scouting

Press_Photo_031The documentary “Girl Model has created a lot of attention about some of the seedy people involved in our industry and the tactics they use to influence young girls. Exploiting their dream in countries where they, and their parents, feel trapped by their impoverished circumstances.

I have never made a documentary and am fascinated by talented directors who tell the story of a subject they are not intimately involved in, and on a limited budget. To me, many elements in the film were disturbing and intense, and yet, it is limited to a small slice of a much bigger story. I liked the way it was directed and filmed; connecting two stories simultaneously, the young model from Siberia and the scout who sends her to Tokyo. The scout who guided the journey for the documentary, Ashley Arbaugh, made some disturbing points in the film about the business of modeling. However, her ambivalence towards the young models, what happens to them and how they are cared for, was a bit shocking to me as it does not illustrate my experience.

In my years in this business, I have never crossed paths with Ashley and don’t know her beyond what was in the film. As the viewer, we witness some intimate moments with Ashley, which left me a bit numb. Her unhappiness and distain for the industry throughout the film seemed an odd portrayal of someone working in it, and it takes us into a bizarre psychological twist that is the prevailing story. It was uncomfortable watching her position her dolls, discussing dissecting one, and playing with pictures she took (some secretly) of model’s body parts as if they were not human to her.

Scouts are paid on commission, and therefore do have an investment in the outcome and end game of each model. I found it uncomfortable that she was unable to personally connect with the models, even in their terrible housing in Japan. Scouting in Russia for Japan seemed to generate money by an impersonal approach to the models and gaining profit by volume. Each country has it’s own wall of shame reflecting model scouting and the business actions adults use to “sell” young children and their parents. We all have work to do to improve. Modeling is not for everyone, and deciphering the proper character early on can eliminate a lot of disappointment for a young girl.

Ms. Arbaugh discusses prostitution in a disconnected vague style as if it has never touched her or any of the agents she works with in Russia. However, in the comments at the end of the film, the directors point out that this is one of the premises she approached them about in the beginning. And it is the reason they paused to consider their involvement.

My perspective may be slanted as I have been fortunate and worked with some of the best and most respected people in this industry. And as my career expanded and I gained experience, I evolved in many ways as did my opinion and code of ethics. “Girl Model, produced and directed by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, highlights some of the most disheartening elements that don’t protect models. Iffy contracts not presented in the model’s native language, guarantees that aren’t really guarantees, advances and expenses that are not identified, and accounting systems that are hard for adults to dissect. Models in foreign countries on budgets that don’t encourage healthy eating but weight and measurement restrictions monitored. No one picking them up at the airport, no phone to call home, and familiar to see their main source of information to come from their roommates, not their agency. And that is because they are too afraid to ask questions, and possibly a language barrier to communicate. The young Siberian model in the film, Nadya, was quite brave I thought and without knowing how her story would unfold, she allowed strangers to film her. Most of the points above are the responsibility of the Mother Agent, or home town agency to request and confirm for the model.

Models are independent contractors and yet, especially when they are starting, they feel like the agency is the boss. This often is a cultural difference based on how women are raised and viewed in other countries. Think about it from their perspective. They have a dream. It seems easy, glamorous, and they could be rich and famous. They are encouraged to go to a “model casting” in their hometown, usually by their family. They have little access to information and go to see what happens. They meet the person in charge, in power in their mind, and trustingly accept the information they are told by someone who speaks their language. When the young teenage girl receives an invitation to travel, it appears so selective and so special to be chosen, she and her family are caught up in the illusion like it is a prize. This is what happens to young girls in countries that they feel the need to escape to survive or provide for their family. In the film, the Russian agency stated that parents should decide on modeling for their daughters between the ages 5 and 10. The agency is the beneficiary by knowing the family early but success of a fashion model has nothing to do with the looks of a child. This type of exploitation is riddled with so many challenges, that it is easy for predators to take advantage of young girls and their parents. In the New York Times review of the film, Jeannette Catsoulis, described the players in the film clearly,

“Occupying the profiteer role is her creepy agent (“I’m trying to save all these young girls”) and his shadowy Japanese counterpart. Linking all three is Ashley Arbaugh, a troubled scout and former model who despises the business yet willingly sends Nadya and her kind to Tokyo with neither chaperon nor fluency in Japanese.”

