Tuesday, March 31, 2015

You Reacted; I Published: Responses to Yesterday's Post

So I got called out by my friends.  This photo in question stirred up MEGA controversy among the model moms and I got a whole range of “How can you defend that?!?” to “You would never let your kid wear that!!!” etc.  Ok, ok, ok!  I’m going to say that YES, my message came as a result of the photo,  but I was aiming to address the responses to the photo.  I don’t like anonymous attacks on people’s choices.  I like civil conversation.  I am 100% sure, however, that IF I contacted the moms whose daughters were in the photo (and for today’s piece, I DID contact them) I could start a conversation with them about their choices and opinions that would involve some real sharing of perspectives.  Hundreds of people commenting on a facebook post is not necessarily civil discourse (but honestly, having that type of forum is probably better than having nothing and we should be glad as a society that we have the open communication that we do).  Maybe I’m coming off as a little “holier than thou” here and I really don’t mean to.  I kind of sort of really did call people “haters” and “a$$holes” and that was, um, exactly what I was saying not to do.  I am, however, trying to throw down a little street cred here.  One, I’m on the slightly older range of moms of little kids.  That makes me “experienced” and “worldly” (and old.  Whatever.).  Two, I deal with about 125 teenagers on a daily basis AND their parents AND my colleagues AND my administrators…and finally, I have been formally trained in labor negotiation and collective bargaining.  I know how to talk to people and how to have difficult conversations.  And if I screw it up?  I own it.  But I'm not going to pretend I'm not snarky, karma DOES occasionally bite me in the ass, and if you mess with my friends (OR G*D FORBID MY KID) you mess with me.  So I am far from perfect but I think I can offer some good food for thought.

Anyway, I am grateful for the moms who contacted me allowing me to use THEIR words here so I can offer a range of opinions in one place.  Hopefully, you find something that strikes a chord with you – good or bad!  No one here is right or wrong!  But my goal – hopefully – is that we can hear each other without being unkind.  Each paragraph represents a different person's response.  I have made a few minor edits for readability.

First, from a mom of one of the girls IN THE PHOTO:

For me... it was a group of girls who are friends having fun. People’s perception is what is wrong with society.  Yes, I understand the ones who are concerned because of pedos and stuff but: 1. A pedo will be attracted to a girl in jeans and t-shirt just the same.  Our kids are out there in the industry. Those girls weren't posed suggestively.  And 2,  those same ones who are concerned are the ones in the same breath shaming the kid.  Dancers wear less than what these girls wore. But people are so ballsy hiding behind fake names and a keyboard. The whole thing really opens your eyes to how judgmental people are without knowing a single thing about the people they are shaming.

(Note: I sought responses from more than one of the moms, but I only received one.)

From some moms who were really uncomfortable with the photo:

I did not care for the pictures at all -- I know that art is subjective but when it comes to little girls in boy’s underwear with vulnerable looks on their faces it gave me the heebie jeebies and having side butt cheeks poking out from silky shorts just isn't something I love.  I love the kids and the moms but it just made me feel icky.  I just wish the freebie shoots and the free editorial type shoots would stop.  After reading backstage posts and then an agent’s post about how it devalues our kids, I vowed to stop them for my girls. They don't need the experience and the exposure and I think the pic in question is a shining example of that. I have done plenty of shoots for pics or for clothes but no more.

Those photos were so bad! And totally inappropriate!  True, no one should say the girls are responsible but the moms are TOTALLY responsible for anything that gets printed with their consent.  I honestly feel that these sexed-up photos of little girls -- and believe me, teased hair, hot pants, that Brigitte Bardot-just-had-sex looking stuff is not how little girls look normally -- is not cool. If I hadn't known so many of the moms, I would have chimed in IN PUBLIC with my 2 cents that the photo was tasteless and reactionary and perpetuating a non-norm in an overly sexualized society.

I think the slut-shaming of little kids in public is OK.  It's the only way these moms will learn kids shouldn't be dressed like that.  I didn't read the comments so maybe it went too far but that was a bad pic and the photographer and moms should have known prior.

They need a wake-up call!!!!  Not being judged by others will only escalate the boundaries they push.

Perception is in the eye of the beholder:

It's amazing the things that people dare to say... IMO the problem is where their mind is going, not what a photographer may or may not be intending to portray.

