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It looked like rain on Wednesday morning, which was lucky. That way no one needed to mourn the wholesome, outdoor summertime activities - bike rides, camping, swimming - forsaken by the 30-odd girls cooped up in a midtown Westin. They had convened for Modeling Camp, the $1,000, four-day boot camp that teaches girls ages 12 to 18 how to work their angles and a runway before sending them off with a portfolio of professional photos and an audience with casting directors.

Modeling Camp was founded (and is still directed) by former model and U.K. native Heather Cole in Virginia in 1996, to provide girls learning opportunities she wished she'd had before moving to New York and starting her career at age 18. She now puts on camps in seven cities. Cole said girls are more interested in modeling than ever before, something she attributes to America's Next Top Model.

 It's changed young women's perception of modeling from a long-shot job some girls were tapped for, unsuspectingly, at Disneyland or the airport, to a career in which women could achieve with hard work and passion, like the professionals competing on Top Chef or Project Runway.

 Like ANTM, Modeling Camp awards a prize based on photographs, runway walk, and a mock commercial, and puts all campers in front of casting agents from Ford, Wilhelmina, and Elite. But Cole thinks the program offers valuable lessons to young women, regardless of whether they make it in the industry, such as interview skills and self-presentation. "I always say, you can go to space camp without thinking you're going to be an astronaut," she told me.

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