Whidbey winner in modeling contest brings crew to island for photo shoot

Karla Gilbert strikes a pose for fashion photographer Jake Armour during a photo shoot Thursday at the Coupeville Wharf. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Karla Gilbert strikes a pose for fashion photographer Jake Armour during a photo shoot Thursday at the Coupeville Wharf.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

COUPEVILLE — Karla Gilbert attracted a few curious stares Thursday while standing near the end of the Coupeville Wharf.

She's going to get a lot more interested looks in the months to come, though.

Gilbert was surrounded by a 12-member crew - photographers, producers and hair, makeup and style experts — during the second day of her fashion photo shoot on Whidbey Island.

Gilbert, who was raised in Clinton, was one of a dozen winners in the nationwide Main Street Model Search held by maurices, a girl's clothing store with 780 stores across the country, including one in Oak Harbor.

The first day of the shoot was at Deception Pass, and on the second day, in Gilbert's new hometown of Coupeville, the fashion shoot crew — most coming from Minneapolis, Minn. — marveled at the scenic beauty of the island. One short pause in the shooting Thursday turned into an extended break as an otter swam past the wharf and most of the crew ran around the building to get a better look.

Then it was back to work for the newbie model, and Gilbert tried not to squint in the bright sunshine.

Photographer Jake Armour called out instructions. Turn this way. Head down. Head up.

"Find a spot. Make it real!"

"Happy, happy," he added. "Good, good. Beautiful!"

Finally, Gilbert got another break. She slipped off the too-tight high heels that were killing her feet, then burst into a huge smile when told that it was time to move to a new location.

"I've never modeled. This is all new to me," said Gilbert, 27. "It's been exhausting, but I don't want it to end."

Monica Hendrickson, a marketing manager with maurices, said the winners in the Main Street Model Search have gotten a crash course on modeling at the on-location fashion shoots. Many are surprised as the large number of professionals it takes to make a shoot successful, and the long days that models have to work.

"They learn a lot in 48 hours," Hendrickson said.

There's also the surreal surprise of walking into a maurices store and seeing a 6-foot-high photograph of yourself hanging up, she said. It's an experience a few of the earlier winners in the Main Street Model Search have already had.

"They were just blown away," Hendrickson said.

The crew at Thursday's photo shoot said Gilbert would go through 12 wardrobe changes in all, and the clothes pictured will be available in stores starting in October. Photos of Gilbert from the Whidbey photo sessions will be featured in marketing campaign materials and in maurices stores nationwide. She will also film "Style Minutes" videos with celebrity stylist Christopher Straub from Lifetime’s Project Runway.

"I can't believe I'm getting to do this. This has just been a thrilling experience," Gilbert said. "The team here is fabulous. I've just been pampered and spoiled."

Like other models in the contest, Gilbert entered the competition in hopes of winning the prize check that goes to a charity of the winner's choice.

Gilbert's winnings included $7,500 that will go to Ryan’s House, a new shelter for homeless teens that will be built in Scatchet Head.

"I'm just ecstatic about what I'll be able to do for Ryan's House," Gilbert said.

Each winning model also received $1,500 in maurices clothing and a Flip video camera to capture her path to becoming a maurices model. People can follow Gilbert’s journey through her blog on, and snapshots from the photo shoot will be posted on

A groundbreaking celebration for Ryan’s House will be held at 5 p.m. today, at 7800 Mortland Drive.

The groundbreaking will be followed by a barbecue, a maurices fashion show and a dance performance by a local group. From 6 to 8 p.m., there will be live music by the Bahia band.

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