From a mom who was uncomfortable but contacted a girl’s mom directly with her concerns:

Regarding the photo mentioned, I expressed my concern privately to one of the parents. I only have one foot (or maybe a half a toe?) in the business but have paid enough attention to know that many agents/clients/photographers are fighting back against the over-styled shots that make the kids look like mini adults.  I figured since I give 2 hoots about the kiddo in question, I'd mention it, particularly because she plans to pursue the business long-term and puts a tremendous amount of work into succeeding.  If I were not friendly with the mom I would not have said anything.  BUT… I have to say that I also understand the reaction from other parents who don't know the kids.  I think the more desensitized we become to such images, the more they become the norm, and yes -- that affects everyone.  Now using some of the adjectives (and reasoning) these adults used?  Um...no.  Hideous. Words were used that should never be used to describe a child and those folks should be ashamed of themselves.

A couple of moms who went “big picture” on the whole thing:

Given the business in which our kids are in, it is IMPOSSIBLE to prevent their photos from inappropriate use... I'm sure you can find the most innocent, sweet picture on some sicko's desktop.  It makes me sick to my stomach to even write that…I agree that every child should be dressed age appropriate.  I dislike very much the "crop top" looks of today you find in the stores starting at size 7…Really?  A kids’ size 7…NUTS.  Having said all of that, if this is the "photo shoot" I am thinking you are referring too, I believe that very day (Editor’s note:  I think it was a couple of days later) a beautiful, positive photo was also taken with wonderful messages printed on shirts.   I agree: spend that time you are obsessing over what someone else is doing with their kids and do something positive with your own. 

If you truly meant what you said about not judging other parents then it should apply to every parent -- not just the ones that we are friends with.  That is going to be something that I will try to work on because I know I have done it too much.

And just for the fun of it, a Women’s Studies professor:

Images like this perpetuate the problems women have in society with not being taken seriously.  As goofy as it is, the Doc McStuffins “look” with a girl wearing a medical coat is the type of image that can help us move beyond that in the future.  Until the girls are adults and can make their own decisions about how they are portrayed in the media, parents should be more mindful of the impact they can have on their girls.

What do you think?  Not exactly a balanced collection of responses.  So be it, I guess, because they are representative of what feedback I received.  I can add more later if I get some other perspectives.  Feel free to share my blog, email me at theBizzyMama@gmail.com, comment here, or speak out on my facebook page, The Bizzy Mama.  I had over 400 hits on the blog yesterday -- thank you!

Next time: I'll go back to stories about getting started in the modeling biz.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate…or, What Not to Not Wear (according to you)

I’m going to veer off my “ABC’s of child modeling” path for a little bit today.  I’m going to tackle something BIG.  And by BIG, I mean…something along the lines of breast vs bottle, two-state solution, vaxxing…let’s just say, those HUGE controversial topics you see on the internet and either jump in with your two cents (or $20) or hide that person’s posts because it gets old.  This one is really sensitive, though, because it’s about our own children.  And we are all fiercely protective of our own children.

A few months ago, the mother of 9-year-old child supermodel Kristina Pimenova (“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”) took to the media to shame the people who criticized her daughter’s photos.  Many people are SO QUICK to jump on the – and I really don’t know a better term for this, so help me out if you can better name it – “slut-shaming” train and call out parents whose children pose for pictures in outfits that some may feel to be overly revealing.  Or, some may object to the pose itself as too sultry or something like that.

A few days ago, a photographer did some work with a beautiful group of NYC child models and posted a picture on the internet.  The photo was beautifully styled, the girls looked gorgeous – but the girls were dressed in ways that caused some major-duty haters to spew some major-duty hate.  The photo and the kids themselves aren’t significant here, because this can happen at any time to any kids.  We model moms, however, do have kids in the public spotlight – so maybe you’re thinking we deserve the public criticism?  Like, maybe it’s okay to slut-shame Kim Kardashian because she made a sex tape, so all bets for respect for privacy are off?  But let’s add kids into the equation here – face it, we choose their path in this industry – and now it becomes open season for attack on parenting, and I’m going to circle back to the whole breast vs bottle here, and suddenly EVERYONE KNOWS BETTER THAN THE PARENTS THEMSELVES.

I happen to know many of the moms of the girls in the photo of issue, and I know that these are really great moms who really love their girls and want the best for them.  I’m not going to offer up any of my own reactions to the specific outfits because if I really wanted to, I would direct anything I wanted to say personally and privately to the mothers.  Where I’m going with this…and I realize that I’m not being entirely clear as it’s Monday and thankfully I don’t have an editor flailing over my head telling me my writing is crap today…why do people need to be such a$$holes as to call out moms and CHILDREN they do not know, in the name of imposing THEIR OWN values on someone else?

