Friday, December 4, 2015

The holiday gift quandary!

If you interact in any model-mom circles, a big question this time of year is: “What do I get my agents for gifts?”  Holiday gifting is a nice gesture, and I would say it’s probably somewhat expected (but I don’t think any professional agent worth his/her salt in the business would deny you any work for not gifting).  I’ll give you some of my thoughts.

First, gift-giving of ANY sort should be based on your own personal resources.  No one should feel the need to gift more extravagantly than their budget allows. 

Some people work exclusively with one agent or manager (and maybe that person has a staff member).  You would probably choose to gift this person more extravagantly than if you work with four or five agents at a bigger firm.  You can set a total budget and work within it, which makes a lot of sense especially when you have two agencies and a few agents and support staff under each roof.

The IRS has work-related gift limits if you plan to deduct the cost of the gift on your child’s taxes.  It’s $25 per gift per person (so if you work with three agents in one firm, you can send 3 $25 gifts and be able to deduct all three).  If you spend more than that, great…but you cannot deduct more than that.  (Now is also a reminder to keep ANY AND ALL WORK-RELATED RECEIPTS.)  Here’s a link to the IRS page that explains this policy and even gives a handy example.

I know of people giving a whole range of gifts.  Anything from a $10 Starbucks card to a $250 gift card to a swanky store is cool – again, it depends on your relationship with the agent.  I would say that if your kid is a HUGE booker, you should probably err on the more generous side.  That’s a lot of agent/parent contact and you want to show your gratitude if you can.  And if kiddo is making $25,000 this year, it’s really not too much to think of a gift in the $100 range – in my humble little opinion.  On the flip side, giving an extravagant gift will NOT make your child a big booker.

I also like to steer people in the direction of practical gifts.  Maybe a little luxury (like a Nest candle or Simon Pearce hurricane) or a gift card to a great lunch spot near their office.  Bonus points for a restaurant that delivers.  I don’t think this is one of those situations when a gift card seems too impersonal – if you’re going more extravagant, why not one to Zappos – who doesn’t love shoes?  If you’re staying more modest, Starbucks or even Amazon are great choices.  These are not cards that will sit unused in the wallet.  If you know your agent’s tastes really well, you can head in that direction.  If you're self-conscious about a modest gift (NOT THAT YOU SHOULD BE) have your child hand-draw a card to go with it.

Food is a popular gift – what’s cuter than a rosy-cheeked child carrying in a beautifully wrapped box of homemade brownies?  And for some families, food is how they roll… BUT…I’m not sure it’s always tops on the list of agents’ favorite gifts.  Main reason: they get SO much.  It’s totally thoughtful, don’t get me wrong, but there’s so much…and a lot of agents I know are physique-conscious…so what ends up happening is that the Bizzy Mama in the office (read: chubby girl) eats all the goodies and ends up ten pounds heavier by December 20 (you know, before the family holiday stuff even happens and you gain the actual holiday weight).  If you really feel the push toward the food, why not have a nice bagel/lox/schmear/fruit assortment delivered for the office to share one morning (maybe check with the assistants first to see if there is a particularly good day).  Another option is a tray of healthy wraps for lunch.  That gets you the satisfaction of feeding your agents but stays away from the sweets.  If you are really inclined toward the sweets, you could do a couple of different things: maybe individually wrap the items (little cello bags) so the agents can grab some to take home to their family OR send a nice holiday card and promise a treat on a date in February, when everyone is sad and dreary and those Italian cookies would be really excellent at 3:00.  Don’t be afraid to switch it up a little – your gift will probably stand out, which is always a nice plus.

I’m going to add, and I’ve mentioned them already, but don’t forget the assistants.  They do a lot of legwork and they may actually be the ones you interact with the most.  If you interact with the assistants just as much or more than the agents, I think the assistants are worthy of the same value of gift.  Fielding multiple calls at a time and unjamming the copier while making sure a CD knows that a kiddo is running late for the 5:00 audition because of the tunnel…all of that merits a nice holiday shout-out.

And what do I give?  Booze.  Last but not least, the booze gift – it’s how I was raised (and all of those bottles my dad got came in really handy when I was, um, well…let’s just say there were so many you’d never miss one, or, er…) and it’s what I like to do.  We work with one agency for print and another for on-camera and last year I sent each a case of decent (read: affordable and drinkable) prosecco.  My aim was for anyone who wanted one to take a bottle…or two, whatever was left…and drink it or even re-gift it.  If someone’s working late and needs to run to have dinner with friends, he or she can grab a bottle out of the case and be all set with something to hand the host.  I have no problem with re-gifting.  If I give you something that makes your life easier – not having to stop at the liquor store on the way – great.  Mission accomplished.  I should also acknowledge the, what if someone doesn’t drink? question.  It’s just like the brownies or the lox – maybe those gifts aren’t for everyone and while someone may pass, I’m sure he/she appreciates the gesture.  Note that I am sending these bottles to agencies that have a few people on each team for kids – I would not send booze to an individual or two-person office unless I know confidently that those people drink.  Here’s the link to Sherry-Lehmann (free delivery in NYC if you get to it in time).

I've got one more bit of gift-giving advice.  Teacher gifts.  After 20 years in the classroom, I can confidently say what we teachers want.  Amazon or B&N gift cards OR gift cards to coffee places that have drive-thru on the way to school.  If you give us sweets, it never fails that my dog eats them...which is probably good for us, but bad for Tessie.

Hope these ideas help!  Anything I didn’t think of?  Questions?  Hit me up here, via email at or the Facebook page.  I’m also on Instagram and warning: it’s likely to be full of ballet pics the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Positive Child Performer Role Models (or, 'I ain't no Dina Lohan!')

For those of you biz moms, you know you've heard it -- either you've been compared to Dina Lohan or someone has insinuated your child is destined for a life of DUI, jail stints, and early burnout.  Sure, there are horror stories.  And there are horror stories that take great turns (love me some Drew Barrymore!).  So when you need a positive story of the power of wonderful things child performers can get out there and do, check out this fifteen year old (you may recognize her from the sitcom 'Blackish") on her name for a New York Times story: Yara Shahidi

Friday, November 13, 2015

What is a “busy” child model?

I have a model-mom friend (shout out!) who is great at helping me with blog topics.  A few days ago, she asked, “What is a ‘big booker’?”  I thought for a few minutes, and told her something like this.

Some of the biggest bookers I know can book 2-3 times a week, let’s say, 35 weeks of the year.  New York’s busy season is basically between late February / early March (late February castings for early March shoots) until mid-October.  Those are the shooting times for major back-to-school and holiday ad campaigns.  Some companies shoot year ‘round in NYC, so there is regular work to be found all year…and of course the stores that advertise weekly (like Target and Macy’s) are always shooting.  The only absolutely dead time is around December 20 until January 15 or so.

So back to the kid who works 60-75 times a year.  That’s a major booker, and they are few and far between.  You will hear from their parents that they are crazy busy when they are “in size” (fitting into common sample sizes) and that some clients will fiddle with the clothes to fit the model.  These are kids we might call “the face of” some brand.  For example, I have two friends whose daughters shot for Hanna Andersson for many seasons…and you would know their faces.  I know a couple of boys, too, who have had regular gigs with Hanna and J. Crew.  They also shoot for tons of other brands on a regular basis, so these are like the child supermodels.

