For her 12th birthday, Lily Penny wanted to go to Busch Gardens. But she was willing to postpone it for a day to spend the afternoon modeling for her first magazine shoot.
She made time for Ocala Style, even though just one month before she had been on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, walking for five different designers. Right after she returned from the Big Apple, she was invited back to walk in the fall fashion shows, and she was just cast for Paris Fashion Week in June.
USA Miss Nature Coast PreTeen is just as comfortable in her Dunnellon backyard as she is rubbing elbows with the world’s top models, equally confident in stilettoes and an evening gown as the camouflage she wears to go hunting with her dad.
Between photos, Lily shows off her archery prowess, sinking one arrow after the next into the target. Even in dress clothes, the karate moves she demonstrates are impressive—she tells us she was the only 11 year old at her karate school to earn her black belt.
“Karate and modeling both have beauty to them,” says the uncommonly wise sixth-grader. “Modeling isn’t where you go and show your gi and your belt, but you show your talent and what you can do and all your strengths. Both make me feel confident.”
The proudest moments for her dad, Kenny, are when he sees her have what he calls an “I got it” moment.
“That moment when it’s just right gives me that little smile, and it was all worth it,” he says. “Seeing her proud of herself makes me proud of her.”
“She’s competing with herself,” explains her mom, Allison. “She’s all business when it’s time to work,” she says, adding that Lily has acted in both a web series and a music video.
Her parents believe it’s important for Lily to be well-rounded.
“We want to give her the opportunity to have seen and done a lot of things,” Allison says.
This year Lily added another activity—cheerleading for the Hernando Leopards youth football team, which was just another winning endeavor for her; the new squad won first place in competition.
Lily’s explanation is simple: “I like competition. I like not doing just one thing so I don’t get bored.”
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