My wife and I (yes, I said wife, and if that’s an issue for you I hear plane tickets to Indiana are cheap this week) have some pretty clear opinions about what our daughter should and shouldn’t wear in photographs.  No panties visible, no bare chest, and for the most part, a general rule of thumb to be “age appropriate.”  I’m on the fence with bathing suits, but if Hanna or J.Crew wanted to put us on a plane to a random tropical island to shoot bathing suits?  HELLO!  Yes, we’d be happy to come!  (As an aside, if your child is in the industry, get a passport NOW because we were caught without one when my daughter got a hold for a shoot in COSTA RICA and I had to pay all the overnight mail and expedite fees and then stressed about not getting it on time…but she didn’t book…but I won’t have to worry about that again.)

Bottom line?  If you don’t like what you see, don’t look at it.  Don’t hide behind the veil of the internet and the precarious anonymity it provides to send hateful messages and comments to people you do not know.  You are not better than they are and they do not need you complicating the monumental challenge of parenting any more than the challenge already presents.  If you believe you see pictures somewhere that are bona fide exploitation or abuse of children, address those through proper channels.  If you see pictures of child models that make you think, huh, would I let my kid do that?  Have a dinner table discussion.  Decide your own boundaries for your family.  If you feel burning passion to follow up, get involved with a cause that actively protects children from sex crimes – I read a pretty harrowing op-ed piece on that the other day and I can say for certain, THAT is a cause that needs some attention.  Call out the ACTUAL pimps who exploit young teen girls.

And…take a moment to reflect on your own parenting.  Read a few extra pages tonight.  Throw an extra carrot in the lunchbox.  Snuggle a few more minutes at bed time.  Actually look at that thing your kid did on minecraft and has been prattling on about for an hour.  Just turn around your feelings against some other parent and use the energy to be a little more parental to your own kids instead.

Very fairly, a couple of my friends just called ME out for this, saying HEY, DI, YOUUUU did talk about this picture with us!  And I realized that I do not want to come off as a hypocrite -- yes, I did talk about it.  But you know what?  It was a discussion among friends.  Would we -- would we not -- and we all had stuff to say.  We agreed on several points.  But for the most part, we all know and respect those moms enough to handle anything we wanted to say in an appropriate and civil manner.  And again, my point perhaps didn't come through very well.  But here is my opinion:  DO NOT try to shame people you do not know.  DO NOT jump on bandwagons of HATE just because it's dangling out there in front of you.  And that's all MY opinion.  Maybe I'm being overbearing here?

Tell me if you disagree.  I'm really curious to hear multiple perspectives.  I'll be happy to publish your reactions.  Comment here, on The Bizzy Mama on facebook, or drop me an email at thebizzymama@gmail.com

Next time...NO!  REVISION!  I'm going to publish multiple perspectives...in an open and civil manner...please share your own!  thebizzymama@gmail.com

Later this week: our first go-see.

Friday, March 27, 2015

"What do you want from me?" Part 2

This morning I offer the sister post to “So, what is it that a parent really wants from a print agent?”  I'm now answering, "So, what is it a print agent wants from a parent?"  Disclaimer: I’m not an agent (but I’ve played one on TV!  Sorry for that – I’ve always wanted to say that.  And I’m a Real Housewives junkie and that’s RHOBH Eileen’s tag line…) but I’ve had enough contact with agents and other parents to know what they want from us.  Ready?

TRUST.  Agents at reputable agencies are agents because they are good at what they do.  They have needed to develop good relationships with casting directors and clients so they can take each other seriously and have they respect they need to work with each other.  As a result of all of that legwork and lovefest, they have developed a combination of standard protocols and instincts to get their kids booked and hopefully booked again.  Remember, they want to make money on our kids working.  They NEED to make money when our kids work.  No money, no job.  The harder they work (and the smarter they work) the more money they make.  (Their take, just in case you’re not in the biz, is 40% of the rate our kids make.  They take 20% from our kids and another 20% from the client.  For those of us who can take 40% off a dress at the gap and our math ends there, it comes out to $40 for every $100 our kids gross – of which we would get $80.)