I would say the next category of kid books on average once a week.  These are also faces you’d recognize, and very successful models.  I would still call them big bookers.  Then there are regular bookers – who probably book 3-4 times a month.  When my daughter was a size 3, she fit into that category.  She had steady enough work to keep us hopping, for sure…and I think for our life (and distance from NYC) that was a pretty good balance for us.

For the past ten months or so, as a size 4, my daughter booked more like 1.5 times a month (but a lot of that was clumped together in the summer, so it seemed busy then) which was still enough for us to feel like she was “in the business” while she was also busy with lots of activities (this year we ended up with Girl Scouts, karate twice a week, ballet, AND she’s performing in the Nutcracker…so that’s two rehearsals a week and all of the tech work is coming up soon).  It seems to me that most moms outside of those “big booker” categories would be happy to be in the 2-3 times a month category – just busy enough.

At some point, I should tackle the whole “pulling from school” issue we face.  But that's a topic for a different day!

Booking alone isn’t what makes models busy.  There are go-sees, which can be 1-3 or 4 times a week during busy seasons, depending on size (as always, sample sizes go out a lot more).  During the school year, they tend to be between 3:00 and 5:00, which can make for long days.

And I cannot forget about holds.  Even models who don’t book all that often have many holds.  Holds are a client’s way of saying “we might want to book this kid, so don’t book him/her for anything else.”  I think that even kids who get regular holds are “busy” models – they are on the radar at their agencies, and are very much in demand.  Some moms feel like they get a lot of holds and often there is a similar kid who books instead, but there is no scientific explanation for holds.  And if you’re a mom getting a lot of holds, your life feels as though you’re booked until 6:00 the night before – because that’s when you usually consider yourself officially released and you’ve probably already scrambled to clear next day and get babysitters for the other kids already.  That’s when you need to pour yourself a stiff drink, curse the client who didn’t book your kid – and hope they will next time.

What do you think?  Are my estimations off or on?  Give me some feedback here, on my Facebook page (The Bizzy Mama) or via email at  You can also check out my Instagram TheBizzyMama for some booking photos (and maybe a pet shot or two).  As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Petite Parade!

Ah, Petite Parade.  The allure!  The hustle!  The bustle!  A few years ago, when the event was a BIG event, all the model moms in the New York market would start in September or January (about two months before the event) to seek information about castings and designers.  The event used to be sponsored by Vogue Bambini magazine, which lent it a certain je ne sais quoi that involved one part kids’ couture, one part Milan, and two parts fashion week – a pretty cool recipe.  Some designers always went; some went in the spring or the fall; and some were surprises.  Each of the two days, a major company would open the show – Target, JC Penney, and Truly Scrumptious are the ones that immediately pop into my head.  Toward the end of the show on the second day, the editors of Vogue Bambini would style a “showcase” of two or three looks from emerging designers.  Each day might feature five or more designers, so there were a ton of kids involved.  It has gotten smaller over the past few cycles, down to one day and fewer household-name designers.  Apparently, it's quite expensive for designer to show their lines, and they have to cost-benefit analyze being part of the show.

When the show was bigger, several shows did castings through agencies.  While some shows have always relied on their designers, stylists and photographers to help with casting, those bigger brands and the Vogue Bambini show always did their castings through agencies.  It made the whole process more predictable (the castings would be the week before) and seemed to up the “hype” when the go-see requests would come out.  Of course, the model-mom grapevine would HEAT UP with scuttlebutt – what sizes are they casting?  What look?  Boys and girls?  The shows would have fittings the day before – and that’s when the clothes were revealed.  Cool, if you ask me.  But the clothes tend to be secondary to the whole excitement of the process.

Two times we did Petite Parade my daughter was scheduled to walk in an early show and a late show, which meant a whole day there – call time is three hours before the show (hairstyles typically took a long time, but most of it was waiting around – designers don’t want ANY anxiety about late arrivals) so I would literally pack as if I were going to be stranded on an island.  A bag of toys and amusements for the kids that could be spread over several kids and not be any big deal if lost or left behind (dollar spot Target helped me there) was essential – my daughter was really young (that means got bored easily) for those first few shows, and I needed to keep her happy for hours.  The biggest hit among all the kids were a couple of bags of multi-colored vampire teeth…lots of cute pictures that time.  Adult amusements were essential, which meant food and wine.  Yes, wine.  By the third go ‘round, I brought a box of wine.  Quantity, not quality was the order of the day (although my sommelier friend – shout out! – has never let me live it down…checkout HER wine blog here) – and enough people had a nip to help the hours pass relatively painlessly.  This is also where I would pack the power strip I mentioned in my model-mom bag post – I learned that after my first year, when probably 100 parents were in a studio with maybe 4 outlets.  It’s important to note here that a large chunk of the excitement about your kid walking in Petite Parade is the opportunity to hang out with a ton of other parents.

Meanwhile, the kids would be readied by designers and stylists.  In the years of the bigger shows, it was in an adjacent studio, behind a magic curtain.  Not really a great place for keeping an eye on your kids, but the parents would be taking turns peeking in to make sure all the kids were doing well.  And they loved the whole thing too – it was like a playdate for them, as we often say.  In more recent shows, the parent area and the staging area were more combined which upped the hectic factor multiple times, but some of us preferred to have a better view of our kiddos.  About an hour before each show, kids would do a practice walk down the runway and learn how to stop and pose at the end.  A photographer, Richard Renda, led that process from the photo pit, and he made sure every kid knew how to stop, gaze at the photographers, and wait for him to send them back.  Despite decent rehearsals, my daughter quite notoriously bucked those instructions back when she was three, and developed her own trademark style for the runway – one time she was super shy and kind of froze and the next time she leapt down the runway (to Katy Perry’s “Roar” – totally fitting).  The older kids always did muuuuuch better.  Parents could watch the rehearsals, because there were no guests in the studio – which brings me to parents watching the actual shows.

It’s important to remember that the shows are for invited guests – store buyers, fashion bloggers, trend watchers and a couple of VIPs (P. Diddy made an appearance one time to watch his daughters).  Parents were allowed to filter in once all of the guests were seated, and maaaaybe there would be seats (and swag bags!) available.  Otherwise, it was standing room only.  One time, the showrunners did not let parents into the main studio for the show, and that caused a major freak out – parents want (and pretty much need, legally speaking, according to child performer labor laws) to see what their kids are doing, and needless to say some phone calls got made and parents were allowed in for the next show. 

After the runway, the routine was for the kids to be photographed backstage for the designers so they would have crisp, clear pictures of their lines.  The method for doing this changed based on the photographer – sometimes it would be an organized lineup and other times it was a little more catch-as-catch-can.  Then poof – get the clothes off and head on home.  For the most part, you could count on some exhaustion and probably a headache from both the noise and the tension of keeping your kid human for so many hours (at least for me).  You may or may not have a hairspray and bobby pin situation to work out when you got home.

The next part is actually just about as exciting as the runway itself.  Trawling social media in the hours after the show – hoping to see your kid!  Obsessing over photo sites online – like Getty Images and Shutterstock – to see pics of your kid.  Stalking YouTube to see if anyone filmed the shows – to see your kid.  Friends sharing pics – and again, you’re hoping to see your kid.  Discovering new photographers – to see your kid!  It sounds kind of creepy, but it’s actually a lot of fun.

