There’s beauty and brain power everywhere you look on the floor of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in downtown Detroit – and much of it’s Michigan made! More than 750 cars are on display (now through January 25, 2015, at Cobo Center), and they’re all dazzling – just like the models seen standing beside them. Auto show models and product specialists have a long history of adding that extra sizzle, glitz and flair to the cars, but make no mistake – they add more than just beauty to the displays. A great deal of studying and preparation is part of their job (which, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, can earn them up to $1,000 a day), and they’re extremely knowledgeable about the cars they’re showing off.
“You have to be well educated to do all of this and speak professionally,” says Dustin Crawford, a product specialist for Lincoln, who’s dressed in a sharp, gray suit. Crawford, who grew up just outside Ann Arbor, travels with the company from show to show. His training included test-driving numerous vehicles and attending a week’s worth of classes. In addition, he must constantly stay up to date on automotive information. This is his second year at NAIAS.
“We are the face of the brand. We are the first people customers will talk to about many of the cars,” he says. “I love to talk to people and meet people from around the world. You hear a lot of stories about how people had a Lincoln from generation to generation. It’s just fun to interact, share information and learn.”
When he’s not working the show floor, Crawford is busy getting set to launch his own start-up. The website, called Fame This, is designed to help models, actors, singers and others get discovered. He says the site will go live soon, and it may even help people land auto show jobs in the future.
Across the room, model and visual artist Tombi Stewart of Detroit turned heads while representing the Motor City in a sleek, black A-line dress. A year ago, she appeared in a five-page spread in Vogue magazine with luxury watchmaker, Shinola. The ad also featured her heartfelt quote, “Detroit is magical. It’s a little bit of everything. It’s contemporary. It’s vintage. It’s artsy. It’s rock ‘n’ roll. Sometimes pretty, sometimes gritty. It’s musical. It’s uplifting. It’s my city, and I love it.”
Stewart says she also loves what the auto show represents for Detroit. This year, more than 5,000 journalists from 60 countries around the world attended the media preview. Opening weekend drew more than 215,800 car enthusiasts.
“It’s good for people to get a firsthand view of the city instead of listening to others,” she says. “You see so many people investing in the city and the neighborhoods now, the rebirth of businesses, the revitalization of buildings, urban gardens, artists, murals. We have some world-class talent here.”
Christina Noelle, another model who was born and raised in Detroit, struck an impressive pose over at Audi. The University of Michigan graduate says her parents and friends like to visit her at the show and see her in action.
Andi Slick Lippitt drives an hour each way to and from Metamora to work for Maserati. The Italian luxury auto manufacturer has a silver Alfieri concept car on display that’s simply out of this world.
“I love talking about the cars and getting people excited about the products,” she says. “It’s a lot easier when I’m standing next to a Maserati.”
Lippitt’s grandfather used to own a GMC dealership. She says she’s been around cars all her life.
“I changed my own rotors and brake pads when I drove a Chevy,” she explains.
Lippitt has also served as a hostess for Mercedes, greeting guests at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. When she worked for Infiniti, she was required to give presentations every 15 minutes.
“I was terrified of public speaking,” she says. “But I wanted to push myself and see if I could do it.”
She did. This past fall, Lippitt also worked for GMC during the Monday Night Football Tour (which kicked off in Detroit), which featured the NFL tailgate experience, player autographs and more.
“I think Detroit is beautiful,” Lippitt says.
No doubt, the city is even more beautiful when NAIAS is in town – the models of the Motor City help, too.
It’s not too late to check out the North American International Auto Show in downtown Detroit! Tickets are $13 for adults, $7 for children (ages 7–12) and seniors (ages 65+). Children ages 6 and under get in free. Hours are 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Saturday, January 24, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 25. For more information, go to www.NAIAS.com.