Times Staff Writer

If Los Angeles fashion week has one face, it might belong to Caroline D’Amore. Over the course of her career, the 23-year-old has walked hundreds of runway shows in this town -- sometimes up to 14 a week -- and left an impression that’s hard to ignore. At 5-foot-9, with a mane of shoulder-length brown hair, D’Amore is recognizable even to those who’ve never heard her name.

Her distinctive gait -- catch it tomorrow night at the Heatherette show and at the Jenny Han show on Tuesday -- has helped. Part coltish gambol, part saucy hip swing, D’Amore’s stride is often accompanied by a shoulder roll that makes her seem more voluptuous than her rail-thin frame would otherwise suggest.

But you’ve seen her elsewhere too. Her sultry, heavy-lidded eyes and Mona Lisa half-smile have appeared in ads for Pellegrino water and Deere Colhoun handbags. Her skills at the turntables have laid down the vibe for local clubbers and party-goers. Her swimwear line recently debuted in Vegas, and she’s landed a handful of small roles in Hollywood.


No surprise, then, that in person, she carries herself with an effervescence and almost nervous energy that’s a sharp contrast to the practiced ennui of the average runway model.

Sitting upstairs at Mauro’s Cafe at Fred Segal’s Melrose outpost just hours before jetting to New York for an engagement party thrown by her future in-laws, D’Amore stabs her fork into a plate of rigatoni the size of a Cadillac hubcap and tries to explain how one of the four daughters raised by single dad and pizza parlor entrepreneur Joe D’Amore went from human coat hanger to Hollywood multihyphenate: model-actress-designer-DJ-restaurateur-writer.

“I knew from the time I could walk that I wanted to work,” she says, “that I wanted to be my own boss and do my own thing.”

D’Amore’s independence was born of necessity -- she was only 5 when her mother died (her mom’s signature is tattooed inside her left wrist) -- and has served her well, but fate also stepped in at the right moment. First, when she was discovered six years ago having dinner at Ago in Los Angeles and again on the streets of New York City, where she’d gone for what was supposed to be a brief visit.

She ended up staying for a year. At 17, she was appearing in Teen and Teen Vogue, walking the runway in New York for designers such as Diane von Furstenberg and learning a valuable lesson.

“You can get what you want if you act like there is no other option,” she says.

Perhaps that’s the key. It’s certainly what led her to become a DJ. When a producer called to find out if she knew “a hot-looking female DJ” for an event he was producing at the El Rey, she nominated herself. As soon as she put down the phone, she called a friend for advice, dropped five grand on equipment and taught herself just enough to get through the event.


Since then, being a DJ has come easy. Three seasons ago, D’Amore brought her skills at the turntable to the parties of L.A. Fashion Week, first by playing Louis Verdad’s after-party, and then taking her turntables on stage for a Meghan Fabulous show.

She’ll tell you that she prefers being a DJ to modeling because “it actually takes talent,” which might explain her eagerness to try any new venture. She launched a line of swimwear -- D’Amore by Marceau -- at the Las Vegas trade shows, and it’s scheduled to roll out next summer. (Her first line, a collection of tank tops called H. Starlet, hit the market five years ago.)

She says she plans to start a line of hemp bags, but one wonders if that’s possible, especially because she says she’s turning all her attention to acting. D’Amore recently appeared alongside Vincent Pastore, Talia Shire and Ronnie Marmo in “Pizza with Bullets,” a Mafioso-mozzarella romantic comedy involving a pizza parlor owner and a dying don.

Her role -- the girlfriend of pizza shop owner Johnny Casanova -- had a familiar feel for D’Amore, who in August opened a D’Amore’s Pizza restaurant with her younger sister Bonnie in Tarzana, eschewing the lure of Hollywood because she wanted to do it right.

“I wanted to have something cute with my sister,” she said. “And keep my dad’s legacy going and keep it in the family.”

She has also co-written a pair of movie scripts, one with her fiance filmmaker Matthew Ross. “One’s about a blackjack player, and the other one’s about a female DJ, go figure, right?”


Looking to the future, D’Amore says she’s focused “100%” on acting. “Not just acting -- filmmaking.” So does that mean what she really wants to do is direct?

“Are you kidding? That would be my dream.”