So that’s a rundown.  The actual event itself is hectic.  I guarantee if you plop a casual observer into the whole experience, you might get a “Why the EFF do you do this?”  But, for many model moms, the whole thing is a ton of fun.  You also hear a few “Never again!”s, but really…it’s like labor – you forget, and there you are the next time, carrying your box of wine and vampire teeth.

A final word to any grammarians out there -- sorry about all the switches in verb tense...I found myself telling about past events but incorporating ongoing opinions...and I realize it may be a mess.

Check me out on Instagram at TheBizzyMama, my Facebook page (not much going on there, honestly, but I like the likes!) or shoot me an email at  I spend a lot of time studying anatomy and physiology these days, but I’d love to hear what you want me to write about.
It's Air Biz.  Photo credit: Lev Radin

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Feast or famine…drought or deluge…or whatever. (Just an update.)

So big changes in Bizzy-land…I’ve gone back to school!  I’m basically doing a pre-med curriculum at the local community college in preparation for applying to – wait for it – nursing programs.  I’m taking night classes, which feature amazing casts of characters (exotic dancer!) about whom I’d love to write someday.  Community college is a great democratizing institution – you have people sitting in a classroom with great careers and prestigious degrees all the way down to clueless eighteen-year-olds just trying to get some credits under their belt.  I took Biology over the summer and now I’m taking Chemistry and what I can only term “BOOT CAMP” Anatomy & Physiology I with a professor who has the reputation of being THE HARDEST A&P professor of any state institution from UCONN on down.  I really didn’t expect to be diagnosing skin cancer in lab in week two.  But I digress!

So it’s been busy for me to say the least.  I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what’s been going in on the child-performer side of my world.  I’ve kvetched a bit in the past few months about the slow size 4, but there have been some slightly regular opportunities lately…they’ve just come all at once!  We had a few clusters of bookings over the summer.  Two weeks ago I got a deluge of emails from the agency.  In a three hour period I was notified of two go-sees the next day, a decent booking for two days later, and two holds for the following week.  We managed to hit both go-sees pretty smoothly.  Two go-sees and the round trip in six hours highlighted by one parking garage in-and-out in under half an hour – $9 score! – and one free on-street parking spot.  Didn’t book…but whatever, we got out there.  The job the following day was crazy far in southern Jersey, but it was an 8-hour gig to make up for it and we really didn’t hit any ridiculous traffic.  Far more stressful was the fact that my son’s car broke down (I let him drive my car for a few days) and I scratched my rental when pulling over for three police vans on W. 26th Street BUT saved myself by buying the extra insurance coverage FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER (totally got a weird feeling that I should and I am GLAD I DID!).

Last week was dead.  The holds last week fell through (for the better, since I had to study for my first test in Boot Camp A&P).  Friday afternoon we got another set of holds for this coming week (one for some app and one for a department store) and an audition for a film tomorrow afternoon.  Another race to the city and get to class in Northwestern Connecticut afternoon, but hey, if it’s not ridiculous it must not be my jam.

I’ll keep you posted.  Back to studying my histology slides and fetal pig organs!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Business or the Bullsh!t

Ahhh, back at the computer.  I took a class this summer!  That kept me b-u-s-y.  More on that in the future, but it’s over…and a few days later I had a septoplasty (that’s like, a nose job without the nose…but I had a really freaky septum that’s now a week post-op and is healing very well) so I’ve been a little preoccupied.  But here I am, Peroni beside me and the Real Housewives of NYC reunion on the TV…life is good.

I thought I’d start, actually, with a quote from a Housewife.  Dorinda, the newest NYC Housewife this year, told Sonja Morgan – while Sonja was in a babbling drunken stupor, what else is new – that “Money talks and wealth whispers.”  Let me set this up another way, as well, because I’m not talking at all about money, per se.  Here in CT there are plenty of colleges.  Let’s use two for my example.  One advertises everywhere: billboards, bus stops, on the radio, on television.  They are trying to build their brand and attract students and they shout it from the hilltops.  (I think their marketing is fantastic! …My buddy is their marketing director.)  For my contrasting example I’ll just say: Yale.

Do you see what I’m getting to here?  IN YOUR FACE versus subtlety.  Having to say it all versus speaking for itself.  You need to tell people versus…people just know.

I’m going back to a topic from the beginning of this blog journey, but I know I’m reaching more people now and I want to emphasize some points.  What a parent wants in an agent, I had asked (and answered) before.  I’m still basically addressing the same thing here, but I want to hit on a few things because there has been this ALL OUT WAR on the Backstage child modeling message board.  If you don’t read it, I would say…probably not the time to start.  If you’re going to have surgery and will be severely limited by your pain vs narcotic levels, maybe hit it up between sleeps because hopefully you will forget it all as though it never happened.  (Here's the link if you cannot stay away.)

I think this thing happens to many parents when they start looking for modeling agencies for their children.  Parents put agents up on pillars…like they are gods and goddesses to be pleased and may we bow down and offer up our child to you?  Please make my kid a model?  I’m guessing that if you have a kid in this business you have felt that way at least once.  Maybe it was for 30 seconds, but I’m guessing you felt it at least once.  It’s kind of like applying to schools or jobs – and I’ve said that before.  “I want YOU to want ME!”  You prepare for the big meeting…you make sure your child is clean and groomed to perfection.  But…guess what.  To the agent?  You’re the 2:30 appointment.  And you may be meeting with just one or maybe even five agents…and they see hundreds of you.  It’s like I’ve told students when they ask me a question about a point they lost on a homework three weeks ago – I graded a hundred and twenty of those; you looked at one.  Perspective.  Let’s create a healthy understanding of the role we play in each other’s lives and go from there.  The agent may or may not want to represent your kid.  Let me say that again.  The agent may or may not want to REPRESENT your kid.  Represent.  REPRESENT.  Represent in business negotiations.  Doing all the legwork to get your kid to castings and bookings and bookkeeping and maintaining professionalism and looking at photos and talking to casting directors and changing schedules and and and…doing business.

You want your agent to be a business person.  You will notice that I never mention my daughter’s agent and I never speak of specific agencies here.  That’s because all of the reputable agencies are great in different ways for different parents.  If my agency blew off the face of the earth tomorrow I would be honored to work with whichever of the major players that would offer my daughter representation.  The reason they are major players is that they have earned their street cred.  Two agencies I can think of are new (meaning less than three or so years, so that gives them away, sorry ladies) but they have POUNDED THE PAVEMENT to get full swing into the NYC market.  And how did they do it?  And the ones who have been around for longer?  They worked hard.  They maintained professionalism.  They stayed quiet when they needed to be quiet and they advocated hard and worked those phones when they needed to.  They found the right combination of real trust in casting directors and parents and the owners of their agencies (or maybe they ARE the owners of their agencies) and got it done.  Once the wheels got turning, they kept their noses to the grindstone and didn’t get off course.  They focused on the business and not the bullshit.  My assumption?  If you’re dealing with bullshit, you’re not dealing with casting directors, and that means you’re not booking my kid.  And that’s why I was very careful to give agents a fair shot when I answered what agents want from parents: parents need to not cause extraneous bullshit for agents.  Some agents love when the kids pop in to say hello.  Some don’t.  Some do if you call first.  Some agents work out of their homes in their PJs at 3:00 am.  Respect the life.  But if an agent is out there acting all crazy?  Who – CD, accounting department, photographer – wants to deal with him or her?  Maybe he or she can convince the parents (especially if the agent pays Google to sponsor the agency when parents search) but eventually…the business reflects the agent.

