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A model for big success

For a commercial, McDonald's hired two teams of amateurs, mostly 8- and 9-year-olds from Youth League football teams.

And a couple of old pros to do the acting, including Stephen Myers who is 7 years old.

"I had to eat two hamburgers and some fries at breakfast time," Stephen recalls. "That was neat."

Then they rubbed dirt into his uniform and put him into a few scrimmages.

"Some of the regular players were kind of mean _ they were really hitting," Stephen says, not complaining, just giving the facts.

The commercial runs often, most recently during Sunday's New York Jets-New England Patriots game. One of the players asks if the team can go for hamburgers. The coach says no because it's only halftime.

Stephen has been modeling since he was 18 months old and went on his first location shoot at Belles 'n' Beaux, a children's boutique in Belleair Bluffs.

"He just kind of fell into it," says his mother, Patti Myers. "He was in a couple of children's fashion shows and did well. So I got some agents' names out of the Yellow Pages and had pictures taken, and he's been getting callbacks ever since."

Stephen has done print or television ads for Publix, Eckerd Drug, Maas Brothers, Ventolin Cough Syrup ("I coughed a lot and looked sick," he says) and many others.

In real life, he is in the second grade at St. Cecelia in Clearwater and lives with his mother and father (an engineer, with his own business) in a waterfront home in Belleair Beach.

"We keep his career low-key," says Mrs. Myers. "People see him in the McDonald's thing and call and say they didn't know Stephen was an actor. We want him to live a normal life."

Normal, with lessons in horseback riding, karate, voice, dance (jazz and tap) and the occasional actor's workshop. "And Jet Skiing with his dad _ he loves that," says his mother.

She won't discuss her son's earnings.

"We don't want to publicize something like that. We want to keep him a kid. Talk about money would be read by the parents of other models, and that could get awkward," Mrs. Myers says.

All his modeling and acting fees, she adds, go into a fund for college expenses.

Stephen seems happy in his work. "Once you get the hang of it, it's fun," he says. "The lights are awful hot sometimes, and you sweat. But it always ends up a piece of cake."

Recently, he did an on-scene commercial for a hospice.

"There was this real sick lady. I think she was about to die. I was supposed to be her grandson, and had this toy sailboat to show her.

"They had the big lights shining on the door to her room, and I was behind the door, peeking in. I had to do it about 14 times to get it right.

"Finally, I had to come in and show her the boat. She didn't say anything or smile. I guess she was sad because she was dying."

Good looks are not the only attribute Stephen brings to modeling. "From the time he was 2 years old, he was very outgoing," says his mother. "And he can take direction _ maybe that's more important than anything."

How long will the jobs go on? When is a 7-year-old model over the hill?

His mother shrugs. She doesn't know.

What does Stephen want to be when he grows up?

"A scientist or an engineer," he says, and then grins. "Or maybe a pizza delivery man."

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