Autumn Greco is a former model from New York and currently a bioengineering major at Stanford University. We sat down with her to learn how her modeling career led her to STEM research opportunities and how she combines her interests in fashion and STEM. We sat at West~bourne Cafe in Soho over tea and an afternoon snack. Autumn shared with us the challenges she has faced as a first generation college student, and how she navigates such experiences. To Autumn, being powerful is uplifting others and breaking barriers to reach your maximum potential.
Autumn, how did you get your start in modeling?
When I was a kid, I always wanted to be on TV. When I was seven, I would tell my mom, I wanted to be the girl on the show. It wasn’t possible at the time because I had a younger sister who was 3 and logistically it was too difficult, but when I was 9, we submitted photos to an agency. My parents allowed me to sign with Wilhelmina, and I got some TV and modeling jobs. Modeling quickly became a big part of my life in middle school and high school. But I was also really academically driven and loved science. A lot of other models I knew were moving to Los Angeles and doing online high school. I realized I could do what a lot of my peers were doing, but I decided to go to high school and stay engaged. I worked hard to maintain my modeling contacts to continue keeping it going on top of school.
When did you start to combine your interests in fashion and STEM?
It was a series of some lucky events. When was in 11th grade I saw this posting for a Teen Vogue online page for teens interested in science. I had won a sweepstakes with Teen Vogue before, by chance, which allowed me to meet several employees there and learn more about their It Girl community. I was in the Facebook group where I saw the post about science. I submitted and was selected to go to D.C. and attend this women for science event, so I started looking into careers in science. I asked one of the women if she had any internships in her lab. I didn’t want to get too excited, but she happened to reply, and she has been a great mentor since. I was able to go to Wisconsin and spend a week in her lab. I was really motivated to find more opportunities like it. I found a research program in upstate New York, and I was able to do a full independent research experience the summer going into senior year of high school. That was all in the summer before senior year. Those were incredibly formative experiences for me and informed what I wanted to do in college. I was surrounded by people really motivating me. Now one of my good friends from this program is now my best friend in college today. That’s how I feel about what I’m doing now. My modeling career led me to Teen Vogue which ultimately led me to more professional opportunities in STEM and pursuing Bioengineering in college.
Do you still model while in college?
Modeling started to fall off in college. I wasn’t in town over the summers because I was doing research. I have been working to stay connected with the fashion industry. Today brands are recognizing that consumers care about where their clothes are made and the values of the company. Brands have to be more values driven, so I try to do collaborations with brands that involve both modeling and high impact women across multiple fields.
Did your parents encourage modeling or science?
No, my parents were ok with me modeling because they thought I would learn how to manage my time and develop professional skills. I also wasn’t forced into science. I didn’t just want to do what my parents want to do. I didn’t have people at home guiding me into career paths. Being free of such expectations at home has helped me find spaces that are meaningful to me. Mentorship has also helped me find opportunities.
What was your biggest takeaway or learning experience from modeling?
I think there are a lot of positives to modeling: the professionalism that I gained; how do I pitch myself; how to start a conversation in a room when people are all older than me. I would bring my full self into this room. Other people would have more modeling-centric answers and I was always interested in other things and for some brands that really stuck and I keep in contact with those people. Some brands really care who they are working with. There is definitely a dark side to modeling, but I gained a lot of skills that help today with anything I want to do.
Did you like growing up in New York City?
Yes! I love New York, it’s still my favorite city I have been to. There are so many different non-profit opportunities. A lot of people doing work to give back. I worked with Built by Girls and it connected me to Amanda Parks, a fashion scientist. There are so many unique people to meet in this city. Here in New York City you will find one industry and so much more. People are doing crazy, bizarre things and jobs.
Do you have a favorite modeling experience?
Yes! I was in this Microsoft shoot, and it was about coming into school ready and prepared and having that school setting was fun. The people on the set were really engaged and also showed the models a lot of what was happening on the technical front of the shoot. I also loved modeling for Bloomingdale’s in middle school. They took photos and videos as we ran around and ate ice cream. I definitely miss that. I just ran around with super cool clothes on.
Do you miss modeling?
As a kid in middle school, you’re not thinking about this sustainable career. Sometimes I think what if I had stayed modeling, but I think I made the right choice. Someone told me recently that doors don’t close; they are just harder to open. It’s still there, but you have to think more about what effort and change do you need to put in to get the better outcome you want. As I go into senior year job recruiting, I don’t want to narrow myself into anything too much. I think there is a lot of pressure to rush to what you should be doing in your career, which doesn’t always feel right.
What is your favorite science experience?
I’m a bioengineering major. What I really like about it is that a lot of our courses are really hands on and group driven. I have become really interested in bio design, and applying human design to devices and how to use them. We are taking this course where we receive a need from a hospital and build a product that they need. Those are my favorite experiences. I love working with a team and making an impact.