Feedback?  Thoughts?  Add a comment here, on my Facebook page The Bizzy Mama, or send me an email at …I’m also on Instagram at TheBizzyMama.  Say hello!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Shooting with Mary Kate Gutierrez

A couple weeks ago I decided that I needed a quick new headshot of my daughter because she is growing out her bangs and everything I have ready to use is very bang-o-centric.  My daughter’s print agency really only uses her tearsheets for submissions, so I send those along whenever I see them, but for on-camera, a recent headshot reflecting the kiddo’s current look is a must-have.  Casting directors are not too keen on getting kids who look nothing like their headshots!

I favor very natural photos, and I try to keep my eye out for emerging photographers or local photographers who may be offering a one-look mini-shoot at a reasonable price.  I’m pretty budget-conscious now (more on that in the future) but also want someone who knows the market so I get the look I need (in NYC, the more natural the better) so I asked around and found a great photographer who was available to meet up – even better – in two days.

Mary Kate Gutierrez has been building her photography portfolio over the past year in New York and Southern Connecticut.  A 2014 graduate of UCONN, she works full-time in advertising but pursues her love of photographing children as much as possible outside of work hours.  She hopes to parley that into a career pulling together the big picture of marketing kids’ fashion campaigns.  I’ve seen her work shooting for emerging designers as well as portfolio shoots for kids and some editorial work.  She credits her ability to work will with kids, parents and designers on her extensive sports background – she played competitive soccer, basketball AND lacrosse.  I would describe her style as clean, natural and fun.  She loves the opportunity to capture children as they really are – letting their personalities shine. 

With a rousing endorsement by a friend, I contacted Mary Kate on a Friday.  She had also been following me on social media, so when I messaged her we felt like old buddies – she’s very friendly and outgoing.  She suggested meeting up on Sunday morning, which was perfect, since she already had a shoot scheduled at Yale and I would be on my way to my dad’s for a family gathering nearby.  (I kind of live in the boondocks of northwestern CT, so New Haven is actually relatively handy for me in relation to NYC or NJ).  I asked for some wardrobe suggestions, and I grabbed a few dresses and some simple sandals and we were on our way.

When we met on our arranged street-corner, Mary Kate was ready to go.  It was a reeeeealllllly hot that day, but she showed up looking like quite the cool and casual photographer – cute clothes with a stylish vest and her hair pulled back.  She put my daughter at ease immediately (not that my daughter is uptight or anxious, but a fast connection is a great thing for a quick photoshoot).  We picked a dress, chatted a bit, and within a few minutes they were off and running, stopping here and there in the nooks and crannies of the collegiate neighborhood.

Mary Kate sent me all of the photos that night.  I loved the proofs and have settled on one to use as a headshot.  Most of all, I really enjoyed meeting her – she talks about her close-knit family (three brothers and a sister; all younger) and the high expectations her parents have for their academic achievement (each child pays his or her way through school as well).  Honestly, I left the shoot wanting to go have Sunday dinner at Mary Kate’s family’s house!

If you’re looking for some fresh photos with a really sweet and outgoing photographer, consider Mary Kate.  Full disclosure, I paid her full asking price and I did not receive any “favors” for the coverage in the blog here – this was totally my idea after the fact because I had such a great time with her and I wanted to spread the word.  She is “emerging” and not a full-time photographer, so her prices are quite reasonable yet she is no less professional than anyone I’ve worked with.  You’ll see a lot more of her work in the future – I’m sure!  You can follow her on Instagram at @marykategutierrez on facebook at MKG Photography or on the web at 

I've included a few shots below...the first is the one I'm using for her on-camera headshot now; the second is the "serious face" she was sporting that morning; and the third is just a fun shot that I love.

Feedback?  Thoughts?  Add a comment here, on my Facebook page The Bizzy Mama, or send me an email at …I’m also on Instagram at TheBizzyMama.  Don’t forget to share the love by clicking RIGHT HERE…I want to become a top Mommy Blogger!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kids in the Candy Store; Moms in the Shoe Store...

Picture yourself walking into Nordstrom.  You see the Tory Burch shoe selection.  You pick up a few of the shoes, stroke them lovingly, and you decide to try a couple of pairs on.  You’re thinking, just one pair…I’ll splurge a little bit…I’ve been so good about not spending too much money…maybe the gold flats…or the wedge sandals…or maybe the blue ones!  You try them on, all look fabulous (because this is a hypothetical situation and you don’t have barges attached to your ankles) and you choose the pair you’re going to buy.  The shoe salesman completes your sale and you are out the door, silver bag in hand, ready to conquer the world in your new shoes.

You only got one pair.  But you tried on three and they were all great…right?  You chose the blue ones.  On a different day, you might have gotten the sandals.  At that moment, though, the blue ones were your favorite.  My question is, and here’s where I’m going with this, is: did you reject the other ones?

Your answers might vary, but I was reminded about the subject of rejection in child modeling and acting the other day by a mom (shout out!) who was considering getting her son into the business (in addition to her daughter) but she was concerned that her son might be too aware of the rejection, which her younger daughter didn’t even notice yet.

I’ve tackled the subject of rejection in discussions with seasoned model moms and skeptical bystanders alike.  It’s part of the business.  A huge part of the business.  And unless you are one of the half dozen or so child models I can count off the top of my head who book constantly, you’re going to face rejection ALL.  THE.  TIME.  Most of it?  You won’t even know about it because your agent submitted you for something and you didn’t get requested.  Does this kind of rejection hurt kids?  The older ones obviously know they went to a go-see and didn’t book – how does that feel?  Even for the younger ones, the parents are aware of the rejection, and sometimes the parents take it very personally.  Is it okay to face that rejection?  I’m offering up my answer: a resounding, YES, it’s ok and probably actually good for kids!

If you’re not in the business (or even if you are) think for a moment about everything your child does (outside of modeling).  Swimming, ballet, baseball, choir, fencing, whatever.  How many times has your child been rejected?  Chances are, if you have a kiddo under age 10 or so, the answer is probably…not many times.  Little kids tend not to face any rejection.  End of the year class ceremonies give awards to every child (Brightest smile!  Most colorful wardrobe!) and not just the top spellers and the best readers.  EVERY snowman collage gets hung up in the classroom, not just the ones most pleasing to the eye (and, er, accurate…what was that one kid thinking?!?).  We’ve created this cushy, fuzzy, warm, and safety-padded world for our kids in which they never face any real rejection unless they engage in competitive activities…and even then…let’s just say my son puts the BEN in BENch, and he’s fifteen.

 So I explained this all to a group of my friends, and many seemed to agree.  A little rejection is good sometimes.  Learning how to handle it gracefully can be an amazing feat on the way to building good character…and a way to gain some perspective on how the real world works.  Explaining it to kids can also be challenging, because we still need to sugar-coat (foreshadowing!) it so kids can handle it.  So I came up with this analogy that’s more suited to kids than my Tory Burch shoe analogy above.

