Since she was 5-years old, Christina Grant has craved more from life.
“I always wanted to be a star,” she said.
For most, stardom means means a career on the stage or screen, but to quench her thirst for the spotlight, the 22-year-old Long Island native instead became a top-ranked hand model for one of New York’s most popular specialized modeling agencies, Parts Models.
Outfitted in a grey cardigan topped by a shaggy black coat to match, Grant, on a chilly winter evening, was dressed to impress. She sighed and smiled apologetically for running five minutes late. Since she was little, Grant said she yearned to be someone important.
“Whenever my parents were taking pictures of other people, I had to be in the photo. I would find a way to get in the photo and I guess now it’s worked out because it’s my job,” said Grant.
Well, at least, getting her hands professionally photographed is.
Grant currently works for Parts Models, one of New York’s top modeling companies that specializes in body parts including hands, legs, bodies, and feet. Grant began her career last June, but she has already booked shoots with well known clients such as Essie, the nail polish manufacturer, and the magazine, Cosmopolitan Latina.
Taking off her coat, she reached into her purse and pulled out a travel size Vaseline lotion. Her elongated fingers lightly clasped the bottle.
“I try to use a lot of lotion. Any lotion. I have to stay moisturized,” she said, pouring the lotion generously into her palms.
Grant’s purse is a sea of products, including a black travel-sized cosmetic purse containing all of her favorite hand care essentials: a cuticle pen, nail file, coconut oil, and hand cream.
“I don’t travel without these, I take them with me everywhere.”
Grant first got the idea to become a hand model a month before applying to Parts Models when she was first discovered at HomeGoods.
“I was ringing things up and this old lady came up to me and said ‘Oh my God, your hands are so nice, you should be a hand model,” she said.
“So I go home and tell my mom. We laughed about it. But then I actually looked into it and had my brother take some amateur pictures. They were so atrocious!”
Three weeks later, Grant was booked and shooting her first shoot with Essie, the popular nail polish brand.
“I was so nervous because I just got signed, I didn’t know what to do.”
Courtesy: Christina Grant
According to Ellen Sirot, Grant’s coach and one of New York’s top-ranking hand model coaches, the hand modeling industry is growing larger and more popular each year.
“Young girls come in and think that it’s an easy way to make money. But it’s not just about having beautiful hands, it’s about making them work the camera,” she said.
Like Grant, Sirot fell into the hand model industry by accident, after graduating with a degree in dance from Barnard College. She initially applied to become a leg model, but after sitting in on several shoots, Sirot quickly changed her mind.
“I saw that the girls doing hands got the most work,” she said.
And so she made a change. Sirot immediately switched from leg modeling to hand modeling and never looked back. Today, she serves as both a model and freelance coach for two Parts Models agents.
A hand model can make anywhere between $300 and $3,000 dollars a shoot, even as much as $10,000 depending on the client. On set, models are pampered by nail artists who buff, moisturize, and paint their nails. After they wait in line to have their pictures taken by the on-set photographer.
On the day of the shoot, Grant says she limits herself to a strict diet. “I try not to drink coffee, eat anything with salt, and drink a lot of water,” she says. In doing so, the hand model hopes to avoid on set woes such as shaky hands and large veins. To her, perfecting her craft is everything.
When Grant speaks, her hands do all the talking for her. But they weren’t always this way. When she was first signed by Parts Models, the Fashion Institute student was automatically enrolled in hand modeling coaching class.
“My coach spent hours showing me how to hold things,” Grant said.
And who knew there were so many ways to hold an iPhone?
“The trick is to look like your holding it, without looking like you’re holding it. You can’t grip!” she said.
Next month, Grant will graduate from the Fashion Institute with a degree in communications. Afterward, she plans to follow her dream and continue her pursuit of hand modeling.
“I want to do this as long as I can. It’s way more fun than working a 9 to 5. I love it so much and I can definitely see myself doing it in the future,” she said.