More than skin deep Achiever: Finalist in Seventeen magazine's New Model Contest is also a superior student and athlete.

July 02, 1998|By Young Chang | Young Chang,SUN STAFF

Hannah Borum took a moment from her life last February to fill out a little card. She threw it into an envelope with a school mug shot and a picture from camp and sent it to Seventeen magazine and Chanel's "New Model of the Year Contest."

Soon after, with more pressing things on her mind, like a 4.053 GPA to maintain, junior varsity lacrosse and volleyball teams to lead to victory, Sunday dinners with family and violin performances with the school orchestra, Hannah did what any other 15-year-old model-wannabe would do: She forgot all about it.

Until one May afternoon. "From inside the house, I heard a scream," says Hannah's aunt, Marcia Thomas of Severn. Hannah had just received a letter qualifying her as one of 100 finalists from 20,000 entries in Seventeen's contest.

Five weeks later, "Seventeen called, and they were like, 'Hannah, this is Seventeen, we just called to con-.' All I heard was 'con,' and I started screaming," says Hannah.

She screamed for two hours, according to Aunt Marcia, and knocked down her Uncle Wallace Thomas twice, because now she was one out of eight finalists.

One out of eight with that "Seventeen look, a fresh new modern look," says Seventeen Model Editor Hillary Boylan. One out of eight with "a sense of self-esteem that comes through in the photo," adds the magazine's merchandising manager, Jennifer Shapiro.

One out of eight out of 20,000.

Sure you can be smart, athletic and beautiful at the same time, but as beautiful as one out of eight out of 20,000 beautiful?

"Miss Hannah is something else," Aunt Marcia says. "She is a can-do woman, she is a Borum woman she can do anything."

It certainly does seem so:

She learned violin at age 9, and one year later won second place at the Maryland State Music Teachers' Association competition. She took a Mathematics and Verbal Talent Search exam administered by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth and scored in the top 33 percent. She was the star of McDonogh School's junior varsity volleyball and lacrosse teams as a freshman and looks forward to playing on the varsity teams next year.

Aunt Marcia, with whom she's lived for the past six years, has a saying: "If you don't want to, I understand, but never say you can't. I don't care if you're a ditch-digger, be the best ditch-digger you can be."

For Hannah, who re-read her entire physics book before a final, even re-read George Orwell's "Animal Farm" to make sure she understood the concept of totalitarianism for a history final, the saying seems to have stuck.

"Hannah is a very articulate, capable, conscientious student a student who's capable of asking the perceptive questions," says her history teacher, Jeffrey Sanborn. "She can conceptualize."

"Nobody demanded all A's of her," says Aunt Marcia, "but she's hard on herself." And at a competitive school like McDonogh, a college preparatory school where entrance exams must be taken, where the tennis teams have been undefeated champions for 17 years, where, for starters, 21 tennis courts, a football stadium and four basketball courts are spread across 800 acres, it's tough not to be hard on yourself.

Fortunately, she has a family that spoils her, a family that'll "pop" her head for her when it gets too "huge." "But she's not spoiled rotten," says Aunt Marcia, "because as much as she's given on this side, she's given limitations on the other."

When Hannah was born, her father left the family because "he wasn't ready to be a father," Hannah says. Growing up, she spent Wednesdays with Aunt Marcia and Uncle Thomas; that gradually became a six-year stay with summer-long visits to her mom's house. This fall, Hannah will move to Columbia with her mom.

Hannah talks about family whenever she can. She refers constantly to an Uncle Andrew who's in Italy right now playing the violin. She is "great friends" with her mom, and tries not to call her "mom" when they're out in public because she likes it when people mistake them as friends. She brings out family photos, pointing out an Aunt Melinda, Aunt Mona, Uncle Mark, cousins Collin and Sydney, and explaining each scenario: Christmas morning at Grandma's house, Aunt Marcia's birthday, family day at Renaissance Park.

But as loving and indulging as her family may be, they are strict. "School comes first," says Aunt Marcia, repeating it for HTC emphasis: "School comes first."

And even though Hannah understands this, even though she's determined to attend Columbia University one day, even though she can probably choose a major and career in anything from music to psychology, she still wants to model professionally.

"I'll get to meet a lot of people, travel, and I like the camera," she says. "I love attention, too. It's not the money, and I don't even want to be famous, but it's, like, my dream." A dream that may follow the careers of Niki Taylor, Tyra Banks and countless other top models also spotted through Seventeen's contest. A dream that Hannah is determined to live, whether or not she wins.

"If I win, hopefully I'll get to model since professional model agencies are going to be there and if I don't, it's not gonna be a big deal because I'll still be in the magazine," she says. Which translates into a hope that agencies will spot her anyway during the final leg of the contest, a four-day stay in New York City for all eight finalists beginning July 12.

But still, as someone who's typically hard on herself, she'd like to win. Even though she's never taken modeling classes (she doesn't understand how you can "teach someone to be pretty"), she wants to be the one out of eight out of 20,000 that wins, "real bad."

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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