Imagine going into a big candy store.  It has EVERYTHING sweet and delicious a kid might want.  And everything looks soooo good…maybe Bit O’ Honey is not your thing, but gummy sharks?  Heck yeah!  And your mom tells you that you can pick out three things.  How do you ever pick just three from the whole entire store?  You just do.  Does it mean you rejected all the other candy in the store?  Technically, sure.  But does it feel like rejection?  Not really – you just picked the three things that seemed really good at that moment.  If you go back next week, you may pick three different things.  Or one or two the same and something else different.  (The gummy sharks tasted stale.)  Or maybe this week you can only get one.  Next week you can get four!  All the candy is good…there are different flavors and some are just variations on the same thing (red Swedish fish, cherry gum drops, and red gummy worms) but you still have to narrow it down.  And sometimes there is a candy that’s there all the time but no one really chooses except on rare occasions (wax lips?)…but you know it’s there should you ever desire it.

Kids can probably understand that.  They make choices all the time – ONE lollipop at the bank, ONE beanie beast at the toy store – they can see that sometimes options need to be narrowed and maybe you can make the connection to modeling and acting for them.  Remind them of all the other cool things they do.  Teach yourself to get past the go-sees and holds that don’t result in bookings (if they see you upset, they’ll learn to feel that way, too).  As they say, “On to the next!”

Feedback?  Thoughts?  Add a comment here, on my Facebook page The Bizzy Mama, or send me an email at …I’m also on Instagram at TheBizzyMama.  Don’t forget to share the love by clicking here…I want to become a top Mommy Blogger!

Monday, July 13, 2015

____ hair; don't care!

Hair.  Where do I begin.  Every so often I get this idea in my head that I need to cut my daughter’s hair.  Or, rather, want to cut her hair.  It usually happens when I get itchy about my own hair style, or after a particularly tangly patch of days (a few nights ago I was separating paint from my daughter’s hair strand by strand – it had hardened into some plasticy chunky substance – what child’s art supplies DO that?!?).  Full disclosure: since I began writing this I have had my hair significantly cut and I have dropped my desire to cut my daughter’s hair.  I decided that the topic itself is pretty useful, though.  What is the best way to style your child’s hair for child modeling?

One morning in the midst of my style-change fever for my daughter’s hair, I emailed her agent.  I explained what I was thinking, and wanted her feedback.  I didn’t necessarily frame my question in a way that flat-out asked, “Will she book more or less with a different hair style?” but I was curious if I should be aware of any possible reasoning one way or the other I should consider.  My agent grabbed the phone and called me within minutes, because she didn’t want to limit her response to email.  Her first response was perfect: “If it’s what your daughter really wants, do it.”  Now, how great is that?  She put what should be the first consideration FIRST, and immediately I began to look at the pro/con list a different way.  It wasn’t really my daughter’s desire, so maybe I shouldn’t be so eager to make the change.  Then my agent gave me an overview of things like flexibility, versatility, the frequency with which the hairstyle I was considering gets requested…etc.  What it boiled down to was things to consider, but no definitive answer.  Or, as she sometimes likes to say, “there is no right or wrong answer.”

Now, I know not all agents are like this.  Some have a preference for their models’ hairstyles, and that’s fine too.  I will say that I think my agent’s first consideration being what my kid wanted was really excellent business…she put the emphasis on the child, which should always be paramount.  If your agent is telling you a certain style would be best for your kid, though, that’s your agent’s expertise and years of experience talking.  It’s just like hairstylists.  You know how some take more risks and some leave the decision more to you?  Or others will turn your chair around and cut and not let you see until it’s over?  Same with agents.  Just different styles.

For go-sees, however, you should have a hair strategy.  Now, I’d like to prepare you for the collective gasp/groan: we’re growing out my daughter’s bangs.  That’s THE WORST.  She had cut her own bangs almost two years ago and we’ve had them ever since…but I think they look a little young and I want her bangs grown out.  She is on board, so we’re in this mini-clip/snap-clip/bobby pin hell of go-see preparation that quickly degenerates into wispy annoyingness.  But that aside, her hair is long and fine, but relatively thick.  It has a tiny bit of wave and is not stick-straight, but will not curl well (to my degree of hair expertise; on-set stylists can pull off some amazing shiz).  It’s shiny for the most part, but does have some damage from being pulled back in elastics all the time.  My overall approach is to wash and condition the night before, use a wet-brush (BUY ONE NOW) after some serious towel drying, and let it dry overnight.  If I wash it same-day, I’ll do a blow dry with a little Moroccan Oil or other light serum (I have a Garnier Fructis version in a pump bottle, which I love for the ease of the pump), just to keep the static away.  For the actual go-see, she’ll wear it down with some clip or pin pretty well-camouflaged to keep the bangs back.  (Just since I’m on the topic, for auditions I tend to do two low ponies or loose braids just so more emphasis can be on the kid and less on the hair.  Since print is very visual, they should be able to see the hair’s potential.)

For girls with long hair, control is the prevailing factor.  If it’s wavier and thicker, you may want to focus more on the serum and aim for a natural-but-controlled look (I don’t recommend a full-on blowout for a kid, because it’s not that common on typical sets for stylists to replicate that.).  Let the client see what the hair has to offer.  On the other end of the hair spectrum, we might see the shorter, thinner hair – it’s not uncommon for 3-5 year olds to still be growing in their full head of hair.  Salt-water spray (I’m a fan of bumble & bumble; I have short, layered Meg Ryan-wannabe hair now) is great for giving some body to thinner hair, and you can finger-shape it into soft waves or wisps off of the face.

Easy enough, right?  Now, is anyone out there thinking…<eye roll> “White girl problems!”  I want to provide some coverage here for all hair types.  African American and mixed girls often have a whole different game plan.  I consulted a couple of moms whose daughters have great looking hair, and asked them how they kept their hair looking so great (and because these girls book, they’re obviously doing something right!).  One friend has tried tons of products (I think this is common when dealing with black hair – there seems to be a lot of personal preference and trial and error out there).  You can also meet any budget with products – for any hair type – but like everything else, the more you want it to do, the more you’re going to pay!  This mom mentioned Ouidad and Jane Carter as her favorite product lines, but she has used some Shea Moisture products with success as well, and they are less pricey.  For her, the process is really key in managing her daughter’s thick, controlled curls.  No brushing is a big rule; and when she does “brush,” it’s with a large pick on the days when she “washes” with conditioner only (about 2-3x a week).  She only washes with shampoo once a month, and she chooses a sulfa-free shampoo.  Then it’s about the products to keep the curls soft and distinct, and she’ll finish with a bun piled on top of her daughter’s head held together with a loose scrunchie.  In the mornings or between washings, she uses a refreshing spray to tame the “dry fly-aways”. 
My friend's product buffet for her daughter's hair.
Another mom I consulted was not as specific about her process but she has some favorite products – she actually tends to prefer the less expensive product lines.  She gave shout-outs to Mixed Chicks conditioner and Tresemme shampoo for curly hair, with Miss Jessie baby butter crème as her go-to product for curl control.  What this mom did fill me in on, however, wasn’t so much the whole go-see prep, but the reality that many stylists on sets for shoots don’t always know how to work with mixed and AA hair.  She said that can be a disaster.  So I wanted to know: does she get involved with the stylists on set or does she sit back and let go?  She answered me very honestly: she used to let it go, but no more.  She gives them some basic instructions about products to avoid and says "NO WATER!"  to avoid disastrous outcomes…and she says the stylists are actually pretty cool about getting the info from her.

