Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

She's a beauty and a geek: Supermodel is a coder

Lyndsey Scott, 29, studied computer science in college before becoming a model.
Lyndsey Scott, 29, studied computer science in college before becoming a model.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lyndsey Scott models for Prada, Victoria's Secret, Calvin Klein
  • She studied computer science in college and has built several apps for iOS platforms
  • Scott: "We have this idea of people in technology being and looking a certain way"

Editor's note: Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time -- remarkable professionals who have made it to the top in all areas of business, the arts, sport, culture, science and more.

(CNN) -- The term "software engineer" conjures images of pasty-faced young men with poor posture and limited social skills. And people think fashion models are all beauty and no brains.

At least, those are the stereotypes.

So what will the world make of Lyndsey Scott, a model for Prada and Victoria's Secret, who spends her spare time building mobile apps? The 29-year-old has appeared in major magazines like Harper's Bazaar, W and British Vogue, but seems more proud of getting her iPhone and iPad apps approved by Apple.

"With modeling, you never have control over anything," Scott told CNN. "So being able to have complete power with these apps I develop is very fulfilling."

Scott has built several apps for iOS platforms. Two are currently sold in the Apple store, and she's preparing to release a social networking app in coming weeks.

Scott: If it means being smart and being a good programmer, then \
Scott: If it means being smart and being a good programmer, then "I have no problem being a nerd."

Before the self-taught programmer began modeling for high-end designers like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Fendi and Vera Wang, she was an undiscovered New Jersey teen who loved playing calculator games.

In high school, she taught herself the software documentation and quickly learned how to program on her TI-89 calculator.

"I didn't realize I was even coding at that point," Scott said. "I first got into it just to make fun games and entertain myself."

Her game-coding skills didn't score her many points with her classmates, however. The 5-foot-9-inch model said she was a late bloomer and that growing up "is still hard to talk about" because of the bullying and taunting she endured.

"It got so bad in high school I couldn't even look people in the face," Scott said. "I would hide out in school so I wouldn't have to eat lunch in the cafeteria or see people in between classes."

At Amherst College, Scott learned coding languages Java, C++ and MIPS while majoring in theater and computer science. But instead of pursuing a programming career, she plunged into modeling.

She got her big modeling break in 2009 when she became the first African-American to land an exclusive contract with Calvin Klein for New York Fashion Week.

"It happened at a time when there was no interest in me as a model," she said. "I always dreamed of it, but I wasn't expecting it at all. I was beyond surprised."

That same year Scott was chosen for one of the year's most coveted fashion shows: Victoria's Secret. She said she was "shocked and honored" to join a lineup of supermodels including Heidi Klum, Miranda Kerr and Alessandra Ambrosio.

Meanwhile, she continued challenging expectations by teaching herself how to program Python and Objective-C.

"I think a lot of models thought I was strange having a computer on my lap in the middle of a casting line," Scott said. "I never really talked about programming in the modeling business. I kept the worlds very divided."

Scott's first iOS app was a charity-based project aimed at helping young scholars in Uganda. The app, Educate!, finds sponsors for Ugandan students and guides them toward becoming leaders and entrepreneurs.

"I learned about Educate! in college. It was an organization founded by two Amherst students. When I found out that Uganda has the youngest population in the world and the highest youth poverty rate, I wanted to get involved," she said.

"It was rejected (by Apple) a few times. I had a big battle with Apple, going back and forth, so it was a huge relief when it finally passed."

She has since developed several more applications, including iPort, which helps models and other creative types organize their professional portfolios on an iPad.

"I noticed so many models were using iPads to show casting directors their work, but it looked messy and didn't have a nice interface," Scott said. "So I made iPort as similar functionally as an actual portfolio but much more convenient."

Her brother, Matthew, is one of her biggest fans.

"Lyndsey is a mix of Bill Gates and Giselle (Bundchen)," said Matthew Scott. "She combines her passion for modeling and passion of coding to help improve our world."

Last month, Scott visited a middle school in New York City's Harlem neighborhood to speak with students interested in computer programming.

