Bethany Clough

4-year-old Fresnan models on runway at L.A.’s Fashion Week

Katiana Upton, 4, of Fresno, walked down the runway at Fashion Week L.A. recently, modeling a dress for Dallas-based Loren Franco Designs.
Katiana Upton, 4, of Fresno, walked down the runway at Fashion Week L.A. recently, modeling a dress for Dallas-based Loren Franco Designs. SPECIAL TO THE BEE

Fashion Week in Los Angeles this month was a frenzy of designers debuting their new fashions and models strutting down runways.

Among all those models was Katiana Upton of Fresno.

She’s a little different than your typical lean, leggy model.

For starters, she’s 4.

Katiana has been steadily building a résumé of a few paid commercial photo shoots and modeling for small boutiques where the payment is getting to keep the clothes she posed in.

But the week before last was a highlight of her little career. Katiana walked in two runway shows, wearing a dress from Dallas-based Loren Franco Designs. One was a show with multiple designers and the other a Susan G. Komen fundraising fashion show.

Something about being on stage just does it for her.

Katiana’s mom Laura Upton

Katiana walked down the runway in front of 900 people wearing a pink princess dress.

The crowd erupted with “oohs” and “aahs” and photographers clicked away – just like the fashion shows you see on TV, says designer Loren Franco.

At the end of the runway, Katiana struck her pose: “She did a little hand on her hip and turned her head a little where her chin touched her shoulder and that totally won the crowd over,” says her mom, Laura Upton.

Katiana can be a little shy when meeting people in person, her mom says. But on the runway, she doesn’t even seem nervous, notes Franco, the designer.

“No, she didn’t have an issue with that,” she says. “She’s very confident.”

Franco picked Katiana after looking at her résumé.

She has all the fanciness and pizazz. For a 4-year-old, she’s really good.

Loren Franco, designer

This is actually Katiana’s second time at Fashion Week. She did her first show during the spring event, when few children were included in the shows. Katiana has technically been modeling since she was 10 months old, but this type of modeling is nothing like the adult kind.

Called “boutique modeling,” it’s often small designers – sometimes on Etsy.com or other online boutiques – who need models to wear their clothes in marketing photos. The boutiques send clothes to Upton – who in this industry is considered a “momtographer” – and she takes the photos.

“You turn the pictures in and you get to keep the outfit,” Upton says.

Moms often sell and trade the outfits, too.

And there’s no makeup or big hairdos involved, Upton says. Just a little Chapstick, Upton says. You can see Katiana’s photos on her Instagram account under her name.

Over the years, she’s done photos for about 1,000 small boutiques. Katiana has done a few professional gigs, too.

She’s giggling away in a photo the V&T Railroad in Carson City, Nev., uses on its website and brochure. She did a TV commercial for Little Tikes and will appear on the box for its turtle-shaped sandbox.

And she’s been in several children’s fashion magazines and is auditioning for commercials and movies.

The Fashion Week experience is opening doors. She’s already been invited to participate in Fashion Week in New York next year.

Despite all this excitement, Upton says Katiana is still a normal little girl. She likes glitter, swimming and ballet. A few weeks ago she hacked off a bunch of her own hair that used to be halfway down her back.

Upton says this lifestyle isn’t like what you see on TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras,” where girls in heavy makeup compete in beauty pageants.

“I don’t make her do it,” Upton says. “I’m not out looking for jobs. They’re coming to us.”

And when Katiana said she was tired of doing it while back, they stopped for a few months. But before long, she wanted to do “pretty play dress-up” again and they restarted.

And when Katiana, who is in transitional kindergarten, starts regular kindergarten, Upton says the modeling will probably have to slow down. But in the meantime, the pair are having fun.

“She’s being a kid,” Upton says. “She’s loving it.”

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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