A 16-year-old Cinco Ranch High School cheerleader lassoed her dream of becoming a professional model and is now stomping local runways all the way to the top of Houston’s fashion industry.
KATY MAGAZINE | May 2018
By Sara Stephens
Kate Ober has always been in love with fashion. Last summer, she set out to turn that passion into a profession. There was only one place she could go to explore the next steps of her career journey: the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.
Kate was 16 years old at the time and a student at Cinco Ranch High School. A flight to New York was not something this high schooler could just pull out of a hat. That’s when her parents stepped in and scheduled a trip to the Big Apple. As Mom and Dad planned the excursion, which included a tour of FIT, they began to realize just how serious their daughter was about the fashion industry, and that’s when Mom began researching and emailing agency leaders to help Kate get her modeling career started. Today she is a professional model signed with well-respected Houston modeling agency, Neal Hamil.
To date, she’s walked the runway for Neiman Marcus, Saks, Tootsies, Runway Houston, Loro Piana, and Alice and Olivia. She’s also very excited about a recent photo shoot she did Weddings in Houston Magazine. “I can’t wait for everyone to see it!” Kate exclaims. Hers is a story so many girls would love to live, and it’s composed of many chapters.
From Softball to Cheer
Starting at around age 5, Kate played softball, inspired to do so by her best friend and cousin, Brooklyn Ober, and her older sister Kayla Ober, who happens to be big name in the softball circuit and currently plays with Texas A&M. Kate had begun gymnastics at an even earlier age, though, and by the time she was 9, decided to trade in her glove and bat for some cheer shoes after strong encouragement from her other best friend, Sarah Jeffries. Kate did competitive cheer at Prodigy All-Stars for six years and also cheered for her old brother as he played Katy Youth Football.
Cheer was now a big part of Kate’s life. She continued as a school cheerleader through her Junior High School years, and for her High School Freshman, Sophomore, and early Junior years. Then she stopped.
“I quit [cheer] in October of 2017 to continue to pursue my modeling career,” Kate explains. “The decision was very hard for me--Cinco Cheer was my family--but I knew it was time to take a step in a different direction for my life. I knew in my heart that modeling was something I really have wanted to do my whole life, and I wasn't going to let anything stop me.”
Thankfully, Kate’s “cheer family” took the news well. “They supported me 110 percent and told me to go for it!”
It’s this kind of support that has enabled Kate to follow her dreams, and the integrity of her support system is wide and rock-solid. “My closest loved ones all encourage me in their own individual ways,” Kate says. “They have no idea how much their support means to me.”
One of the strongest support beams in Kate’s life is her sister, Jaky. Eleven years Kate’s senior, Jaky acknowledges that the girls’ age difference did not really afford them a close relationship growing up. That all changed when Jaky became a mom at 20 and moved back home from college. Kate was 9 years old at the time. “She would help me with my son and became like another mom to him,” Jaky says. “Now we are best friends… I don't know what I would do without her. We talk about everything. She is an aunt to my three kids, and they adore her.”
It’s clear that Jaky is one of her sister’s biggest fans and supporters. “I am so proud of her and love watching her pursue something she loves. I think she has what it takes to be big. She has a dynamic look and walks the runway like she owns it,” she says.
The pride Jaky takes in her sister’s accomplishments ties closely with a sincere expression of respect for her younger sibling. Although she is a key part of Kate’s supporting foundation, Jaky has also learned a lesson or two from her sis. “Something I have learned from Kate is that, "you gotta do you." No matter what. People will always have an opinion. But at the end of the day, who cares! Pursue your wildest dreams. Stand up for what you believe in. Speak up. Be brave. She doesn't just preach this stuff, she lives it.”