TRUST that they do the best they can to get the job done.  They will know if Client X is a fascist about only sending kids of a certain size.  They do not want to piss off Client X by sending kids from all over the height chart just to get kids seen.  They may also know that Client Y never really knows what Client Y wants until they see the kids…and will tailor the clothes to fit.  There’s wiggle room.  An agent can take risks with Client Y.  When Client Z calls and says, “Send me five kids who fit such-and-such breakdown!” the agent may have 9 kids in that range but has to pick 5.  He or she will have to use judgment to get the kids most likely to book in front of that client.  This is really the stuff we shouldn’t question much.  Remember I mentioned the “Once in a While” pass to ask the agent his or her thoughts?  And hopefully get the honest answers?  Really, we have to trust a LOT – even when we compare every kid who went to the go-see or booked up against our own kids – that the agent is working in the best interest of our kiddos.  Once in a while we can ask.  Because if we ask ALL THE TIME?  We’re annoying and, frankly, keeping the agent from getting work done.  And really, we want the agent submitting our kids rather than answering annoying emails from neurotic moms.  If things just continue to not make sense to us?  Maybe the trust isn’t there and it’s time to reevaluate the relationship.

Just like yesterday’s post, I’ll lump the rest into one paragraph.  Book out if you are not available.  If you haven’t booked out, BE AVAILABLE.  Be honest.  Keep sizes updated as frequently as the agent wants them from you.  BE AVAILABLE.  Send good pics and good tearsheets (work from jobs) so the agent can submit the best photos of your kid.  Know what the agent wants you to do and/or and not do with non-agency work – including test shoots with photographers.  BE AVAILABLE.  Communicate efficiently.  Be on time and professional ALWAYS.

Thinking on the fly here, I’ll separate this one out into another paragraph: realize that this is a BUSINESS.  It’s not an “activity” you’ve picked up for your kid like soccer or gymnastics.  The agencies earn their money on the fact that your kid is available, shows up, and is professional.  I do know of kids who have become violently ill on the way into a shoot or broken a limb twelve hours before call time.  That happens; everyone will understand.  But if you don’t feel like driving into the city a third day in a row or have a soccer game you just don't want to miss but didn’t book out?  You need to put the business first.  You’ve chosen this for your kid, and you need to follow through.  If it’s not the right business for you, you can bow out the next day or as soon as you’ve fulfilled your obligations in terms of holds and bookings.  But if Ralph Lauren decides that your agency is just not reliable enough to work with because kids don’t show up?  Uncool for all of us.

Thoughts?  Reactions?  Comment here or on my facebook page, The Bizzy Mama.  Are you an agent?  Did I leave anything out?  Message my email at thebizzymama@gmail.com and I can update this without revealing your identity…or maybe give you a great pseudonym.  And a tagline!  Want a tagline?

Next time: haven’t quite decided yet.  I have a list…I just need to “feel” what should come next!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

"What do you want from me?" Part 1

I won’t reveal who asked, but this person (shout out!!!) will recognize the question.  Let’s just say it’s someone who…aw, nevermind.  (That was mean, wasn’t it?)  Verbatim, I was asked, “So, what is it that a parent really wants from a print agent?”  I have a few responses here, but one of the more obvious ones: “Lots of bookings!!!  Send my kid out!!!” really isn’t high on my list.  Without a doubt – and I do not even need to conduct any sort of scientific research here – the answer is…

HONESTY.  Absolutely, it’s honesty.  I know many parents who have caught agents in lies.  (I’m not going to pretend parents don’t lie either – perfect world?  Let’s make this a two-way street.)  Yes, our biggest concern as parents is probably the quantity of work, and later, as we get a little street cred, the quality of work.  (Bucket lists and OH NO NOT AGAIN lists…topic for the future.)  But even though that is our biggest concern, it’s not the first thing we need from an agent.

HONESTY.  Tell us a client said don’t send my kid anymore because she’s overexposed.  (Ha, I wish!)  Tell us there are three other kids who fit my kid’s exact breakdown and you’re juggling to get them all out there.  Tell us why you’re not sending us out for more editorial work…if it’s the money, tell us if we can pursue it on our own if we want to.  Tell us our kids are more catalog/fashion/toy box…than other things.  Tell us a new assistant came in and my kid wasn’t on his/her radar.  Just let us know.  Tell us how you used your instincts if something doesn’t make sense to us.  Now, BEWARE.  I am not NOT not telling you moms to pick up the phone EVERY TIME you have these questions.  We have to sit back and let the process happen…for the most part.  But if and when we do want to use our “why didn’t my kid ___?” question card once in a while, let us know exactly what you were thinking.  If we get answers that don’t line up with our goals, maybe it’s not the best relationship.  Maybe we need to read the writing on the wall sometimes. 