I’ve left out boys, and I can say there are probably as many boy styles out there as there are boys.  Long, short, spikey, Biebery: it’s all there.  I’m going to remain very vague on the boys’ style tips, because boys’ styles are usually pretty specific to the kid.  I think the best advice for boys is to just keep them “groomed.”  If your child has a mop of curls, that’s his style.  Use a little finger styling and a dab of serum or other control product if anything.  Don’t try to make his hair something it’s not.  Most littler boys have wash-and-go styles, and yay for those!  Tame the fly-aways with a little mom-tousle or hand-rub before they get their pictures snapped.  Consider the client – more preppy?  Maybe a little more control.  Outdoorsy, fun, athletic?  Let it be a little more natural.  I have heard of clients losing interest in boys if their hairstyle is too “trendy,” but I’m going to circle all the way back to the beginning: it should probably be the style your kid wants.  (I’m sticking with “probably” here because I would not be too happy with the shaved-side 3-color Mohawk option.  There is probably a client out there who would book the kid, but I just wouldn’t want to look at my kid like that every day!)

Three years ago...when she still had her baby curls.  Pre-first haircut.

Feedback?  Thoughts?  Add a comment here, on my Facebook page The Bizzy Mama, or send me an email at …I’m also on Instagram at TheBizzyMama.  Don’t forget to share the love by clicking on the brown icon below…I want to become a top Mommy Blogger!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Time, Weather, Transport and Money: A Matrix

If you commute in and out of the city like we do, you may have noticed that the traffic seems to have gotten worse over time.  I don’t mean to be one of those “it always gets worse people” (the equivalent of, “kids these days!”), but really – empirically – it seems to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get home from NYC over the past several months.  I used to figure on a good five hours for a typical go-see or audition, and when I say it’s been taking seven plus hours sometimes, I am not kidding.  (And please feel free to shake your head and tsk-tsk me on this one; I get it, it sounds insane.  Sometimes it is.  Did you read my last post?  Maybe it’s all connected.)

Yesterday all the stars aligned and I was able to take my daughter to two go-sees.  I had no doctors’ appointments (first weekday in forever), her kindergarten end-of-year assembly was in the morning (in a combined 23 end-of-school-years for my children, I had been to exactly one other one when I was on maternity leave, so BIG MOMENT FOR ME)…and I had the afternoon “free.”  Don’t let that fool you – it’s not like I don’t have a million things piled up from my Spring O’ Paralysis – but I actually sort of thought, hey…I can do this.

Now, being a little short on the cash (co-pays, HSA, etc…feeling kind of broke right now), I wanted to be semi-fiscally conscious.  I used my Best Parking app to check out garages, but these two go-sees were in the fashion district, and parking in that part of town is outrageous during the day.  I was getting amounts like $48 for over an hour.  Let’s throw in some time concerns.  I wanted my daughter to stay in school as long as possible but had to be mindful of two go-sees, one of which was quickly getting the reputation of a million kids with a zillion hour wait.  And it was raining.  Dry day?  Walkable distance between the two.  Pouring rain with a kid who needed to look presentable?  No walking.  So, I’m thinking about the matrix of money, time, transportation, and weather.  This is a true model-mom’s matrix.  And probably the reason why we drink wine immediately upon returning home.

 Rain means slow driving.  We learned that in drivers’ ed, right?  Well, rain on a 100 mile commute could mean three circles of hell in Dante’s world.  But…but…there was no traffic.  My WAZE app took me my most direct and favorite route.  I hardly tapped the brakes.  When I got close to the city, I decided to aim for…wait for it…street parking near a subway.  And where better to do that than my old neighborhood?!?  I got off the West Side Highway at 125th Street, zoomed my way up Broadway, and parked smack in front of the Barnard College gates.  I maxed out the Muni-Park (six whole dollars) in case we had to wait two hours at the go-see and then wanted dinner.  Add the ultra-convenient bathroom in Barnard Hall (I had a big iced-tea along the way) and we were on the downtown #1 train by 2:15.  Frame of reference: I left my daughter’s school at 12:15.  I made it to the city, IN THE RAIN, parked and went to the bathroom in TWO HOURS.

Smooth sailing on the subway…and my indelible memory of the layout of the Times Square station had me exit the subway exactly one block from the address of go-see #1.  A little rain but not pouring rain fell on the way…and we wound our way through one of the big fashion district showroom buildings, which are filled with designers’ workspaces and showrooms where buyers can come to place orders.  These buildings are very cool.  The hallways snake around seemingly endlessly, and you can peek in the glass “storefronts” at the different designers’ stuff.  It’s not like you can shop, because these are appointment-only businesses, but it’s a cool insider view of the fashion industry. 

We were headed to a designer who makes gorgeous stuff – including bathing suits for children.  I won’t name her here, but for those of us in my age range, we may remember her as the teenager who dated Jerry Seinfeld way back when.  Anyway, we waited just a few minutes for another little girl to finish trying on the samples, and then it was my daughter’s turn.  Cute suits!  Nice people.  Good go-see.  And…done, on to the next.  And…of course, by the time we got downstairs, it seemed like the rain had picked up.  We put on our jackets (despite the steamy 80-ish temp) and I had to decide what to do next. 

We needed to go downtown 12 blocks and across town an avenue block and a half.  That’s about a mile.  Probably not a problem on a dry day…but rain?  Sacrifice good hair?  No.  The Subway wouldn’t be too bad, but it would still be about a third of a mile walk.  A battery powered hair dryer might be a good model-mom tool, now that I think about it.  So, executive decision: we would take a cab.  Ok, New Yorkers, what are the odds of getting a cab on 39th and Seventh Avenue at 3:00 on a rainy day?  I scoped out the street corners (four options) and made sure no one else was hailing a cab…and we waited.  And waited.  And got one! after about only 3 or 4 minutes.  NICE!  The ride was relatively short to the next go-see, and I started to get a little worried about what we would find. 

The model-mom grapevine had been all lit up all day about this one…I was hearing about long waits.  But whatever!  I wasn’t freaking out about getting home for baseball or worried about a meter running out or my garage fee going into the three-figure range.  Upon entering the building, a good sign: there were no other kids waiting by the elevator.  No other kids actually in the elevator.  And immediately off the elevator: no other kids.  I saw the name of the product on the directory and saw the studio number where they were casting, but then I saw…like, one kid.  There was no sign in sheet so I waited outside the studio and found out that there was a separate studio being used as a waiting room…which didn’t sound good.  So I went over to that studio and…and…there were two kids and moms in there.  And one mom/kid combo was a friend I was hoping to meet up with since I knew we’d be there around the same time.  SCORE! 

So…all told, between the waiting room and the casting studio, there were maybe two or three kids waiting along with my friend’s daughter.  They were taking their time with each kid, so it wasn’t a snap-and-done go-see, but the wait was really minimal.  How did this happen?  So far this trip was going supremely well (save a little rain) but – truly impressive at this point.  I could only imagine what hell would await me on the ride home.

