Victoria Secret supermodel rewrites stereotypes as a self-taught programmer
At least, those are the stereotypes.
So what will the world make of Lyndsey Scott, a model for Prada and Victoria’s Secret, who spends her spare time building mobile apps? The 29-year-old has appeared in major magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, W and British Vogue, but seems more proud of getting her iPhone and iPad apps approved by Apple.
“With modeling, you never have control over anything,” Scott told CNN. “So being able to have complete power with these apps I develop is very fulfilling.”
Scott has built several apps for iOS platforms. Two are currently sold in the Apple store, and she’s preparing to release a social networking app in coming weeks.
Before the self-taught programmer began modeling for high-end designers like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Fendi and Vera Wang, she was an undiscovered New Jersey teen who loved playing calculator games.
In high school, she taught herself the software documentation and quickly learned how to program on her TI-89 calculator.
“I didn’t realize I was even coding at that point,” Scott said. “I first got into it just to make fun games and entertain myself.”
Her game-coding skills didn’t score her many points with her classmates, however. The 5-foot-9-inch model said she was a late bloomer and that growing up “is still hard to talk about” because of the bullying and taunting she endured.
“It got so bad in high school I couldn’t even look people in the face,” Scott said. “I would hide out in school so I wouldn’t have to eat lunch in the cafeteria or see people in between classes.”
At Amherst College, Scott learned coding languages Java, C++ and MIPS while majoring in theater and computer science. But instead of pursuing a programming career, she plunged into modeling.
She got her big modeling break in 2009 when she became the first African-American to land an exclusive contract with Calvin Klein for New York Fashion Week.
“It happened at a time when there was no interest in me as a model,” she said. “I always dreamed of it, but I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was beyond surprised.”
That same year Scott was chosen for one of the year’s most coveted fashion shows: Victoria’s Secret. She said she was “shocked and honored” to join a lineup of supermodels including Heidi Klum, Miranda Kerr and Alessandra Ambrosio.
Meanwhile, she continued challenging expectations by teaching herself how to program Python and Objective-C.
“I think a lot of models thought I was strange having a computer on my lap in the middle of a casting line,” Scott said. “I never really talked about programming in the modeling business. I kept the worlds very divided.”
Scott’s first iOS app was a charity-based project aimed at helping young scholars in Uganda. The app, Educate!, finds sponsors for Ugandan students and guides them toward becoming leaders and entrepreneurs.
“I learned about Educate! in college. It was an organization founded by two Amherst students. When I found out that Uganda has the youngest population in the world and the highest youth poverty rate, I wanted to get involved,” she said.
“It was rejected (by Apple) a few times. I had a big battle with Apple, going back and forth, so it was a huge relief when it finally passed.”
She has since developed several more applications, including iPort, which helps models and other creative types organize their professional portfolios on an iPad.
“I noticed so many models were using iPads to show casting directors their work, but it looked messy and didn’t have a nice interface,” Scott said. “So I made iPort as similar functionally as an actual portfolio but much more convenient.”
Her brother, Matthew, is one of her biggest fans.
“Lyndsey is a mix of Bill Gates and Giselle (Bundchen),” said Matthew Scott. “She combines her passion for modeling and passion of coding to help improve our world.”
Last month, Scott visited a middle school in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood to speak with students interested in computer programming.
“We have this idea of people in technology being and looking a certain way,” she said. “That stereotype is destructive, and I think that’s part of the reason why female and minority programmers are so few.”
Scott said computer coding has now become a second professional life for her. She has plans for many more apps, and wants to learn coding for Android as well.
The young dual-career woman would never have called herself a nerd while growing up because she saw it as a hurtful word at the time.
“But now that I’m older, if it means being smart and having interests like computer science, then I have no problem being a nerd,” she said.
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