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Sister Models: Leila & Athena Katoanga

by Aida Toro

Photography by Shannon Sewell, Clothing by Forever 21, Fashion editorial styled by Tina Hernandez-Levine, Hair & Makeup by Alyssa Underwood

Working with your brother or sister can always be fun. Athena and Leila Katoanga are two, teen sisters that enjoy each other’s company when working on photo shoots.

“Leila and I have always done shoots and worked together since we started modeling,” said Athena. “I love working with my sister, she is my best friend, and we always have a good time.”

Athena is currently 15 and is known as the grand prize winner of Yolanda Hadid’s “Making a Model” show in 2018. She began modeling at 12 years old and was inspired to model by her mother, Diana Katoanga, who’s also a model. At the moment, she is represented by agencies Option in Portland and CESD in Los Angeles. Since she became the winner on “Making a Model”, Athena has geared more towards acting.

“I love reading the scripts I get and having the chance to walk in someone else’s shoes,” she said. “It’s really cool seeing behind the scenes and the process of it all...that’s probably my favorite part.”

Since Athena was a shy kid prior to pursuing modeling and acting, she has provided some tips that have worked for her throughout her journey:

"My advice for girls who are shy about getting into modeling and acting is to practice. Whether it’s in the mirror practicing facial expressions, different poses, or learning your angles, or having a friend or family member take photos of you. It sounds funny but will help you gain confidence in front of the camera so that way when you’re at a shoot it will be less nerve-wracking."

"I would recommend taking acting classes and to film yourself so you can go back and watch your tape. Initially it’s all practice. But if it is really important to you then you will have to learn to keep putting yourself out there even though it might be scary, and be able to take rejection. Rejection is very common and happens to the best, so just know that it’s not the end of the world. If anything it’s just one step closer to success."

Outside of modeling and acting, Athena has been taking the time to learn about photography.

“I enjoy it because it helps me be creative from a different perspective,” said Athena. “I also enjoy being around my family and friends, going on hikes, and spending time at the beach every chance I get.”

Leila began modeling at the age of ten. She is 13 years old and is represented by Option in Portland as well.

“I always looked up to Athena, so I decided to try it out,” said Leila. “We met with the agency together and we both got in.”

Leila said the first shoot she did with Athena was for Nordstrom, which she said was exciting since she was going to be shooting alongside her sister. Throughout the past three years, Leila mentioned she enjoys modeling for editorials because they are much more creative and fun for her. She’s done work for Google, Adidas, and so much more.

As she’s also a teen model, Leila balances school out perfectly.

“When I was in public school I was very lucky to have classmates that helped me catch up quickly,” she said. “To get homework done on the same day as a shoot, I would do it in the car or when we had a long, I am homeschooled, which is much more convenient!”

Outside of being a student and model, Leila enjoys being active as well as artistic, since she loves to sing, play volleyball, swim, act, and write.

You can show your fan love on Instagram for Athena @athenakatoanga and Leila @leilakatoanga today!

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