. It was a "go-see" for Life. Several hundred other child models were there.

The next day, Alexa learned she was one of two finalists. The family drove back to New York, and spent two hours with a Life magazine photographer. They knew it was for an article about keeping children safe, but that was all.

"Sometimes, I would [pose] on my own," Alexa remembers of the photo shoot. "And sometimes he would tell me to look this way. . . . Mostly, he wanted me not to smile so much."

After the photo shoot, Alexa went on other modeling try-outs -- as many as six in a day -- several times a week through the end of school. She made up the work in the car while traveling.

They were told she was to be on the cover of the June issue of Life, but then a photo of O. J. Simpson's children bumped her off.

On June 14, the family flew to the Netherlands, Mr. VanTrigt's homeland, for a two-week vacation. Soon after arriving, they learned that Alexa was selected for the cover of Life's July issue. They couldn't wait to get back to the United States to see it.

On Tuesday, they arrived in New York. At the airport terminal, the family raced for the nearest magazine stand. There, before them, were several rows of Alexa, staring out.

"When I first saw it at the airport, I had like butterflies in my stomach," Alexa said. "I was so excited to know that all these people were looking at my picture."

Back in Bel Air, her father says Alexa is enjoying the attention, especially when she's in a store and someone recognizes her. "Someone will ask her, 'Is that you?' She goes, 'Yes, that's me.' And people go, 'No.' They don't believe it."

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