Now Casting: Bente Oort

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Bente Oort is not your average model on the rise. The Dutch 19-year-old was discovered a little over a year ago on social media and after walking her first show (for Burberry nonetheless), her success catapulted. But the distinctive bowl haircut and the knack for looking boyishly cool in everything from Prada to Versace aside, what sets this model apart is her skills on ice. It not only brought her to national championships in figure skating, but also earned her the starring role in Hedi Slimane’s first campaign for Celine this past fall.

She recently sat down with CR during her first visit to New York to talk about her love of figure skating and her admiration for Slimane.

So start a bit by telling me about yourself. I know you grew up in the Netherlands?
„Yes, that’s true. I grew up in Enschede, a city near the border of Germany. It’s not a big city, it’s just really communal. And I have a little brother, my parents, a cat, and a dog.“

Is this your first time in New York, that can’t be right?
„It is my very first time here in New York, so I’m really excited.“

What do you think about it so far?
„I really like it, I like the vibe here. It’s really energetic. I feel really blessed to be here, because it was one of the cities I’ve always wanted to go to, and it’s really nice because my mom is here as well so we can share this experience together.“

I know that you love ice skating. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes! I’ve been figure skating since I was nine, and I’ve loved it ever since. I started doing ballet, but after a while, I began to find that a bit boring and I wanted to do something new, and a friend of mine did figure skating. I’ve been doing a lot of competitions, nationals, and so on. When I came here, I first checked out all the ice skating rinks, because New York has the best rinks like the one in Bryant Park and the one in Central Park. I’m going to check them all out. I’ve brought my ice skates with me from Holland!“

You recently had the chance to figure skate in Hedi Slimane’s first Celine campaign. How was that experience?
„It was really cool that I could combine my ice skating skills with modeling, and [the campaign] was the best thing I have ever done. It was just amazing.“

What was it like to work with Hedi?
„Hedi is so creative and so lovely. I loved working with him. I was in Paris for couture week and I had a casting and then I got an email from my agent who told me I couldn’t do any more castings because I was exclusive to Celine now. They told me that I was going to star in this campaign. It was my first job after finishing high school, and I was kind of scared for this year because you never know what’s going to happen. But Hedi is incredible. I loved working with the whole team, everybody is so sweet and so talented, so it was great.“

Did you know about it long in advance?
„No, not at all. I think I found out in June and I started working for them in July. Then, we did the campaign shoot and I told them I was a figure skater and they wanted me to do it in the campaign, which I thought would never happen. We rented this whole skating rink in Paris, and it was entirely dark except for one light on me. It was so beautiful, the whole vibe, and the dress I wore–which they gave me after.“

Have you had the chance to wear it yet?
„Yeah [laughs]…at home, dancing around! When I first tried it on, I felt like a rock ’n’ roll princess.“

Celine is really tapping into the current unisex trend that’s really growing right now.
„Exactly! I think that’s so interesting. As a woman you want to wear a suit as well, and the Celine suits are for both women and for men.“

What kind of style do you have?
„Boyish and unisex. I’m not really a girly girl, so before I was into modeling, I didn’t care about fashion at all, but now I’m really interested in it. Just laid-back, easy stuff. Not too dressy.“

What have you learned about modeling and the industry so far?
„Of course, you hear some really stereotypical stories before going into modeling: that the girls aren’t nice to each other, and the casting directors are rude, but none of that is true in my opinion. I’ve met so many cool, creative people and the girls are so nice. It’s just one big family. And I think its made me really interested in the fashion industry. I have to go to college someday and I’m thinking about doing something in fashion, but I’m not sure yet.“

Do you have any dream designer or person that you’d like to work with?
„Well, Hedi was really high on my list long before I got the job. I didn’t know about him before I was in modeling, but I saw some shoots and videos about him and thought he was so cool. And Harley Weir, the photographer, was also someone I really wanted to work with and I got to work with her really quickly so I was happy about that.“

What was it like working with her?
She’s so amazing, she’s so grown up. When I first came to her studio, I didn’t know that she was so young. I was with the stylist, and [Harley] approached me and I thought that she was an assistant! When I came out of the dressing room again, she got behind the camera and I felt so stupid. I find it really cool that she’s a woman, because even though there are a lot of female photographers, the majority of fashion photographers are still men.“

Have you noticed any differences in the way female vs. male photographs capture you?
„Yes, in terms of how they display me. Harley was really encouraging of me moving and using my body in a more physical way. I think she’s familiar with the female body, so she knows what you can do with it. She has different ideas than the male photographers do. I really liked that about shooting with her, because it was such a different vibe than when I’ve been photographed by men.“

If you weren’t modeling, what would you be doing?
„A lot of skating, because that’s my passion. And I went to drama school, so I would love to do something with drama, fashion, traveling…all combined! But that’s what I love about modeling, because I can challenge myself by acting. It’s so easy for me to change into a character, and I think that’s really helpful.“

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