As much as Jaky marvels at her Kate’s success, she also appreciates her sister’s potential in other areas. If Kate weren’t a model, Jaky says she could see her becoming a teacher, explaining that her sisters loves kids and excels at helping people by listening or offering advice. “She is dedicated to figuring out better ways to do things,” Jaky says. “For example, she has made a difference at her school by offering a solution to how her teacher (and other teachers instructing the same subject) could better prepare the class for the tests. The teacher welcomed her input and implemented Katie's suggestion. Because of her, the entire class is making better grades.”
Besides all the support, respect, and admiration, these sisters also have love, which, as Jaky describes it, goes all the way “to the moon and back.”
Encouragement from Coaches
Kate’s support system does not end at the front door. The matriarch of her Cinco Ranch “cheer family,” Loren Williamson, is equally impressed and supportive of the Katy teen. The Cinco Ranch High School Varsity Cheer Coach has watched Kate grow up from a junior high school student to the young lady now making a splash on the Houston fashion scene.
“Kate is a well-rounded and talented young lady who is very positive and outgoing,” Loren says. “She is always striving to do her best, and when she puts her mind to something, she will figure out a way to accomplish her goals.”
Loren expresses particular admiration for Kate’s initiative, noting that the junior’s modeling success really took off since she first submitted a headshot to modeling agencies. “Something she did out of the blue, not knowing what was to come, has turned into her biggest passion,” Loren says. “I am proud of her for continuing to pursue this new passion and dream.”
Kate’s former coach has nothing but the highest expectations for Kate, convinced that her modeling career is just getting started and will continue to develop. “I have no doubt that we will be seeing Kate on the biggest runways and billboards around, and I look forward to watching her on this exciting journey.
“I hope she will get into the college of her dreams and be able to continue her work in the modeling industry along with getting a solid college education,” Loren adds.
No doubt, Kate’s childhood and teen years have gifted her with the support to pursue whatever passion she chooses. The real question is, what fueled her past flipping through fashion magazines in admiration of the models and the clothes they wore to seeking a career in this fast and elusive industry?
A Demanding Profession
A modeling career is demanding for even the most balanced and driven adult model. One can only imagine the demands the profession places on a high school junior. Kate agrees that balancing her modeling with high school and cheer has been challenging, but not enough to keep her from her dream. She appreciates Neal Hamil’s help in finetuning this balance. “My agency is extremely supportive and understanding when it comes to putting school first,” she says.
What continues to propel her forward, though, is her deep love for fashion. Among her greatest inspirations is Olivier Rousteing, creative director at Balmain. “I love every little aspect that makes Balmain, Balmain,” Kate explains. “First, I'm in love with their clothing and totally wish I could afford anything they sell. I love the style of this brand probably more than any other. Their whole idea behind their clothing is to give men and women confidence and it does just that.”
The Confidence Key
Kate truly appreciates the value of confidence and the role this quality can play in shaping a person. It’s a lesson she’s learned in high school…”to be confident in my own skin,” she says.
“People are always going to talk and assume things about your life,” Kate continues, “but I must always remember my family and closest friends know what’s going on and they love and support me.”
The lessons continue as Kate navigates her early years in the modeling profession. Her understanding of her capabilities and limitations have changed since her pre-modeling days when a fear of failure interfered with her reaching for that brass ring. “My supporters pushed me towards this, and I'm so very grateful they did because I have realized my fears are invalid, and I need to remember failure is going to happen, but it only teaches you and shapes you for a better future.”
The real underpinning for true confidence, according to Kate, comes from staying true to yourself. This is the advice she would like to share with any young person interested in pursuing a career in modeling: “The world will always try to tell you to be this or that, but do not forget who you are as a person and what your values are in this life. Let no one stop you or limit you, and definitely don’t let your fears of failure get in the way!”
"My hope is in the Lord for where I go next.
Nothing is set in stone. It’s all up to him.”
- Kate Ober
Where the Runway Leads
Kate’s conviction for her future rings loud and clear. In five years, she hopes to have taken a bigger step in her modeling career by signing with a large agency somewhere else in the U.S. But she’s not afraid of this dream not being the one she’s meant to live past today.