New to Nashville: Model’s experience in Fargo helps launch career

By Anna G. Larson / The Forum Kelli Hanson moved to Nashville a few months ago, but she never left West Acres mall. "I'm most proud to be in the Fargo store. It's home to me," Kelli says from her new place in east Nashville. About a year ago, whi...

Kelli Hanson
Kelli Hanson, 26, recently moved to Nashville to pursue her modeling career. The Fargo woman is featured in Aeropostale’s fall campaign and also appears in country musician Tyler Farr’s music video for “Guy Walks into a Bar.” Special to The Forum

By Anna G. Larson / The Forum

 Kelli Hanson moved to Nashville a few months ago, but she never left West Acres mall.

“I’m most proud to be in the Fargo store. It’s home to me,” Kelli says from her new place in east Nashville.

About a year ago, while still living in Fargo, Kelli started promoting her makeup, styling, modeling and photography skills by regularly posting to her Instagram account, @kelliraehanson.

Through the social media platform, she became friends with a group of photographers, models and stylists who pitched a 6,000-mile cross-country RV trip to Aéropostale, an American teen and 20-something retailer.


Stopping for photo shoots in Texas, White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, Seattle and other cities, Kelli and her team produced the images Aéropostale used for its fall campaign.

The company is working toward rebranding to appeal to a wider demographic. That’s probably why they were so open to a nontraditional way of shooting the campaign, Kelli says.

“I was basically the mama wolf making sure the models were taken care of, and I did makeup, styling, image creating and modeled,” she says. “I had no idea I’d be in the front of the store and on the gift card. I just wanted to do a great job.”

Her parents, Chad and Julia Hanson, were surprised she was in front of the camera rather than behind the scenes.

“It is such a surreal feeling knowing that her photos are in malls across the U.S. It’s strange having her be so recognizable. However, it doesn’t completely surprise us because she has a unique look about her,” her dad says. “Kelli has always been focused and knows what she likes. She has a sense of style that we have really enjoyed watching take shape.”

As a child growing up in Detroit Lakes, Minn., Kelli told her parents she wanted to be “unique and creative” when she grew up.

“I always wanted my kids to figure out their passion, work hard, and success will come,” Julia says. “We hope she can not only model but build on it with other aspects in the industry where she can help others.”

Kelli’s three-year job as a makeup artist at Sephora in Fargo prepared her for the modeling and styling she’s doing now. Working in retail, she says, taught her to be more outgoing. Today, she’s not afraid to talk to Jack White of the White Stripes or other actors and musicians when she sees them at her local coffee shop.


“Anyone can do what I do; you just have to work hard and be brave. Be willing to risk everything you have for what you want out of life,” she says. “You might never be the best, but you can always be the hardest-working person in the room.”

When the Aéropostale campaign wrapped this summer, Kelli visited Nashville on a whim, booking a plane ticket the night before she left. She fell in love with the city and returned to Fargo a week later to pack up her car and move.

She’s glad she did.

Within weeks of living in the country-music capital, Kelli was cast as the female lead in country musician Tyler Farr’s video ( click to watch ) for “A Guy Walks Into a Bar,” and she appeared as an extra on the Oct. 22 episode of ABC’s “Nashville.”

She also recently signed with Nashville-based AMAX Talent and Creative Management.

“It’s a city where you don’t have to start at the bottom,” Kelli says. “If you come here and you want to be something, you can be it. It’s all about networking.”

Her business degree at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead is on hold while she pursues modeling, but she says she’ll return to the Fargo-Moorhead area.

“Sometimes people notice my accent and say, ‘Oh, that’s so Fargo.’ Yeah, it is so Fargo, and that’s home. I’ll be back,” she says. “I’m just riding this wave, and I have no idea what I’m doing, but I don’t want to stop.”


 Instead of helping people find lipstick at Sephora, the 26-year-old model is pictured 9-feet high in the Aéropostale store here and in others across the U.S.

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