Newtonians browsing the Hallmark holiday Web site might just stumble across a familiar face.


This story first appeared in the Nov. 18 edition of the Kansan.

Newtonians browsing the Hallmark holiday Web site might just stumble across a familiar face.

Eight-year-old Erica Diaz of Newton is featured on the company’s Web site under the holiday section for Gold Crown Stores. She’s also featured on holiday signage and in-store catalogs in Hallmark stores across the country, including those in Wichita.

Erica has been modeling since she was 6, working through Wichita agency Models and Images.

Erica said she “just kind of wanted” to start modeling, so her mom contacted Models and Images. Erica started taking classes at the agency and participating in graduation shows each year at the Orpheum Theatre in Wichita.

Jane Diaz, Erica’s mother, said the events are runway shows that serve as fund-raisers. Scouts are there, but most are interested in older models, Jane said.

Erica said she enjoyed being on the runway, especially since each year has a theme, such as Monster Mash or a birthday party.

“My first time, I was kind of nervous, but then it was OK,” Erica said.

Diaz said Erica’s modeling work is sporadic. So far, besides the Hallmark job, Erica had two photo shoots for Coleman, and she will be featured on air mattress boxes in Target stores beginning in February. She also was featured in a Bonnie Bing fashion show at the Old Historical Museum in Wichita last winter.

The modeling jobs are coordinated through Models and Images. Jane said with the Hallmark job, Erica went to two separate shoots. At the first shoot, Jane said most of the models had worked for Hallmark in the past.

“I didn’t get my hopes up,” Jane said, and when the shoot was over, they didn’t know whether Erica’s pictures would ever see the light of day. It was a Christmas-themed shoot, so Jane and Erica would check online and in Hallmark stores to see if any of the pictures were being used.

In early October, they spotted Erica’s picture at a Wichita Hallmark store. Jane said Erica walked around a corner and said, “Mom, there’s my picture.”

In early November, Erica’s photo appeared on the company’s Web site.

Some of Erica’s relatives in places like Miami and Washington, D.C., have gone into stores and seen the displays, as well. Jane asked some of the Wichita stores if she could keep the displays when the holidays are over.

Erica is hoping to stay in the modeling world, but Jane said it’s hard in the Midwest because many of the larger children’s companies and agencies aren’t in close proximity.

Her mom said they plan on attending an Actors, Models and Talent Competition event in Florida. Jane said the event will have plenty of scouts, some of which are representatives for kids’ agencies or industries.

Erica has family in Miami, which mom says would make it more doable if Erica were to get booked to a bigger agency in that area, such as Wilhelmina Models. Jane said other large markets “aren’t really doable” because of the traveling required.

Jane said she doesn’t worry too much about Erica’s modeling. Jane is with her daughter all the time at photo shoots, and Jane said she gets input into what photos are used.

“It’s worth it for the time being if she’s enjoying it,” Jane said.

But modeling isn’t the only thing Erica enjoys. The second grader at Newton Bible Christian School also likes karate, swimming and playing with friends. She’s a big fan of soccer, tag and pretty much any outside activity, she said. At school, she’s a fan of art — and recess.