"We have this idea of people in technology being and looking a certain way," she said. "That stereotype is destructive, and I think that's part of the reason why female and minority programmers are so few."

Scott said computer coding has now become a second professional life for her. She has plans for many more apps, and wants to learn coding for Android as well.

The young dual-career woman would never have called herself a nerd while growing up because she saw it as a hurtful word at the time.

"But now that I'm older, if it means being smart and having interests like computer science, then I have no problem being a nerd," she said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 2041 GMT (0441 HKT)
bbf
When Bobbi Brown set out to create her eponymous makeup line in 1991, she had one thing to her mind -- to make a lipstick that looked like lips.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0914 GMT (1714 HKT)
The Cornell educated executive, who is hotly tipped as the successor to magnate Steve Wynn, is about to unveil the latest Wynn Palace in Macau.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)
From Coco Chanel to DVF, CNN takes a look at celebrated fashion designers and the iconic pieces which launched their careers.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 1115 GMT (1915 HKT)
:KNOXVILLE, TN - MAY 28: Dolly Parton performs during a concert to benefit Dolly's Imagination Library & Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation at The University of Tennessee's Thompson-boling Arena on May 28, 2014 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 05: Debbie Harry of Blondie performs onstage at the Amnesty International Concert presented by the CBGB Festival at Barclays Center on February 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for CBGB)
When titans of music Dolly Parton and Debbie Harry perform at one of the biggest music festivals on the planet, Glastonbury, who will be crowned queen?
June 17, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
2 Caption:Avignon, FRANCE: Serb artist Marina Abramovic performs in 'The Biography Remix' directed by Michael Laub from Netherlands, 10 July 2005 at the Benoix-XII house during the Theater Festival held in Avignon southern France. AFP PHOTO ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
CNN meets Serbian-born New-York based performance artist Marina Abramovic, as she embarks on the most controversial show of her career.
May 9, 2014 -- Updated 1325 GMT (2125 HKT)
This Mother's Day, we're celebrating the many women in the world who have provided care, love and guidance for children who are not biologically their own.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 1506 GMT (2306 HKT)
She turned her bohemian beach style and love of ballet shoes into a billion-dollar brand. This week on Leading Women, fashion designer Tory Burch reveals her ultimate style guru.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1623 GMT (0023 HKT)
Meet Mo Abudu, the talk show host portraying a very different Africa. As a glamorous presenter, she also heads up Ebony Life TV network, based in Nigeria.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 0936 GMT (1736 HKT)
A lone blonde woman, wrapped in nothing but a sarong, leads four camels and a little dog across one of the most inhabitable environments on Earth.
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
Their job is capturing the most horrifying images on Earth -- keeping their eyes open, where others must look away. Meet Kate Brooks and Gerda Taro, the war photographers of today and yesterday.
March 25, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
Gloria Steinem speaks onstage during Equality Now presents 'Make Equality Reality' at Montage Hotel on November 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
As Gloria Steinem turns 80, Kathleen McCartney highlights the remarkable life of the feminist so far.
February 26, 2014 -- Updated 1650 GMT (0050 HKT)
Former U.S. State Deparment Anne-Marie Slaughter says Brad Pitt is 'posterchild for engaged fatherhood'.
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 0750 GMT (1550 HKT)
Ahead of the release of her 14th studio album, take a look at the remarkable career of Mariah Carey, who went from curly-haired girl next door to elusive chanteuse.
March 8, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
CNN hosted a Tweetchat on gender equality with special guests including Nobel Peace prize laureate Tawakkol Karman. Here's what you missed.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1059 GMT (1859 HKT)
From shaving her head for climate change to opting for a sustainable business model, Vivienne Westwood is simply unstoppable.
April 2, 2014 -- Updated 1502 GMT (2302 HKT)
In what would be a dream come true for her alter ego, Carrie Bradshaw -- Sarah Jessica Parker has turned her love of fashion into a new shoe range with Manolo Blahnik.
ADVERTISEMENT