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A new image in retailing

As the face of America changes, so does our national image of beauty. JCPenney, the nation's fourth-largest retailer, is sponsoring a Hispanic model search. Applications will be accepted from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the JCPenney store at Westshore Mall in Tampa. Latin-flavored festivities and special guests also will be featured.

Call it a brush of marketing savvy for JCPenney to feature Hispanics in its promotional plan. Today, people of Hispanic descent represent about 8 percent (24-million people) of the U.S. population. By 2010, Hispanics are expected to make up about 13 percent of the population.

The JCPenney model search is open to Hispanic men and women between the ages of 18-25, with permanent residence in the continental United States or Puerto Rico. No professional models are allowed.

In the Tampa market, after a round of semi-finalists are chosen, two winners _ a man and a woman _ will be announced. In September, the two winners will be flown to Dallas to join the other winners from JCPenney's 14 participating markets for more competition. In Dallas, two grand prize winners will be chosen to fly to Miami and Washington to model clothes by Hispanic designers, such as Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, Adolfo and Paloma Picasso.

Winners from all competitions will receive prizes and an opportunity to appear in JCPenney advertising and promotional materials for Hispanics.

According to Fausto Mirisy, Hispanic marketing coordinator for JCPenney at its Dallas headquarters, the winners of the Hispanic model search also have a chance to appear in the company's catalogs and fliers.

Like a growing number of American retail giants, JCPenney uses specialized marketing to reach different ethnic groups _ Hispanics, blacks, Asians. To help non-English-speaking customers, JCPenney publishes a guide called Para su familia, para su conveniencia ("For your family, for your convenience"), which explains in Spanish how to shop and order from a JCPenney catalog.

American apparel retailers long have favored blond-haired, blue-eyed examples of beauty to sell their clothes.

Only in the last decade have black models become in demand, according to Bethann Hardison, who owns Bethann Management, a modeling agency in New York City.

"As editorial expression grows," says Hardison, referring to layouts in fashion and beauty magazines, "that paves the way for retail clients to use different types of girls in their ads."

On Saturday, applicants for JCPenney's Hispanic Designers Model Search '91 should bring two photographs, no larger than 8 by 10 and no smaller than 3 by 5, taken within the last six months. (Non-professional photographs will be accepted.) The applicant's name, address and age should be written on the backs of all photos.

Those interested in the contest also may pick up applications Saturday at two other JCPenney locations in Tampa _ University Square Mall on Fowler Avenue near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, and East Lake Square Mall, at 56th Street and Hillsborough Avenue. Applicants will have 10 days to complete and mail in the forms.