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  • Amy Guilford

From the City of Two Rivers to the Big Apple

Local twins share their once in a lifetime experience.

Erin and Alyssa Hengesbach have always been best friends. Born just twenty-eight minutes apart, they are rarely seen separately. While sitting with the identical twins at our local Biggby, it was easy to observe that their similarities run much deeper than their physical characteristics. The self-proclaimed “quiet and boring” women smiled shyly and finished each other’s sentences as they spoke about their childhood and interests. They giggled as they explained their picky eating habits and disagreed only when they debated whether the Lakers or Bulls are the greatest NBA team.

Avid sports fans and lifelong residents of Portland, they can often be seen supporting their alma mater at various PHS athletic events. Their love for nature and travel are apparent as they talk about what makes them happy. They spend as much time outdoors as possible and enjoy rollerblading, kayaking and hiking. Their passion for travel and baseball has taken them to forty-one states and twenty-two major league baseball stadiums.

One of their regular travel adventures for the past six years has been to Twinsburg, Ohio for the annual Twinfest convention. It is the largest annual gathering of twins in the world and draws thousands of participants from all across the United States and beyond. While watching the traditional Double Take Parade in their matching bright green attire, New York City based photographer Hugo Scott discretely snapped a photo of them. Shortly after the event ended, NYC fashion designer Marc Jacobs saw the photo and felt the twins were a perfect fit for his new clothing line campaign. Unbeknownst to Erin and Alyssa, this resulted in an exhaustive social media search to find the girls who had been dubbed the “green twins.”

While sitting at home watching a movie on November 29, 2018, Erin discovered a message on social media that would change their lives. A stylist working for Marc Jacobs sent them a desperate plea to drop everything and head to New York to shoot a campaign the following morning. Within a matter of hours, the twins were on a plane. Erin describes that experience as a nerve-wracking whirlwind. “We were literally on set in hair and makeup at 7:00 am. All of the crew kept coming in and introducing themselves. Marc Jacobs was there and was really excited that we made it.”

The twins didn’t broadly publicize their experience, but a leaked photo soon made the rounds on local social media to their friends and community. As they went on with their quiet lives back home, their photo was selected as the hero image, which is the most prominent image utilized, or the “face” of the campaign. This selection landed their photo on a giant billboard on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

Following the success of the first campaign, the sisters were asked to fly to Hollywood for a second photo shoot to model some additional pieces in the clothing line. The images that were captured in Hollywood and New York are currently displayed in New York City in form of life size cutouts in Marc Jacobs stores in SoHo and on Madison Avenue. “The most exciting part of the experience for me was getting to do the second shoot. We got to sightsee in Hollywood and eat really good food” Alyssa recalls.

And if jetting off to high fashioned photo shoots wasn’t enough, the twins were welcomed back to New York, once again, to attend the Marc Jacobs launch party. The high-profile event was a dynamic celebration with live music and food trucks for invited guests only. They had the honor of touring the Marc Jacobs offices and rubbing elbows with various people from the fashion industry. “The launch party was my favorite experience,” Erin shared, “People kept coming up to us to take pictures and compliment us on our photos. It made us feel very important.”

Erin and Alyssa are still in a bit of disbelief that this happened to them. Erin explained it as “a once in a lifetime experience that nobody but them will ever quite understand.” They feel pride and gratitude that they were able to come out of their shells while having their best friend by their side throughout the process. “I couldn’t have done any of this without Erin,” Alyssa noted. “We always know what the other is thinking and it was calming to have her with me throughout this incredible experience.” For now, the future of their modeling careers is unknown, but they are happy living in the moment and enjoying the experience that they have had.

As I reflect on their story, I can’t help but think of how many people would have discounted that first, unexpected message as a hoax or simply been too fearful to pursue such an unusual opportunity. I think the fact that Erin and Alyssa’s photo was selected as the “hero image” for the campaign is quite fitting. A hero is defined as a person who is admired for courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. Congratulations to our local heroes on being courageous enough to take a chance and accomplish big things.

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