April 3, 2014 at 4:13 PM ET
Lyndsey Scott relies on both her brains and her beauty for a living, drawing as much attention for her coding skills as the couture she wears on fashion runways.
“It’s unreal how much attention I’ve received but I realize it’s a combination that people find interesting,” she told TODAY.com. "I wanted my careers to mesh in some way but I never expected to get the press I’ve had so far."
The 29-year-old model, who got her big break five years ago on the Calvin Klein runway during New York Fashion Week, has been a computer programmer since middle school. That's when she learned she could use her TI-89 graphing calculator to create games. Today, four of the apps she created are carried by the Apple Store, including one released this week — Code Made Cool — as a supplement to her photo spread in the May issue of ASOS magazine.
The iPhone app is a game that helps teach code, through a drag-and-drop system, and allows users to create fantasy scenarios with Ryan Gosling. Scott said she specifically made the app geared for ASOS readers, who are primarily young females.
“I think it’s terribly important that more girls get involved in computer science because there are very few of them going into it right now,” she said, noting that female programmers who are ethnic minorities like her are especially rare. Scott said that part of the reason young girls look elsewhere is because of the stigma attached to being smart.
“I’ve seen articles where people call me ‘beauty and the geek’ — or just geek or nerd, which is fine if that means they’re calling me intelligent. I’ll take it as a compliment,” she said. “But when I was a kid, I didn’t want anything to do with being a nerd. I think it’s hard to get girls involved if we keep telling them that this isn’t something cool to do.”
As a theater and computer science major in college, Scott thought she would become an actor upon graduation. Friends convinced her to give modeling a try but she got rejected by every New York agency she met with. It wasn't until she posted pictures of herself on Models.com that she got noticed and signed to her first agency.
She has since gone on to model for Victoria's Secret, Prada and Gucci, among many other brands, but Scott knows the fashion industry can be finicky, especially for someone who looks like her.
“There’s a limit to the number of black girls that agencies are willing to put on their board at any given time,” she said. "Agencies are upfront. They'll often be honest and say, ‘We’re only accepting one or two black girls per show,’ but with computer programming, it has never been that overt. I’ve been a fairly solitary programmer when I work on my apps so I haven’t faced any limitations based on my color or gender.”
Scott hopes she doesn't ever have to narrow her career choices to one. She wants to continue modeling and acting as long as possible because they allow her to disappear into different characters.
"I’ve always loved doing that. I like that sort of creativity, but I also love the creativity I’m able to express as I’m doing my programming and my apps," she said. "I feel comfortable in all of those roles. I like having that variety and being able to switch between those roles."
The key advantage programming provides over modeling, however, is control.
"In modeling, I have so little control over my job opportunities, over my agencies, so it's nice to have that ability where I have complete control over the programs I create," she said. "So I like having the counterbalance between having modeling and acting on one side and programming on the other. It's something I want to keep."