Nalani Genser of Forestville, an incoming senior at Santa Rosa's Montgomery High School, is an aspiring model. Press Democrat photo by Jeff Kan Lee

By NATHAN HALVERSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Some teenagers, gifted with intellect and focus, can make adults look downright immature.
Nalani Genser, at 17, is one of those youthful iconoclasts.
The aspiring model pauses before answering a question. She backtracks out of an opinion, reassesses, and then proceeds to opine in a different direction if warranted.
Not only does she shed the stereotype that shrouds most teens, she downright tears the fabric off society’s view of fashion models.
In fact, this precocious Montgomery High School student has entered into the modeling profession with the sole purpose of evolving from it.
“People always ask me if I want to make a career of modeling. The answer is no,” Nalani said. “I see myself working on the business side of fashion.”
So it might come as no surprise that Nalani is a regular reader of the Wall Street Journal and the Economist, along with fashion blogs such as Lookbook.nu.
But even with her focus on the fashion business, she recognizes the futility of aspiring to a specific job this early in life.
“The fashion industry is so expansive. There are so many jobs, ones that I don’t even know exist,” she said. “I’m just learning everything I can right now.”
Nalani spends about 10 hours a week modeling, talking to agents and generally learning the business. Last week, she flew to New York City partly as a vacation and partly as a professional foray into the emerald city of fashion.
The young fashionista has a model’s physique, thin and tall, but her beauty is far from skin deep. She personifies the scientific fact that the brain burns more calories than any other part of the body.
Her grade point average is a whopping 4.6 because of academic commitments. She takes classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and is a member of the International Baccalaureate program, essentially an advanced placement course that is internationally recognized.
Thanks to her parents, Nalani has experienced cultures far beyond her birthplace in the family’s Forestville home.
During her freshman year, her parents decided to spend a year in Seville, Spain. She and her 13-year-old brother went along, and both initially enrolled in local schools. When Nalani learned her credits from Spain wouldn’t transfer back to her U.S. school, she taught herself at home.
“That gave me a lot more time to take a weekend trip to Paris or a week trip to Italy,” Nalani said with a laugh.
The cultural evolution was far from over when she left Spain. Her family headed to Africa, traveling to Uganda for three weeks of work at an orphanage.
“That was the most amazing experience of my life,” she said.
The emotive and accepting Ugandan culture was distinctively different from her Western roots, and she embraced it completely.
“The Ugandans have a mentality I wish could be spread more among the world,” she said.
This summer, Nalani was selected to work with Santa Rosa-based Tomorrow’s Leaders Today, which lets high school students get first-hand experience with local professionals and their industries.
As a board member, she got to work with adults who also serve on the board and to experience local professionals at work.
“That is really important to me,” she said.
Nalani is filing these experiences away, waiting to draw upon them when needed.
“When I find the perfect job, I’ll know it,” she said. “Right now, I don’t have a preset notion of what that is.”

You can reach Staff Writer Nathan Halverson at 703-1577 or nathan.halverson @pressdemocrat.com.

Nalani Genser

Age: 17
High School: Montgomery High, incoming senior
Lives with: Parents, Diane Ventre and Mitch Genser, and brother, Montag, 13
Passions: Fashion modeling, traveling, Spanish, knitting, sewing and exercising
Favorite publications: Wall Street Journal, Economist, Lookbook.nu
Job: Aspiring fashion model
Pet: Tippy (pointer mix)