We took the subway back uptown, and started getting excited about having some scallion pancakes at Ollie’s on 116th Street.  I hadn’t had lunch and was saving my pig-out for some fried Chinese deliciousness.  Another nice train ride, which included my daughter chatting up the other kids on the train, and we were back on Broadway and 116th…and…Ollie’s was all boarded up.  WHAT THE HECK?  I have been eating scallion pancakes at this place for 25 years!  So…we drove home.  (Reminds me that I need to find out – is it CLOSED or being renovated?  Anyone?)  And when I say we drove home – I mean, we drove.  We didn’t sit in traffic.  We actually moved.  And we left the city at 4:15, which is like, totally in the zone of rush hour.  And there was still some rain.  But there was no traffic!  A tiny bit of volume here and there, but no traffic jams!  We stopped in Danbury for a bite to eat (take out) on the way, and made it back to our house at 6:35.  It was really remarkable.

So here’s my tally:
Drive in: 1:45
Parking: $6
Subway: $5.50
Taxi:  about $9 with tip
Waiting at two go-sees: about 15 minutes total
Calories of scallion pancakes: 0
Drive home: 2:20
Savings from NOT paying $48 plus tax (that’s like, 18.75%, no joke) to park: About $30
Traffic time saved by parking uptown: lots.

According to the matrix, that all adds up very well.

Now we’ll wait to see if anything comes of the go-sees.  Statistically, probably nothing.  But, I had a nice time with my kiddo.  We didn’t get too wet…but we were bummed about the scallion pancakes.
My daughter and her buddy at the second go-see...shout out to my friend!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bizzy Paralysis (A Personal Account)

So, the Bizzy Mama is depressed.  Not like, sad or bummed out…but actually depressed.  As in, Major Depression, diagnosis code 296.33.  This depression, in my case and many others, as I am learning, is bosom buddies with crushing anxiety, panic, and sometimes a little agoraphobia.  You know, just so they have a posse.  One illness on its own is apparently not enough.

I chose to write about this because one of the biggest struggles with these illnesses is the fact that most people who have them don’t look sick.  And if you look at many of the symptoms, it can come across as laziness…or even sloth.  Unless some people really want to take a bit of time to learn about these conditions, it can be very difficult to understand how willpower alone can’t touch these symptoms…and quips like, “Just get it in your head to get up, start moving, and get through the day” get received as so demeaning and guilt-inspiring…can actually make the symptoms worse.  This is a physiologically-based illness, just like diabetes, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s…and so much of the traditional perception of what makes someone ill is based on what you can see or observe about a person.  When you see someone staying in bed all day with overflowing laundry and dishes in the sink, you think lazy.  When you see an Alzheimer’s patient disoriented, you think, oh how sad…I hope that never happens to me…is there a medication for that?

And then when someone commits suicide, I often hear people say things like, “How selfish!  Why didn’t he just reach out for help?”  Truthfully, depression-related suicide is far more likely to kill us than things like liver disease, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s.  There’s a mortality rate to this shit I’m dealing with.  And it’s no small potatoes.

I’ve battled forms of depression my whole life, with my first flare-ups in high school (only diagnosed retroactively, though) and an official first diagnosis in college.  It became particularly bad about a year after the birth of my first son, and I’ve been treated for it more intensively for the past fifteen years or so.  I also have some features of Bipolar Disorder, which do not meet the specific symptoms of Bipolar I or II, but can be nefarious enough to be ready to treat at the start of symptoms.

A few weeks ago, I shut down.  I’ve had an incredibly challenging year (I operate on a school-year schedule) with my boys being in a car accident, my mom being diagnosed with cancer THE NEXT DAY, and my spouse battling illness during the winter.  Work has also been tough, with new evaluation systems, curriculum, and teaching expectations…that make it a place virtually unrecognizable in relation to what I experienced twelve years ago when I started in that district.  I’ve had ups and downs all year, many of which I attributed to being situational – see above.  But even when things started settling down, my migraines intensified to two – three days a week.  Migraines cause exhaustion for me, and I began to spiral downward, even while my doctors were trying to find me some relief.  In the quest for some answers, they found my thyroid to be
Completely out of whack, and all of that created a recipe for disaster.  I could hardly leave my bedroom…or even my house.

So, I’m working on it all.  I have a lot to say – things about the symptoms and the thoughts that run through my head; things about the impact on the people close to me; and things about my treatment.  It will come.  But I thought I would let you know what’s up – and I’m also determined to show that hey, “normal” (that’s like foul language) “high achievers” can suffer from mental illness.  No, you probably won’t understand or recognize us unless you’ve been there yourself, but I’m here.  I want to try and help one person the way others are helping me…and if I do, sharing all of this will be worth it.

I won’t forget to write about the biz or the Biz, but considering how paralyzed I’ve been, I’m just happy to get this out to you!  Thanks for reading.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Makeup Test

I have referred to makeup a few times in previous posts – most specifically, I think, in the post about the connection (or lack thereof) between child modeling and pageants.  I’ve been thinking more about it lately and a mom friend (shout out!) gave me some ideas that I can address in a post.

A little back story on me.  I loooooove makeup.  LOVE!  You could lock me in a Sephora for about three days and I would be happy as a pig in poop.  (I really want to say the sh-word, but I’ll keep it PG.)  My mom was never uptight about when I could or couldn’t wear makeup and I always favored a very natural look, so I began playing around with it sometime in middle school.  (And my mom is a makeup whiz herself.)  Now let me put a little emphasis on playing with makeup.  I almost never actually wear makeup.  I own a full set – foundation, powder, mascara, etc…but I only wear it for special occasions.  I am a very low-maintenance “wash and go” kind of girl who gets up at 5:30 am and likes to be out of the house by about 6:20, so I just don’t make time for it.  Drying my hair is, like, a big beauty day for me.  And, I have an extremely un-glamorous profession, so I don’t really need to dress it up on a daily basis.  But I still love makeup!  I like to put it on for fun, try new products, in search of the Holy Grail item that will make me look ah-mazing.

When I started playing with my mom’s makeup and then fiddling around with my own, I knew exactly what I was doing: I was trying to look grown up.  Playing grown up is a childhood rite of passage – we play house so we can be the parents; store so we can be consumers; and doctor so we can…KIDDING!  Anyway, I associate makeup with looking grown-up and I get uncomfortable when I see little girls with a lot of makeup.  It’s obviously a bias that I have that some others do not – and my bias doesn’t necessarily apply to little girls playing dress up.  I get it; that’s fun.  A few months ago my daughter did a photo shoot in which she was fully made up; foundation, blush, eye makeup – and I was on the fence about how I felt.  It really was nothing was over-the-top; it was mostly a natural style, but it noticeable and was much more than she would normally wear at a typical photo shoot.  I think I mentioned before that paid photo shoots for most children in our market involve very little makeup.  The typical look can include a tiny bit of concealer (little kids often have thin skin and can look dark under the eyes), a tiny bit of blush just to give a rosy glow, and maybe a bit of lip gloss – not so much for shine but to eliminate dry lips.  Older kids may get a wisp of mascara, usually clear or in a color that matches their natural lashes – and usually only on the ends of the lashes so they are “visible.”  My daughter’s and my eyelashes are light blonde on the tips, so a tiny bit of mascara can actually make it look like we have lashes.