I’m going to put everything else in one paragraph, because it all comes after the honesty.  Believe in my kid.  Push my kid when you think you can.  If you feel overworked and overwhelmed, take on fewer kids.  Or hire an assistant.  Answer my emails within 24 hours – even if you say, “I’m swamped right now…let me get back to you tomorrow.”  (On my end, I try to structure my emails so the agent can give an answer less than a sentence…we can both be efficient at this.)  Be organized.  Have a master email structure for go-sees and bookings so I’m not sifting through three emails to find dates, addresses, and rates.  Laugh with me once in a while.  Advocate.  Negotiate.  Moms talk and we know that different agencies get different rates sometimes.  Give me some options when you know you can…time frame rather than set time, give me an out if it’s a cattle call for a client who has seen my kid five times and never booked her…give me an out if the rate is crumby and you want to work with the client but they just won’t budge on rate.  Give me as much advanced notice as possible. 

Obviously the sister-post to this one needs to be “So, what does a print agent expect from a parent?”  I know what the agents’ number one answer would be…I don’t even have to ask.

What did I leave out?  Let me know!  Comment here or hit up my new facebook page, The Bizzy Mama.  I’m also on Instagram (but if you follow me, you will have to commit to some dog pictures) at TheBizzyMama.

Next time: “So, what does a print agent expect from a parent?”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

33 Things You Should Always Ask Your Prospective Agent (or, more like, 5)

Last time I wrote about the correct mindset for approaching the agent meetings.  As I said, three of the four agencies that invited us in were one-on-one (or one-on-two) meetings with agents.  They were mostly an overview of the commitment (coming soon!) and then a time for MY questions.  I had no idea what to ask.  And even now, three and a half years later, I’m still thinking of questions I might ask.  Here is my list and a few words about why.

How is your office structured?  Will I be hearing more from you or your staff?  Whom should I call or email when I have a question?  Do you have any “ground rules” about when and how parents should/shouldn’t contact you?
Preferably, when you leave the appointment, you will have a name with a face for the person you will be interacting with the most.  Honestly, though, agencies switch up assistants and interns fairly regularly.  However, knowing the proper channels in the agency can help everyone work efficiently together.  As far as “ground rules” for contacting the agents, some agents really want to remain email free over the weekend and holidays.  It seems like you could just say…well, don’t open the emails.  But honestly, you probably open emails as they come…and it’s hard to avoid the temptation.  Some moms want to be able to email on nights and weekends, because that’s when they have time to stop and think.  And some agents will respond 24/7.  I keep to the business hours rule as much as possible – just like phone calls.  If it can wait (and unless you are on set and have an immediate issue, it probably can), wait until 11:00 am Monday morning.  Avoid the last hour or two of the business day as well, because the agents are probably dealing with last minute client issues.

How far in advance will you send out go-see or booking info?  (And say, “I realize that much of this business is last minute, but I know some agencies let the parents know as soon as they do and others prefer to notify parents closer to the appointment.”)
I know the agent will probably tell you, “We tell you everything that we know.”  Okaaaaay, but that’s not helpful when you have five birthday parties and six lessons on the weekend and find out four days in advance other kids are getting requests for a Saturday go-see.  Or, probably realistically, if you find out five other kids have a request for something and you’re itching to know why your kid didn’t.  (NOT THAT YOU WOULD EVER ASK AN AGENT WHY YOUR KID DIDN’T GET THE REQUEST.  In the future, I’ll give you some pointers on how to handle concerns like that.)  Oh, and hey…model moms talk.  A lot.  Fact of life.  Be in this gig a couple of years and you know the size and age of every kid in the city.  Or you have a friend who does so you don’t need to remember all of that.  (Shout out!!!)  For the kids who have a similar look and size to your own child, you will know their name, address, birth date, social security number, blood type…KIDDING!  (About the blood type.)  Some agencies send requests closer to the actual appointment.  They know things can change at the last minute and want to be efficient and accurate.  They also don’t want moms calling to see if they can pleeeeeease get their kid into a casting.

