Your child’s cute as a button, no doubt. But does he have what it takes to pose for a national print campaign or star in a television commercial? As Dee Ann Vernon, the director of the youth and young adult division at the Kim Dawson Agency, tells us, model looks often aren’t enough.
“I get a stack of 50–100 submissions a week,” she says. “A very small percentage of children get accepted.”
So, how do the lucky few make the cut?
1. They follow submission guidelines to a tee
Kim Dawson Agency requests submissions via snail mail, but submission guidelines vary between agencies. “There are very clear directions of what we’re looking for on our website,” says Vernon. Submissions should include accurate measurements of your child and current photos, no: hats, bows, sunglasses, food on the face, face paint, etc. “And we don’t want anybody spending money on professional images just for us.” Snapshots by mom or dad will suffice. Every single submission is reviewed, and if the agency is interested, they’ll follow-up with a phone call to discuss the next step: an in-person interview. If you don’t receive a response, wait six months and try again. Whatever you do, resist the urge to follow-up with phone calls or emails, which are strongly frowned upon.
2. They have the look (of the moment) and the personality
Blonde hair and blue eyes may have once been the look du jour. “But over the past few years, clients have trended toward more ambiguous looking children,” says Vernon. “That doesn’t mean we wont sign a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed child. It just means there hasn’t been as much work for that look.” While ever-changing market trends dictate the looks most in demand, agencies are responsible for determining which applicants have personalities most befitting to modeling. Wallflowers need not apply; outgoing, independent kids do best on set. “Photographers love the confident children than walk in the room and take charge,” says Vernon. If your child is selected for an interview, let their personality shine, keeping the interview as casual and natural as possible.
3. Their schedule is flexible
Last-minute jobs are standard in the business. So when assessing candidates, agents want to know that they have the flexibility it takes. “Does someone — it doesn’t have to be mom or dad — have the flexibility to get these kids to bookings?” she says. “We may get a call at 4:30pm for a job the next day.” The Kim Dawson Agency employs homeschoolers and kids from private and public schools, but Vernon says some public school districts are notoriously difficult to work with. Before pursuing modeling, parents should consider how it might impact their child’s education — and their own day-to-day. Something else to keep in mind: Agencies prefer talent that lives nearby, where most of the work will take place. Even a town over might be considered too far.
4. They have well-behaved parents
While kids are being courted, so are their parents. Agents can smell a stage mom a mile away — a deal breaker for most. From following directions during the submission process to knowing how to act on set, agencies want to know that parents are going to play by the rules should their child get signed. Vernon says turn-offs include: “the parent that always talks for her child, that tries too hard to convince us that her child is perfect or that over exaggerates her child’s abilities.” Should your child get signed, she warns to practice caution on social media. “I had a child almost lose a part in a movie due to the fact that somebody posted on Facebook that she got the job prior to the movie getting to release it.”
5. They avoid scams
Unfortunately, scams are prevalent in the modeling world. In 2011, the Texas legislature abolished state regulation of talent agencies, perpetuating the problem. A basic rule of thumb is that agencies shouldn’t make money unless their talent makes money. Steer clear of lesser-known agencies that request a signing fee or push young children to participate in costly modeling classes or workshops. “For just the price of a postage stamp and a decent snapshot you can get your kid in front of us,” says Vernon. “Look for reputable agents that have longevity.”