Once I saw the pictures from that made-up shoot, I realized it really wasn’t a look I preferred for my daughter.  My parents were really not happy with the pictures – they have a much more conservative stance on how children should appear in pictures, and I kind of thought – well, this is not really for us.  Contrast that with the shoot we did with Gina Kim a couple of weeks ago (see previous posts) in which my daughter wore NO makeup, and I have a definite preference for the natural face of my child.

But back to that list of the makeup that is more common for the shoots we usually do.  What about makeup cleanliness?  I believe that the sickest my daughter has ever gotten was within about a month or two after she began working regularly.  It was one of those stomach-fever-lethargy viruses that seemed to hang around for about a week.  I chalk that up to a shoot in which she was one of several little kids on set – germ city.  Was it the makeup – perhaps the lip gloss – that they used on her?  Maybe, but we all know little kids can catch a bug from any number of forms of contact.  (And if you are getting started in the biz and you’re worried about your young kiddo catching a bug from other little kids, it WILL happen and it’s just like any activity your kid would join.)  So I’m wondering if I should get our own little makeup bag of a few items to use when we’re on set – and just hand it to the makeup artist (that’s MUA in biz lingo) for our own personal use.  I mean, we don’t just put samples on our own faces willy-nilly at Sephora…you just cannot always guarantee the cleanliness.  Does anyone bring your own makeup to shoots?  I’m not super over-protective about stuff – I realize that germs happen, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.  Because, as we all know…herpes (mouth or otherwise) is the gift that keeps on giving.  I’d also love to know exactly what to get for a little kit – any ideas?  Essential items?  Brands?  Let me know!

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Friday, May 15, 2015

It’s not about the money, money, money… (cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching)

I was looking back through some of my daughter’s tear-sheets that I’ve posted on Facebook, and I found a comment on one picture that suggested I should quit my job and live off of her salary.  Obviously it was a light-hearted remark made by a friend who was genuinely happy for my daughter’s accomplishments – and I took it as such, but commented back to make sure everyone realized that child modeling is NOT about the money.  REALLY, it’s not.

Many of us think that talking about money is tacky, and generally I agree, but I also work in a municipal job and my salary is public record.  Model moms talk about the “rates” of jobs all the time, but what does it all add up to?  I know that people outside of the biz who may want to consider getting their kids into modeling legitimately wonder what kids make…so here goes.

A basic booking for a typical job is $100-$125 an hour with a two-hour minimum (there are some exceptions…more on those later).  Agents expect you to accept that basic rate and not turn down the job because it doesn’t pay enough.  Some kids who are top bookers and work during the school day may be able to ask their agents to negotiate a four-hour minimum, and that makes for a better rate for missing a day of school.  By “typical job” I mean clothing and department stores or catalog/online companies.  Some of these jobs may also offer a day rate, which is probably in the $600-$800 range (so can actually be less than the typical hourly) and maybe as high as $1000-$1200 for the day.  If a company is in town for several days doing a shoot, they may use your kid five times for 2-hour bookings, so you may have to go into the city five times for ten hours, or they may book you in an 8-hour chunk and a 2-hour chunk or whatever combination.  A mom (shout out!) of top repeat booker for a company told me last summer that her daughter had worked 80 hours (that’s EIGHTY hours) for a company during a two-week time period.  NICE, right?!?  Cha-CHNING!!!

Some companies pay hourly and then provide a usage fee for the kids who go to print.  That tends to be more common in commercial print, which is the type of ad you see in a magazine, say, for a car company or laundry detergent.  Sometimes these ads pay the usage bonus because there may be exclusivity involved – for example, if you are in a Ford ad, Honda may not want to use your kid for an ad within the next few months.  That’s not usually a big problem over on the clothing side, but I do know of a few companies that want exclusivity.  Since that exclusivity expectation can take you out of the running for similar campaigns by different companies, they really should pay more to make up for your lost opportunities.  Pharmaceutical companies typically expect exclusivity, and will make you promise in writing five times before you even show up to the casting that you haven’t been in a pharmaceutical ad in the past whatever amount of time.  I’m not even really exaggerating here.

The print jobs that tend to pay the best are campaigns done for products or companies by ad agencies themselves (as opposed to in-house creative departments that produce catalogs and store signage).  These gigs can be clothing but can also be things like insurance companies, watches, jewelry, and the commercial print products I mentioned above.  They usually have an account from the client to develop and carry out the ad campaign, so their budget tends to be bigger.  These often pay well in relation to other print jobs but not as well as the adults get paid, which seems really unfair – especially when the kid and adult are in the same shots and on set for the same amount of time.  I take that back – it doesn’t seem unfair, it IS unfair.  Note to self: explore class-action lawsuit.  Anyway, these jobs are often up over $1000/day, and it’s really awesome when your kid books one.

On the low end of the pay range is editorial work.  Editorial is magazines (either printed or online) and can be a little as $50/hr or sometimes even free/unpaid.  The free/unpaid work does not usually go through agencies, and I’ll write more about unpaid work in the future.  (Controversy alert!)  One editorial job we did was $150/day, and that’s probably about as low as agency work goes.  It was, however, Elle kids (Italia) and thus a great gig, but you do those for the quality of the shoot as opposed to the pay rate.

Location shoots seem like great jobs because of the travel perks, such as nice destinations and good hotels, but they are usually a day rate (and they typically work you as many hours in the day as possible) and are a whirlwind pace.  Don’t get me wrong, I totally want my daughter to book some fabulous location gig someday, but they usually don’t afford you the time for a “vacation” segment of the trip.  Some location shoots are a travel day, a shoot day, and a travel day back home…so not a lot of relaxing going on there.  Beach shoots, in particular, can be tough for little ones, because it can be hard work to keep the kid dry and not sand-covered while waiting to shoot when the water is right there.  That takes a pretty disciplined child model to be hanging out on a beach all day just for pictures.

When booking through an agency, the agency takes 20% from the gross pay and 20% from the client.  Let’s say you have a 2-hour $125/hr job.  The total paid to the model is $250, which the agency will receive, and take $50.  The agency will receive an additional $50 from the client.  Your child will receive a check for $200.  That assumes, however, the client does not use a payroll system for models but hires them as independent contractors; clients that hire the models will ask for all the paperwork you would bring to the first day of a job (W-4, Social Security card, proof of citizenship) and then send a check to the agency after deductions for FICA and other taxes.  Then, of course, you get far less than $200.  The commission for the agency still comes off of the $250…so you do pay taxes on that and would later deduct it as a business expense.

How does it all add up?  A friend’s daughter that I know made in the ballpark of $45,000 last year and she is what I would call a TOP booker.  If a kid books 3 2-hour jobs a month, maybe give or take a couple good day rates and some lower editorial rates, that adds up to around $8,000-$10,000…and that would probably be considered a regular booker.  (And remember, 20% comes off as well as taxes in some cases…)  So, bottom line, this is NOT a big-money career for a child – and sizes are not consistent either, so you may have a great year and then a lousy year right after that.  (Cough, cough…size 4!!!)

Expenses are too big of a topic for today, but sometime in the future I’ll go through the expenses involved in a typical day of work for us.  

Thoughts or questions?  Add a comment here, on my facebook page The Bizzy Mama, or send me an email at …I’m also on Instagram at TheBizzyMama.  Don’t forget to share the love by clicking on the brown icon below…I want to become a top-ten Mommy Blogger!