How does this agency use the internet to promote their models?  Is there a website fee?  Do you control the pictures or statistics on the website or do I?
This is a topic that comes up on backstage pretty regularly.  There is “that one agency” that charges more than the others.  Really, though, it’s not CRAZY more if you stay with the agency for a really long time.  That agency charges some bigger initial fees, while the others charge a more modest monthly fee...that can add up over a few years.  The purpose of the website is to allow clients to see kids other than the ones they may have specifically requested by breakdown…not necessarily for any of your purposes.  I’m not entirely convinced the website presence is essential to success in the business.  We personally do not use the website, because I know that our agent submits my kid for anything that matches her breakdown.  Other parents and agents probably have totally different opinions on that.

What do you prefer I bring to go-sees: a photo or a comp card?  If it’s a comp card, can I make my own or do I need to get them through you?
Comp cards are nice, thick 5x7 cards with a big photo on one side and a few smaller photos on the back as well as the kid’s name, agency, and stats.  I have seen some amaaaaaazing comp cards.  Traditionally, the agency would have a stack and you would have a stack.  Agents would send actual comp cards to clients for them to select the kids they wanted to see.  Then, you would carry them with you and give one to the client at the go-see if they didn’t have one handy.  Personally, we have never gotten one made.  Young kids change a lot, AND, almost no one ever asks for them at go-sees.  And they are expensive…and you have to buy a hundred, minimum, at a time.  Since I have been asked for one exactly one time (it was at the Gap Kate Spade casting…yeah, we didn’t book that.  Was it the lack of comp card?  Doubt it.) I have no plans to get any made.  I do, however, carry 5x7 prints of a photo approved by the agent to leave when people want photos.  I hardly ever need to leave these, so I really only get about 5 made at a time.

What should I never do?  Or always do?  (Besides be on time, available, professional, update stats, etc…)
Every agent has his or her thing that you just shouldn’t do.  I don’t know if each agent has it ready to spill at the interview or if you have to figure it out on your own…but it’s helpful to find out and know and abide as soon as possible.

(Side note: my favorite things to read on the internet are lists – hello, attention span…NOT!  Where was I? – but I’m not so sure I like writing them.  I feel like I’m forgetting really important things and that I do not have enough things on my list!)

Next time: I answer the question I was asked last night… “So, what is it that a parent really wants from a print agent?”

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Early Decision, Regular Decision, or Wait List? Or, how the agencies do it.

I applied to seven colleges.  One was early decision; I was deferred to regular decision.  I remember the day decisions were to arrive.  I drove to the post office, opened my family’s box, and sat on the heater across from the boxes waiting for the letters.  We lived on a hilly road on which mailboxes were always taken out by snow plows, so this was my version of sitting in the window waiting for the mailman to arrive.  (In case you’re wondering, I was accepted to five, wait-listed to one, and flat out rejected to another.  I don’t have issues about that at all.  Nope.  None.)  Ok, so let’s bring it back to modeling.  When you send out submissions, there is no magic “date” or time-period for notification.  My advice now is “set it and forget it.”  And get used to it.  Because you are going to have to do that every time you get a casting or a hold.  (Vocab lesson in the future.)  The agency responses ended up filtering in over the course of a month or so.

When you get contacted by the agencies, they ask you to come in for a visit.  We were invited in to four of the five to which we submitted.  It was a little odd: two of the agencies wanted one-on-one face-to-face meetings with agents, one informed me they were moving offices and they wouldn’t be able to meet for four months (!?!) and another invited us to a “request open call” which meant the agents would be seeing multiple children at the same time.  This happened to be near the holidays (and right before that crazy October snowmageddon that ground the Northeast to a halt for daaaaaaayyyyyyyssssss) so the meetings ended up getting spread out.  Ultimately, the meetings got spread out from November to February.  I keep making parallels to the college admissions process, so I will again: I viewed this as that sort of process.  Apply, hear back, go on visits, make your decision…weigh your options…choose.

The meetings are pretty brief.  The agents want to see your child’s demeanor.  If your child is friendly, well-mannered, and outgoing: great.  But we all know that with the younger ones, all bets are off.  Just try to get your kiddo in a good mood.  Whatever it takes.  (This just gave me the idea that I need to devote a post to bribery.  If you are opposed to child bribery: stop reading because this is NOT the industry for you.)  My daughter was two and a half: fortunately she had a pretty good personality at the time so I wasn’t too stressed about that.  (She’s kind of a beast now.  Anyway…)  The agent will go over the responsibilities of the parent and how the industry works…essentially making sure you’re ready for the commitment.  Then it’s time for you to ask questions.

