When the trash heap leads to a career

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…and I don’t mean a career in sanitation. / Univision

Read this inspiring but sad story in the Wall Street Journal today about Daniela Cott, a Brazilian girl who not long ago made her living scavenging the trash piles of Buenos Aires.

Today, she is one of Argentina’s most talked-about new fashion models. Ms. Cott, now 15, recently defeated 1,000 other contestants to earn the right to represent Argentina this spring in the Elite Model Look final, a major competition for young models from around the globe. Elite Model Management is one of the world’s largest modeling agencies, and past pageant participants include Gisele Bündchen and Cindy Crawford.

Talk about rags to riches. Here’s how it happened:

Ms. Cott’s unlikely journey from cartonera, or trash scavenger, to model began one night in mid-2005, when a young woman on her way home noticed her carrying garbage. The woman, a necklace designer named Marina González Winkler, gave the trash picker some clothes, and the two became friends. Ms. González later took photos of Ms. Cott and sent them to a modeling agent.

Imagine that. Then think of the whiny little airheads on America’s Next Top Model, which I don’t mind telling you is at the top of my preferred list of saved shows on my TimeWarner™ DVR. All I can think while I watch (every single episode of) that show is that I would hate to work with an Eva Pigford. That, and how fab Tyra’s latest hair extensions look. And does that new Cover Girl™ foundation come in Amerasian?

Some of us really do need a hand taking that first step in our careers, whether they be in modeling, journalism or chicken sexing. And those who help us really are no less than angels.

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