The University of Iowa

In the news: UI student stumbles on modeling career while abroad

December 4th, 2018

Danielle Leveille poses for a portrait in Molly's Cupcakes in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018.

Kinsey Phipps, The Daily Iowan

Danielle Leveille’s Instagram looks like that of any successful model. Photos from various styles of fashion shoots fill her feed, captioned almost entirely in Japanese. However, Leveille is not a full-time model in Japan; she is a third-year UI student.

A native of Chicago, Levielle began learning Mandarin Chinese in elementary school. She continued the language through high school, she said, until getting bored and deciding to teach herself Japanese.

During high school, she spent a month in Japan for two-consecutive summers with a host family, immersing herself in Japanese language and culture.

When she arrived at the UI, she was fluent in Japanese. She said she knew she wanted to return to the country she fell in love with, so Leveille studied abroad last year in Tokyo.

Expenses, especially for an entire academic year, can be daunting for students abroad. She decided to look for part-time work and was interested in modeling.

“In the U.S., you have to be at least 5 feet, 10 inches for modeling agencies to even look at you, but Japan doesn’t have the same standards,” Leveille said.

Within a month, Leveille, standing 5 feet 5 inches tall, had signed with four modeling agencies. After the first few months of doing fashion, product promotion, and commercial modeling, she was getting nearly 30 emails a month for different jobs. She did broadcast journalism and translation through the modeling agencies as well.