Former KSU student gets big break

Allison Smith

Photos will appear in ’11 Sports Illustrated

Nishi Patel just got her big break. A few weeks ago she signed a contract with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2011.

“Once I complete the photoshoot for Sports Illustrated, I’ll officially gain supermodel status with my agency,” Patel said. “I’m more pumped about that (than being in Sports Illustrated).”

Patel didn’t always want to be a model. She used to be a broadcast journalism major at Kent State before she signed a contract with Elite Model Management.

“Actually, I never thought about modeling my entire life,” Patel said. “I was always so focused on broadcast journalism.”

Patel got her first gig by working at Abercrombie & Fitch. Nishi and her coworkers had Polaroids taken while working for the store, and a few months later the company contacted her to ask if she would model for it.

“I ended up doing some work for them,” Patel said. “But I ended up only on a gift card and one picture on their online catalogue, so they may not have liked me all that much.”

While visiting her parents in her hometown of Atlanta in April 2009, a scout from Elite Model Management approached her at the mall. The scout asked if Patel had ever done any modeling and told her she should consider sending in some pictures to the agency.

“So my mom took some Polaroids of me and we sent it in to Elite New York,” Patel said. “Before I knew it, I was in New York signing a contract with (the agency), and ever since then, the journey has started.”

After leaving Kent State and moving to New York City, Patel’s next step was a go-see, where models go see a designer to try on their clothes, for 3.1 Phillip Lim. She said they approved of her walk and the movement of the clothing on her, but they still thought she needed to lose weight.

“Despite that small complaint, I booked his fashion show,” Patel said. “I began doing yoga, cardio and this little thing called Brazilian Butt Lift. I ended up losing 10 pounds right in time for the show.”

Patel said her parents were wary, but supportive of her modeling career. She said her mom is proud of her, but worried about her weight loss. Patel’s dad is skeptical about her swimsuit gig because it’s such a well-known Sports Illustrated issue, and Patel will be in a bikini.

“It’s just modeling,” Patel said. “Nothing that big.”

Patel said her scantily clad modeling deals are not the only thing that worries her parents.

“They were very hesitant at first because they didn’t think I could just rely on modeling itself,” she said. “They thought I needed school, and even I thought I did.”

Patel said she decided to move back to Atlanta and continue her career there with Elite Atlanta. She’s taking online classes at Emory University on the side to continue her journalism education. Two weeks ago, she did a charity fashion show for Dolce & Gabbana, and, of course, she has her Sports Illustrated gig coming up.

“So I’m trying to balance it out a bit,” Patel said. “In the end, though, my passion is modeling.”

Contact features reporter Allison Smith at [email protected].