ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In 2006 a high school student named Arizona Muse walked into Sense Clothing, an active lifestyle clothing company based in Santa Fe, for her first paid modeling job.
Sense CEO Robin Beachner remembers it well.
“She came in and I remember looking at her and thinking, ‘It is so hard to look at someone this beautiful,’ ” says Beachner. “She had flawless skin, these beautiful eyebrows, really long blond hair. At the fitting, she was really polite.”
For the shoot, Muse sat on the floor in tunic pants and bronze camisole, her hair pulled into a knot. She wore minimal makeup. They took thousands of pictures, but it was the very first one that became the active lifestyle clothing company’s most-used photo, says Beachner.
“It just really speaks,” says Beachner. “Seriously, it was take one, shot one. We take over 5,000 shots over a weekend. The very first one was perfect. ‘Zoe’ (Arizona Muse) knows how to bring you in. In my opinion, it’s the eyes. Her eyes are just so dynamic.”
Five years later, the fashion world knows what Beachner knew — there’s just something about Arizona Muse.
The 22-year-old single mother, who now lives in Brooklyn, is a fast-rising star on the international fashion stage. In March, Muse was named model of the fall 2011 runway season by New York Magazine after she opened and closed shows for the likes of Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Vera Wang. Now the face of Yves Saint Laurent, Muse also has walked in couture runway shows for Chanel and Valentino.
She has traveled to Milan, Paris, London, Morocco and China for work.
Name a fashion magazine, and Muse has graced its pages. The magazine Dazed and Confused shot Muse on four separate covers (labeled “Birth of a Muse”) and used her as the only model for its March issue. In February, Vogue featured her in a 14-page spread and editor Anna Wintour compared her to supermodel Linda Evangelista, calling her a “gorgeous, smart grown-up.”
Stories about Arizona’s meteoric rise highlight her down-to-earth nature and unique looks.
“First, those eyebrows. Sharp, full, unbelievably long — like lighting bolts,” a Vogue writer proclaimed. The same story pointed to her “elegant maturity.”
“It’s exciting to imagine that this cerebral, modest young woman could be the game changer who will — if all of the fashion oracles are correct — take the mantle as the new face of American fashion,” Vogue writes.
The “it” name
Fashion media also love Muse’s model-perfect name. Born in Tucson, Muse moved with her mother, father and younger brother to Santa Fe in 1998, her mother, Davina Muse, says. Her given name is Arizona Grace Muse but she has gone by Zoe since she was a child, her mother says. When her agents learned Arizona’s real name — from her passport — they persuaded her to switch back.
How does it feel to be a fashion “it” girl who earns accolades from Anna Wintour? The first time Muse met her, Wintour made a huge impression.
“She has a very powerful presence,” Muse writes in an email. “I found it remarkable that she referred to me as a ‘grown up,’ it meant a lot to hear that.”
Davina Muse, who is divorced from Arizona’s father, who now lives in Tucson, moved to Massachusetts 2 1/2 years ago to be closer to her daughter and 2-year-old grandson Nikko. She attributes her daughter’s success to hard work and a gracious attitude.
“I think she is very hard working, very conscientious, really diligent and those are qualities you need in a very demanding career,” Davina Muse says.
The model life is unlike anything on the reality show “America’s Next Top Model.”
“It’s really quite different from shows like that,” Arizona Muse writes. “It’s much more normal and a lot more work than a show could convey. Models work really long hours and spend a lot of time on planes.”
She hopes to return to Santa Fe for a visit soon.
“I hardly have time off, so when I do I mostly try to sleep and be at home with Nikko and his nanny,” Muse writes.
Beachner, who has used Muse for multiple campaigns for Sense, says it has been a thrill to watch the model’s ascent. She is reminded of Muse’s success daily, from her Prada ads to J.Crew spreads.
“It’s exciting,” Beachner says. “We love Zoe. Not only is she beautiful and smart but she is humble.”
If she had to choose her favorite photographs, Davina Muse says she particularly loves the black-and-white photos in Vogue of her daughter and grandson in a southwestern landscape.
“I can see my mother in her face there,” Davina Muse says. “The one in the desert, I love that one. As a family we went camping in places like that.”
Several articles mention Muse’s graceful movements. Her mother attributes her grace to movement classes at the Santa Fe Waldorf School, which Arizona attended until her senior year, when she transferred to Santa Fe Preparatory School. Arizona is also an accomplished rider who has competed in English show-jumping, her mother says.
“I think people sense something in her that is expressed in her beauty and also in her nature,” Davina Muse says.
When she is walking a runway or posing for a fashion spread, Muse tries to “exude happiness,” Arizona Muse explains. “I want to help other women to feel good about themselves so I think of warmth and friendly things.”