Gilda Joelle Osborn is excited. She has a feeling. 2020 is going to be big.
She’s about to start her first full year in the Big Apple, the Lilly Pulitzer photos will go up in March, the Daily Mail just did a whole thing on her perfect skin, Maxim just described her as a “dreamy mix of beauty and brains” in the magazine’s final What a Beautiful Woman Wants profile of the decade, and the guy who wrote about models with Auburn connections a couple of years back reached out to her just in time for New Year’s.
Yes, after nearly four years, it’s starting to happen for the 28-year-old Anniston native, the aspiring new Girl Next Door who always thought she just wanted to stay Next Door.
Better late than never.
She laughs. “Yeah, I got into it kind of late.”
Not that she hadn’t thought about it, of course. Not that people hadn’t told her she should; it comes with the territory when you look like that. And not that she hadn’t dabbled. But, really, the only time she spent in front of the camera while earning her psychology degree from Auburn was a charity show with the student Modeling Board her sophomore year, the Thursday after Cam Newton’s Heisman run again LSU, which she remembers way better than her runway walk.
“But I think I’m a good example of things happening for a reason, of one thing leading to another.”
There she was in 2013, finishing college, but never wanting it to end. Then there she was in 2015, finishing her master’s degree in occupational therapy from UAB, and suddenly realizing she never wanted to use it.
“For the last two semesters of the program, you get to do field work, and most people do theirs at UAB or the pace where they want to get a job,” Osborn says. “I was like, ‘I know I’m not going to do anything with this, so I just want to go somewhere really cool.’”
She decided on Miami. And she finally decided to scratch the itch. If push came to shove, occupational therapy would always be there; modeling might not be. For the next three months, she hit the gym as hard she hit the books. She finished her degree with flying colors, and with the best BMI of her life.
“I got really, really into shape down there,” she says. “Then I started following Baskin on Instagram because I knew she was from Alabama, too.”
That would be Birmingham-born Baskin Champion, who majored in fashion design at Auburn before leaving to pursue modeling (and Justin Bieber).
“I saw (the photographers) that she shot with and reached out, and that was the kind of start of it.” And it was almost the end of it. That whole thing about how it’s hard to break into modeling? Apparently it’s true, even for dreamy mixes of brains and beauty.
After earning her master’s, Osborn once again packed for Miami, this time with a budding portfolio.
Within two months, she’d been rejected by every agency in town.
Not that you would have known it.
She kept reaching out to local photographers who were shooting the best Miami models on Instagram. Her portfolio grew. So did her determination. In November 2016, she punched 1100 West Avenue into Apple Maps one more time and started for South Beach.
“I decided one more time to go to Wilhelmina’s open call,” Osborn says. “They handed me a contract on the spot.”
The rest is stunning athleisure and swimwear and hair care catalog history.
In addition to Lilly Pulitzer, Osborn has landed gigs with beauty and lifestyle fashion brands like Oribe, Rene Furterer, Bandier and Fruit of the Loom, just to name a few. In August, she did a shoot in Columbia. So far, that’s been her favorite.
“It’s hard work, but the pros outweigh the cons, 100 percent,” she says. “I’m so blessed and lucky to be doing this.”
The girl with the funny accent who was once told no by every agency in Miami is now signed with one of the biggest, Next Miami, plus five others stretching from Milan to her new home in New York. She’s about to head back after a great Christmas home in Anniston. She has nearly 55,000 Instagram followers of her own now. Life is good. It’s getting better. Let the Times Square countdown begin.
“Stop me if I’m talking too fast,” she says.
Related: An Auburn junior is your 2019 Hooters calendar covergirl — and Miss Hooters International
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