There are some excellent, respectable and legitimate scouts and agencies all over the world, however they are not all of the same caliber. It is imperative to educate yourself on what differentiates them and why. In the U.S. we have our own dishonest modeling ventures and I hope one day we can change the system. Every parent who has a daughter interested in modeling should see this film, regardless of country. Not because it is shocking and might scare them from the modeling world, but because valuable information lends to important questions and knowledge is power. If it sounds too good to be true, too easy, someone promises to make your daughter a star, or a cosmetic contract is right around the corner, etc. run as fast as you can. There are no guarantees and no promises in this business. There are scouts, such as myself, who have experience, management and success to share with you that differentiates us from other. This business is a maze of information in the beginning that is significantly different for every individual.

Recently, The Model Alliance, created by model Sara Ziff, has come to the forefront to speak out and change the industry. As advocates, they have created a petition to create and enforce fair labor laws for fashion models who are under 18. Young girls who have a dream don’t know that they need protection; they are not mature enough to know yet. At times they are told, “this is just how it works”, even when there is a legitimate reason that should be explained to them.

When an underage model with no chaperone works until 3 in the morning, I think it is time to look at what is not working anymore.

Becoming A Supermodel (Part 1) | SupermodelBlogger

Read about Emily’s story and her plans for a system of exchange and support of models that places no fault to make changes, with communication and anonymity. I find her to be an amazing friend, an intelligent adversary and am constantly surprised by her fresh outlook towards new ideas. A good read for any model, aspiring model and parent. Can’t wait for Part 2…..

Becoming A Supermodel (Part 1) | SupermodelBlogger.

Katrina Fitzpatrick by Jarrod McCabe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photographer: Jarrod McCabe

 

Models and Magazine Covers – W Magazine – Steven Meisel and Edward Enninful

It is a big deal in America when we see beautiful images of models on the covers of fashion magazines. And it is even more interesting when a magazine interviews them in a meaningful way. I applaud W Magazine today.

http://www.wmagazine.com/fashion/2012/07/karlie-kloss-joan-smalls-supermodels-cover-story

For many years, this was the goal of a model and her agent. It was the pinnacle of star power and offered cosmetic opportunities along with name and face recognition. We watched as it slowly slipped away to celebrities and Hollywood who arrived with a movie to sell and therefore, something to talk about. And this sold magazines.

That being said, this is fashion. At the starting point of creation and introduction on the runway, we imagine designs on our “uber” human fashion models. They glamourize the clothes. Despite our celebrity driven society and our over accessibility to fashion and “labels”, we must recognize, the fashion we dream about is usually on a model.

The covers of W magazine for the month of July will be talked about. Steven Meisel and Edward Enninful created amazing images of two models that may be our modern version of “super” and that Karlie Kloss and Joan Smalls have interesting things to say.

If you agree, BUY it. Don’t just read it on line and think that is good enough. It is not. Like all else, this is about what sells. And I miss the days when models sold fashion and cosmetics, all the time and to everyone. I miss the magic.

 

Scam Straight – The Truth About Model Scout Scams

Every legitimate agency in the world will tell you that you don’t need to pay money to be a model, don’t need to pay for classes, and don’t need to pay a fee to meet them in person. If they are interested, they will work with you and guide you to get started.

It is honest because it is the truth. However, in an effort to scout and find great potential models, agencies

inadvertently support those that do charge you. Scouting is expensive and a different endeavor than managing models in a big market. It is easier for agencies in major markets to go to an event that “gathers” potential models into one place.

This is part of the scam that no one speaks about. The agencies and their scouts know the kids and parents have paid for classes, portfolios and entrance fees all just to “meet” agents from New York, Paris, London and Milan. And some of these agencies lend their logo and endorsement so that these types of “scouts” can validate their process, making them look legitimate to the average person. And there are few ways to qualify the good ones since the agencies come to these events.

It is confusing because the facts are manipulated. There are hard costs that a model must be responsible to pay. Modeling is a skill, and therefore sometimes in the beginning, you need to pay for tests with good photographers to get you started and learn how to take a great picture, consistently.  By working with a few photographers you get a variety of pictures and lots of experience, while also learning to be comfortable in front of the camera, how to work with different people and understand photography. A portfolio is not shot by one photographer, a common sales pitch, and as you improve, your pictures improve and the old are replaced with the new. There are expenses for composite cards, website promotion, messenger fees, and prints for books, travel and housing, etc. Model’s are starting a business and are not an employee of the modeling agency.