Here is where I want to shake you up.  A lot of moms go into this process nervous and eager and just hoping the child “gets a contract” (more on contracts in the future!)…maybe a little overly eager.  And overly nervous.  Kind of like a job interview.  Here’s the thing.  Yes, it’s an interview…but not really like a job interview.  Yeah, show up prepared, have a clean kid, be professional.  But YOU are interviewing THE AGENT.  You’re hiring the agent.  Not like and “I’m the boss of you!” hiring (and really, do NOT be that way, because you will be kicked out) but a “can you work for the best interest of my child?” kind of hiring.  Now, you’re also hiring the agent to work WITH you.  It’s like hiring an expert designer or architect for your renovation project.  You want someone who knows his or her stuff and can deliver a great outcome.  You have to work with that person on a regular basis, though, so you need to be able to mesh and communicate with each other.  This could potentially be a long-term relationship, so you need to get some “gut instincts.”  All of the reputable (there’s that word again) agencies get the same jobs, each maybe has a couple of exclusive clients, and they pay within a reasonable time period.  That stuff is probably something you can put aside worrying about for now.  You need the FIT.  Honestly, beyond that, I don’t really know what to say about making your choice.  I would say that more of my model-mom friends (who are amaaaaazing!  Shout out!!!!) than not have probably switched agencies at least once in the quest for the best fit – whether within the first year or even several years in.  Don’t worry much about that now either; I point that out so you realize that you are not name shopping right now.  I’m going to say it…I’m trying to hold myself back…ughhh, I cannot… I’M ALL ABOUT THAT FIT, ‘BOUT THAT FIT… (And yeah, it’s VERY clear I ain’t no size 2!)

All dressed and ready for the first agency interview.

Next time: some questions to ask at the interview…that I wish I had known then.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Down into the Wormhole

Wormhole:  something about a space-time continuum…not really my field; but, more commonly among laypersons, this term has been used to describe that time you spend on the internet following links and losing time…like when you realize it’s bedtime and you haven’t fed your kids.  Backstage was a wormhole for me.  Originally a trade publication for performers, Backstage expanded its online presence to include an assortment of message boards, including one for Child and Teen Models.  This is where I really started to learn about the industry.  When you visit the board, you’ll see an assortment of general industry questions and more specific inquiries about castings (such as, did DKNY book yet?).  Backstage is dominated by the NYC market but sometimes there are a smattering of posts about LA and Miami…and maybe one or two from the Midwest from time to time.  I always recommend that prospective model parents spend some time on Backstage.  You can scroll through posts or do specific searches.  You’ll find frequent posters and gravitate toward some who may seem to have some similar trajectories and you can PM (private message) them.  You’ll learn a lot.

After some worm-time, I learned about agencies other than the big NYC supermodel agencies I mentioned last time.  Your first reaction is probably, “Which one is the best?!?!?” and I’ll save you lots of time researching the question and say it depends on YOU.  You may remember I mentioned college obsession last time.  I’m an Ivy League grad…so you may be able to picture me with a Peterson’s College Guide (do those still exist?) fervently researching to find the BEST ONE with little regard to the best for me.  As adults, though, we now know what’s meaningless and what’s meaningful.  (Have I ever gotten a job from someone I networked with at college?  No.  Did the name of my college open some doors?  Sure.  Did I meet my ex-husband in college?  Whatever.)  I personally have experience with three agencies.  It took a while with the first two to realize what I like and don’t like.  I’M NOT EVEN GOING TO NAME THEM.  You’re frustrated now, because you wanted the scoop on each, right?  IT ONLY MATTERS TO YOU.  Sorry to raise my voice, but finding the best fit is the research you actually need to do.

The first thing you will find out is how to submit your kid.  Most have some form of online submission process, and one or two of the reputable agencies may still want snail mail.  (Notice I used the word reputable.  More on that in the future.)  Don’t submit the cute photos with hats and bows and party dresses.  Keep it plain.  Agents want to see the hair, a smile, a serious face, and the full-length “look” of the kid.  Plain.  Jeans and a solid-colored t-shirt.  A solid-colored onesie.  Snapshots are fine.  In fact, they’re preferred.  Even if you think you’re a “bad” photographer, they will be fine.  Take the pictures in natural light with a neutral background.  That’s it.  Pretty easy.  Upload or print, click “submit” or put on the stamp, and you’ve submitted.

Now you wait.

I submitted to five agencies.  One responded within minutes.  The others took a little longer; maybe a week or two or three.  The next step is the meeting/interview phase…and I’m probably going to adjust your perspective on how you approach this process.

