Megan Puleri’s ascension to the ranks of Victoria’s Secret is the stuff dreams are made of. From a local mall in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio to the Victoria’s Secret fashion show watched by millions, Megan Puleri’s future is bright. I spoke with her about how it felt being chosen for Victoria’s Secret and what advice veteran model Candice Swanepoel gave her.

Tell us about how you were discovered. 

As a teen everyone always commented on my long legs and how I’d be perfect for runway modeling. When I was 14, a neighbor who worked at a local boutique suggested to the owner that she should use me in her stores annual charity runway show.  We met, she agreed, and I walked in her show that year and the following three years.  After walking in my first show, I signed with a local agency in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio.  When I was 16, my parents were at the Easton Shopping Mall in Columbus and my mom recognized Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands, who was shopping as well.  They approached him for his advice on modeling.  He made it very clear that modeling is a challenging career choice and he would discourage his own daughter (if he had one) with similar aspirations. He didn’t like to say no to moms who showed him their daughter’s photographs, but had done so thousands of times.  In fact, he never said yes to any.  However, upon seeing photographs of me, he said he was impressed and felt I had what it took to go to New York and that he would recommend a meeting be arranged with the top four agencies in New York.  Additionally, he wanted to meet me.  My parents were blown away and excited!  My mom, knowing what an honor this was, waited 17 months to set up that meeting. She wanted me to grow and become a more seasoned model prior to the introduction. Coincidentally, when the time felt right to meet him, I won a local modeling contest where New York Model Management would fly me to New York to possibly sign me. I was so grateful, but before accepting the offer, I wanted to meet with Ed Razek.  My parents and I met with him that week.  He said upon seeing me walk around the corner he truly felt that I had a chance in New York and upon careful consideration he decided to send me to the biggest and the best agency IMG.  I passed my New York Model Management prize to the runner-up.  My parents and I promptly met with IMG. They agreed with Ed and they wanted to sign me. I signed with them when I was 17.  I turned 18 in May, 2015 and graduated from high school the next month and moved to New York in July.

How did you feel when you landed a coveted spot in the Victoria’s Secret runway show?

I felt so many things. So many emotions. I felt like one of my biggest dreams was coming true, like all of my hard work was paying off. I seriously dreamed about this moment, so many times, just to wake up to my reality. To find out that it was actually happening was insane.

What advice or guidance did you receive before walking in the show?

I received advice and guidance from one of my biggest role models, Candice Swanepoel. Her and I use the same trainer and one day I saw her at the gym and decided to talk to her. She told me her first show was by far her favorite show and to enjoy it because there is nothing like it.

Who’s career do you admire and why?

I admire so many people’s careers. I think that’s why I struggle a bit because I want to do so many different things and follow in so many different people’s footsteps, but I would say I admire Karlie Kloss’s career the most.

What do you hope to get out of your career?

I hope I get to build a platform to then spread the word about causes that I really care for. I want people to listen. I want people to care. I want to change the way people think as much as I can.

If you weren’t modeling what would you be doing?

I would be a photographer first and foremost. I’m not sure if I would do fashion photography or film but I would have a camera in my hand. I hope to build my portfolio as I model and continue to do that once I retire from modeling. I also have considered being an art teacher. I love kids and creativity, so mixing them both together would be ideal. I was touched by my middle school art teacher, she and I still visit and talk. I want to make a positive impact on children like she did for me. It was so important for me to have that relationship while I was growing up.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I think people would be surprised to learn that I am an old soul. I’m 18 years old and recently have been living a life full of first impressions. I feel like I come off a lot of different ways to people and very few people really know me. When people who really know me tell me that I am an ‘old soul’ it makes me feel understood.

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