Model Aubrey Hill brings West Virginia to the world of high fashion.
written by TARA WINE-QUEEN
photos courtesy of AUBREY HILL
When one thinks of West Virginia exports, supermodels are unlikely to spring to mind. That is the case, though, of Aubrey Hill, a native West Virginian and a model for the high-fashion likes of Dior and Valentino.
Hill grew up in a number of West Virginia towns—Poca, Nitro, and Charleston, to name a few—and, although she was interested in modeling, high-fashion modeling did not seem attainable. “I always thought I would go to college right out of high school and be a nurse or something,” she says.
But Hill applied and auditioned and kept at it, unwilling to lose hope in her dream. As luck would have it, a model search in Tennessee during her senior year named her the winner at Nashville Fashion Week and opened doors to new opportunities. She was offered work in Thailand and, after that, a scout for the famous Wilhelmina modeling and talent agency offered her a contract.
Coming from her background, Hill says, she had to fight to be taken seriously. “A lot of people never gave me the time of day.” But she overcame that by letting her animated, authentic, sometimes goofy self shine through. “I showcased my personality—and a new highfashion haircut—and casting directors, stylists, makeup artists, and designers fell in love. I always say, ‘If they let me talk, I got the job.’”
The pandemic put Hill’s plans on hold, as it did for so many. It wasn’t until she walked for Gucci in the November 2021 Love Parade runway show in Los Angeles that she realized she had truly made it into the world of high fashion. Her career has been on the rise ever since, with high points like walking the runway during Paris Fashion Week, strutting the catwalk for Burberry with Naomi Campbell, and even participating in a Gucci campaign with Miley Cyrus and Snoop Dogg. “Erykah Badu complimented me,” Hill says. “I was too stunned to speak.”
Despite her success, Hill continues to visit West Virginia and to sing the state’s praises. “I’m the only model from West Virginia, and a lot of people have never heard of it. But after I tell them about it, they sure do want to visit,” she says. She has proudly declared herself a “Mountain Mama” on social media and is always eager to share her life here with others. “If I’m with friends, we’ll go out to the New River Gorge. I love taking my city friends to swimming holes up Paint Creek so they get a slice of what my life was like growing up,” she says. “They always say West Virginia is beautiful and understand where my love for it comes from.”
Hill’s devotion to the state runs deep, but she’d like to see more opportunities of all kinds, particularly for creative expression. “Our state is beautiful. There’s a lot of inspiration that’s waiting to be heard, seen, felt.” She hopes she will one day be in a position to effect the kind of positive change she envisions for the state.
In addition to growing up among the mountains, Hill credits her success to a loving family who always supported her and her persistence. “Some days, modeling is a beautiful thing.” On other days, when she reflects on the nepotism that runs the industry or suffers from a bout of self-doubt, it can be more difficult. “That’s when I try to remind myself of how hard I worked to be here.”
For those hoping to follow in her footsteps, Hill has this advice: “Never pay a dime out of pocket to become a model. Look on the site models.com for the legitimate agencies all over the world, and apply, apply, apply.” She notes that she applied to more than 100 agencies before she got signed. She recommends getting comfortable with rejection—the “no”s are abundant.” But all it takes is that one “yes” to change your career.”
Even if she stopped modeling tomorrow, Hill would still feel proud of herself. “To be someone that came from West Virginia and entered these doors of the high-fashion world—the chances are slim to none, yet I found a way.”