The St. Louis girls have been luckier. "If I ever got to that point, my parents would notice," says Fogarty, who read the article. "I kind of pigged out last summer. Too much chocolate cake and not enough veggies. So I gained a couple of inches. Jeff and Mary measured me and said, 'If you want to, you can lose it.' They never yelled, 'You're fat!'"

The Clarkes recently took on a new client, a girl named Hilary Shanks from Ozark, Missouri, just outside Springfield. Jeff found her by scanning the listings on models.com. The evening before the scouting expedition, Shanks drove to St. Louis with her mother for a photo shoot to fill her modeling portfolio.

Shanks is eighteen and has green eyes, sculpted cheekbones and glowing skin. At the shoot, she molded her body to the photographer's direction as though she were made of Silly Putty. The Clarkes will be sending her to Miami. At the moment, she's about five pounds too curvy to work in New York.

Mary and Jeff Clarke. "We have a talent for spotting talent," says Mary.
Jennifer Silverberg
Mary and Jeff Clarke. "We have a talent for spotting talent," says Mary.
courtesy Mother Model Management

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Click on the photo for a slide show.
View photos of the girls in New York for Fashion Week.

"Yeah, I know," Mary says ruefully. "But Miami is more accepting. A fifteen-year-old is too young for swimsuits and lingerie, but an older girl is able to make her own choices."

The younger girls have been instructed to call their bookers if anything about an assignment makes them uncomfortable. McGrath once left a shoot that required her to wear a bikini. "They didn't let me know until the last minute," she explains.

"I was concerned," says her mother. "When she walked out, I thought, 'Well, that's the end of modeling for Cat.' But Jeff and Mary were good about saying she shouldn't do anything she's not comfortable with."

"I haven't had any problems," says Travers. "Most people know I'm young. My parents would say, 'You don't need this; you can do other things.' Unlike other models, I don't have to depend on this for food or college. There's no pressure on me to make money. I appreciate that."

Recently, some of Mary Clarke's models from her Iowa days set up a reunion group on Facebook. "It's so funny!" Mary exclaims. "They've posted pictures of me with big '80s hair! And some of them are married now, with kids. It's so strange."

The Clarkes have taken some of these girls into their home, bought them clothes and looked after them when they had problems with their parents. Modeling didn't work out for all of them, but Jeff and Mary don't see that as a reason to exclude them from their family.

"I just got a really nice e-mail the other day from this girl I knew back in Iowa," Mary says, leaning forward in her chair in the food court. "She wrote, 'You saved me.' Her name was Jenny Johnson. She was beautiful. She came from this small town in Iowa and all the other girls just hated her. They spray painted 'model bitch' on her driveway.

"She went to Paris and was working and doing well. But then something happened on a train. A man physically attacked her. She never told me the details. She'd just had it with modeling and wanted to come home. I met her plane. She was wearing Tasmanian Devil slippers, I remember. She was like a little girl. I held out my arms and I loved her. I just loved her."

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