AT 16, ANDREA CARTER didn't consider herself attractive She thought she was too tall, her eyes were too small and her hair wasn't thick enough.
"In school I was taller than everybody, especially the guys," she said. "I always had a complex about not dating guys who were shorter, so I wouldn't date. I was just into my school work."
But as mothers have pleaded for generations with their teen-age daughters who sit at home alone on Saturday nights: just give it time.
Today, at age 22 the Baltimore native is a model with the Ebony Fashion Fair tour, which comes to Baltimore Sunday, Oct. 14, at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
This is the 33rd year for the traveling fashion show, which began in Matteson, Ill., on Sept. 12, and will travel to more than 200 cities over nine months.
Traveling on the fashion tour may seem glamorous since the models get to wear the most expensive designer gowns, furs and opulent jewelry. Carter agrees that it's glamorous, but says the schedule, which includes weeks at a time of working in a different city every night, can be grueling.
The models are usually up early every morning to pack their overnight bags and get aboard a chartered bus by 8 a.m. that takes them to the next city on the schedule.
After checking into a hotel, the models generally have a few hours on their own for shopping, sight-seeing or just resting before rehearsal, which usually lasts from 5 to 7 p.m.
The show usually runs from 8 to 10:30 p.m.; that's two and a half hours spent in high heels, making mad --es to change clothes before running back on stage looking relaxed and sleek with every hair in place. Sometimes the local group sponsoring the show will have a reception. If not, it's usually back to the hotel room for a good night's sleep before boarding the bus in the morning, Carter said.
Generally, they're off on Mondays. If the schedule allows, after a Sunday night show they will stay in a city until Tuesday morning before leaving for the next city. Carter said the models love such extended visits because it means they get to sleep late on Mondays.
Although the show basically remains the same from city to city, it's important to rehearse so the models can get used to each new stage. Some shows are held in auditoriums with runways, some without. Rehearsing is also important for safety, she notes. A high heel caught in a carpet hole could cause a model to trip, possibly causing injury and certainly interrupting the show.
Being on the road constantly makes it difficult to maintain a gooexercise routine and healthy diet; two important things for looking good, especially in a show known for its skimpy swimwear. The models tend to eat at fast food restaurants. Exercise is an early morning jog or aerobics in their hotel rooms, she said.
Carter, 5-feet-10 inches tall, said she has a high metabolism rate and so she doesn't have to worry about her weight going over her ideal of 130 pounds, regardless of what she eats. However, she is trying to improve her diet and exercise regime to help her stay healthy and looking good.
But, in a telephone interview from Hartford, Conn. last week, she said she will probably eat anything her mother puts in front of her when she returns home for a visit during the fashion show's stop in Baltimore. By then she will have been on the road for a month -- the longest she has ever been away from home, and she admits to a touch of home sickness.
A native of the Cherry Hill neighborhood in Baltimore City, she moved with her family to Cedonia in Baltimore County when she was about eight years old. Her family includes her mother,
Deborah Carter, her stepfather, Leroy Geddis, and two older sisters and a younger brother.
She studied data processing at Eastern Vocational Technical High School in Baltimore County, and attended the Community College of Baltimore for a year. Her last job involved processing claims for Maryland Casualty Insurance Co. while she modeled part time.
Her modeling career began as a teen-ager when people suggested that her tall, slim figure made her perfect for modeling. She trained through the Travis Winkey and John Casablancas model agencies in Baltimore.
She applied to become an Ebony Fashion Fair model last year and was accepted after three interviews. She says the Ebony show is great for exposure and teaching her some of the fine points of runway modeling.
Since most Ebony models only stay with the show for one year, she hopes to continue her career in New York and take some acting classes. She would eventually like to become an actress.
While she describes herself as "shy and quiet," she appears bold and aggressive when sashaying down the runway, she said.
Carter admits that her new life is quite a contrast with from hehigh school days when she worried about her looks. "I'm think I'm fairly pretty now," she said. "Not beautiful, or gorgeous or anything like that."
* The Ebony Fashion Fair comes to Baltimore Sunday, Oct. 14, a the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. For ticket information, call 298-7378. In Baltimore, the show is sponsored by the Baltimore Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a public-service organization. Proceeds from the fashion show will benefit the sorority's education fund. The show is produced by Johnson Publishing Co. of Chicago, which publishes Ebony, EM and Jet magazines and produces Fashion Fair cosmetics.