Next time: sizing up the agencies.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How I Met My Mo...dels

Despite – and perhaps because of – being a short, thickly built and awkward ‘tween’ (not a term we used then), I loved loved loved fashion magazines.  I would study them cover to cover, especially during the summer, when I was unencumbered by school work.  As an only child with a stay-at-home mom, I had time on my hands during the summers and my mother and I both loved to read.  For the first few days of each monthly magazine cycle, my reading just happened to be fashion magazines.  Elle, Glamour, and Mademoiselle were my favorites; probably because of the emphasis on health and beauty aids and “what to buy” columns.  (Vogue and Cosmo would come later – couture and sex tips weren’t really on my radar yet.  Fun fact: the first check I ever wrote from my first checking account was for a Cosmo subscription.)

So, like many American girls, I was drawn into the unattainably gorgeous world of beauty and fashion.  I knew I could never be a model, but I daydreamed about it nonetheless.  I knew I could never be on TV or film, but I daydreamed.  (I even created roles for myself on sitcoms; Blaire Warner’s younger sister, duh!)  As I got older, I got more distracted by school, driving, work, driving, and friends (did I mention driving?) and my obsession with magazines waned.  My daydreams turned more into college admissions obsession and, during the ensuing years, I was preoccupied with work, marriage and children.  I was certainly not the type of person to resurrect those daydreams and replace myself with my children.  Here I am, though, a model mom.  Though I know my tiny daughter (and by tiny, I mean 10th percentile for height for her age) will never be a teen or adult model, there had to be something that intrigued me about those glossy pages for me to pursue any type of modeling for my child.  Though I don’t always like to admit it, I’m sure all those hours with all those magazines played a role in my decision to take the plunge and submit photos.  After all, that flawless airbrushed skin you see on magazine covers?  Little kids actually have that skin.

My long-winded back story is relevant here: where did I begin?  Well, with all of the modeling agencies I had heard of from my days of studying the great supermodels of the 1980s.  Ford, Elite, and Wilhelmina were agency names that rolled off my tongue, so I looked up their addresses online and read about submitting photos.  Ford and Wilhelmina had children’s divisions; Elite did not.  I ordered some prints of photos from Walmart (3 or 4, I forget, but I've included one of them below) different looks, wrote my daughter’s name and my contact info on the back of each with a Sharpie, and put them in the mail.  Like the toaster oven commercial says, “Set it and forget it!”  Right?  Welllllll…not really.

I mentioned in my prior post about child modeling that I get focused on something and go all in.  While the mail was snailing along, I turned to the internet.  I think back to those hand-addressed manila envelopes and realized I knew nothing.  NOTHING.  Because I met…dramatic pause…backstage.com.

Next time: what I learned from Backstage about submissions and agencies.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Your child should be a model!"

When your kid is a child model, the number one question people ask is, “How did you get started in that?”  (Incidentally, the second question is, “Is that like Toddlers and Tiaras?”  But more on that at a different time.)  I guess most model moms start with the same intro, which is that lots of people said my daughter was really pretty and should model.  When you start to hear it a lot, and I mean A LOT, wheels start turning in your head.  I mean, who hasn’t envisioned their kid in a baby gap ad?  Just once?

I did a little research and found a great article in Parents magazine that was a few years old at the time.  The article gave some background about the industry and followed a model mom for a day “on the job.”  The first myth debunked in the article: CHILD MODELS DO NOT MAKE A LOT OF MONEY.  This is NOT a “don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000” industry as the gorgeous supermodel Linda Evangelista said in a Vogue interview published in 1990.  The Parents article portrayed the day itself as less-than-glamorous; mostly schlepping around New York with a potentially ornery child.  I wasn’t exactly sucked in to the child modeling world, but my interest was definitely piqued.

The first consideration – and this is even more important than an attractive child, I think – has to be your distance from New York City and your comfort level with navigating the city.  (Or LA, or Miami, etc.)  I’m a city girl in a country town (well, I went to college and worked in NYC and now I live in Litchfield County, CT) and I am comfortable getting around the city, know the subways pretty well, and can drive the streets with the best of the cabbies.  A little less promising, however, was our 100 mile distance from the city.  When I lived further south in CT, I could drive to my old neighborhood in the city in an hour and fifteen minutes.  That driving experience was what was burned into my brain.  Now, however, it’s a solid two hours – on a good day.  But as my spouse tells me often, once I get something into my head – I go all-in.

So I decided to make a go of it.

Next time: learning about agencies and submitting pictures.