St. Thomas model competes on national TV show


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ST. THOMAS - Felisa Wiley, a 19-year-old model from St. Thomas, is competing on season two of "The Face," premiering tonight on the Oxygen Network.

Wiley was chosen out of hundreds of applicants to compete as one of 12 aspiring models seeking to represent Frédéric Fekkai, a hair care line.

Wiley, a graduate of Antilles School, has been modeling for about four years, on breaks from school.

"School is the number one priority," she said.

At 15, she was discovered at Marriott's Morningstar swimming pool by modeling scout Ginny Edwards Maxwell.

Maxwell also scouted Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Davis, another Antilles alum.

Six months later, Wiley was in New York signing a contract with Next Model Management.

She took some modeling classes as a child, but never thought much about modeling as a career.

After signing with Next, she was suddenly part of a new and exciting world.

"It was interesting, I had really no clue about the industry, and I was just thrown right in it," she said. "I didn't conform 100 percent to it."

Her first job was a fashion show on St. Thomas. She was nervous, but being at home helped.

"It was my very first experience walking on a runway," she said.

It was a good fit, and she has continued to strut the catwalk wearing designer clothes and shoes all across the country.

She found out about the show online. Wiley was in New York for the summer and she applied and sent in some photos.

The producers emailed her back with a "front of the line" pass and an invite to audition.

"I wasn't totally gung ho about it, because that same day I was supposed to hang out with my friends," she said. "But I went and I went through the casting and I got it."

The show was filmed in New York in the fall and Wiley had to take the semester off to participate.

"My mom knew where I was, but I wasn't allowed to tell anyone else," she said.

She told her college friends different stories, so no one knew the truth.

The show is set up similarly to "The Voice," where the models are split into teams, each led by a supermodel mentor. The mentors on the show are Naomi Campbell, Anne V and Lydia Hearst. Nigel Barker is the host, confidante and adviser to the contestants.

Wiley said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and while it was fun, it was hard.

"It was emotionally and physically draining," she said. "You're in a completely different environment. Cut off from the things you would normally do."

"It was a good experience and I learned a lot," Wiley said.

"I met a lot of really nice young women. We helped each other out learned a lot about modeling."

Wiley will be watching tonight with some friends and family at home on St. Thomas.

"I'm really anxious," she said.

A 2012 Antilles grad, she is attending Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., where she is studying media communications and film studies.

"I'm really interested in documentary making and film editing," Wiley said. "After I give modeling a chance I want to get into the TV industry with post production."

With her interest in film and post production, she took notes during the show's filming, highlighting what she would include in the finished product.

"I'm probably going to be way off," she said, laughing.

Wiley thanked her friends and family who support her, especially her "guardian angel" Jayne Kellogg, a stranger who literally saved her from drowning when she was 5 years old.

"If it wasn't for her I would be absolutely nothing," Wiley said.

While she was mum on the results of "The Face," she said no matter the outcome, she will finish school and continue modeling, at least for a while.

"After graduating, I plan on dedicating three years to modeling and depending on if I really make it or not, I'll decide whether to go on with it," she said.

Watch Wiley compete on "The Face" at 11 tonight on Oxygen.

Oxygen is channel 251 on DirecTV, 127 on Dish and 136 on Innovative.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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