That being said, if you are in a small town, you are not going to identify your potential by paying for these things to meet an agency from a major market. Most of the time, potential models and their parents have invested too much too soon before knowing if modeling is a valuable consideration and if they have the potential. Someone has told them they have it and the only way to get an agency’s interest, or to work, is to make the investment. Usually, with the wrong guidance and at an age that is not appropriate.

And here lies the biggest corruption and confusion. You need guidance, you need experience and you need information. So, you go to the closest and most local place because you are brand new. And most modeling “businesses” in local and small markets have found a way to make money from that need, not your potential. An entire business was created years ago selling you classes, or pictures or a convention.

The skill and potential of a model is elusive. Which is why an evaluation from an agent or scout who has a bigger picture of the business is more beneficial. If you have what it takes to be a model or play on the tennis team or be an actor, there are professional scouts that can give you a few try outs, observe you and then give you an evaluation, advise you on your success rate and decide if they want to represent you or what your next step should be; sometimes it is just wait a year. Luck only takes you to a certain point, and then talent must take over at the right time to reach success. And then the management of a model’s career begins. The industry of model management in the fashion industry is quite different than the business of scouting.

With all of this in mind, I must defend the agents, the legitimate agents, in large markets who manage the top models of the world. They are always looking for new models to be their clients. The fact is, rarely the young girl who walks in the door or emails is the one with star potential. The scouting divisions and scouts for major agencies rely on sources and referrals to discover models. It is a scavenger hunt when looking in the small towns of America, which they don’t frequently visit. And where would they look? So they depend on good local and regional agents and scouts who cultivate and look for talent in small markets all the time. Sometimes, not knowing or caring the method they were found.

I have been involved in scouting for years in one way or another. Contests, model searches, mall searches, radio searches, model conventions, judging and guest speaking at conventions. Even the Oprah Winfrey models search that discovered Leslie Bibb. Once you find someone with potential, there are so many factors beyond physical genetics that strongly influence success or failure. It becomes a numbers game of great volume to find one worthy of investment. It is hard to find that special one and the process of educating them and their parents is time consuming. And it is during this process that their level of success is determined.

When scouting, we go out and look for potential in public places, events, and gathering places. Some days it is like watching paint dry waiting for someone to walk by who is a possibility. And because we are seeking them, we never know if they are interested or would be serious because it is not their drive or it hadn’t occurred to them. It just happened. A stranger approached them with a question and a compliment, and now wants to know everything about them to determine if they’ve “got it”.

So why is it so easy to convince someone that they can buy their way into this business? A Cinderella story, everything is done for you, and you don’t have to pay for anything, be responsible for much and it is easy. None of that is true. But the compliment turns into a dream and a goal without knowing much about what all it entails.

You could be a beautiful Cinderella and not a good model. Your character could not be a good match for this business. You may struggle with many, many things in an industry that is fiercely competitive and although in love with beauty, and maybe yours, has a tendency to be quite fickle and curious about what is new and what is next. Like any competitive activity or job, you have to do something special to get something special from the industry and KEEP that interest.

This mystery has created the need for “volume” in scouting in order to create a top model. It has slowly eroded the truth and the business of identifying real potential. There are more scouts and more people trying to make money on the dream, and not actually taking the proper time and dedication to develop it.

There is a great need for guidance for the young potential model from her hometown, during school, and preparing her for the business of learning how to model. There is a lot to learn for her AND her parents. This is not like any other business that I know of, and although similar to some like sports or acting when starting, the actual business is quite specific. Parents try to understand, but usually find it very frustrating. No one is “whisked” away to stardom regardless of how beautiful or how “obvious” it may seem. And it is built on subtle relationships, not like a sales job. You work your way up and you work to get there. It is competitive and clients and photographers have specific criteria that you won’t understand and difficult to explain. The character, behavior and disposition of the model AND her parents, creates the platform for the success to be built on once the physical abilities have been discovered.

This is a great business, and a fun business. It is a shame to see the “scammers” create the illusion of success. A good coach has won a few games and knows how to navigate from the minor leagues to the majors. Find a good one, and the experience will be rich.