My name is Michelle Cartwright, I am 18 years old from Long Island, New York and I currently attend the University at Buffalo and I am writing this today to tell you about my experiences in finding an agency to represent me in NYC.
When I was 9 months old I started my baby modeling career, which unfortunately only lasted until I was four years old when I told my mom that I didn’t “want to smile for the camera anymore”. From then up until just a year ago, I was involved in every sport you could think of and I basically lived a normal childhood. Last year (after high school ended) I decided (since I was no longer playing sports) that I would try modeling out again. My whole life I’ve been told that I should get back into modeling, and now that I have the time to put my full effort into it, I decided to pursue this career again.
Whenever I had breaks and was able to come home from Buffalo, I would tell my mom to do some research for me to find out how to break into the industry. Our first step was to get some test shoots in (considering I had no professional pictures taken of myself yet). My first shoot was during my winter break from school with Joseph Paradiso, one of the photographers for the new faces division at NEXT. We found Joe from a friend of my aunt’s who works with Macy’s catalog division. He was absolutely great. He was patient and directed me extremely well.
All the shots I took with him were mostly high fashion and very serious. He wasn’t so sure that I could pull off the high fashion look at first (because normally when people look at me, they see a pretty ‘girl next door’ type of look). However, as he shot me, he changed his mind. The shoot was a success and such a great first experience. Joe told me I was a natural.
As soon as my mom and I got the pictures developed, we immediately emailed them to a bunch of different agencies online. This was a total bust however. We didn’t hear back from anyone really. Because the pictures we took were very high fashion looking, we decided to do an additional test shoot outside in natural light (bathing suit/and other more commercial looks). Once we finished that shoot we sent the pictures to our contact at Macy’s who loved them and referred us to the head of model casting at Macy’s. Once the head of model casting looked at the two shoots I had done, she too loved my pictures and referred us to a number of agencies in NYC that she books her models through.
This started our huge adventure with meeting some of the top agencies in NYC and the world. On my first day, I had meetings with Ford, Wilhelmina and IMG. Everyone I met was surprisingly nice to me. All of them reviewed my book, took digital pictures and asked me questions about my goals. Personally I was just happy they didn’t slam the door in my face (considering I had no experience, lol).
Ford was considering me for the teen division, Wilhelmina told me I was too short right away (wanted me to be 5’10’’), and IMG took more than a week to deliberate whether I was right for their board, but Rene and Michael (manager and assistant manager of the women’s division at IMG) were two of the nicest people I met on my search for the right agency. The next day I had two more meetings with Click and Marilyn. We were referred to Click by another friend of a friend. When we met with the head of the women’s division at Click, she immediately said that I was beautiful but that they only take girls 5’10’’ and above.
At Marilyn, I immediately fell in love with the man Anthony that we met with. He was so interested in me, said I was beautiful, took digitals of me, and my mom and I had close to a 30 minute conversation with him just about me and what I want to do with a modeling career. When he got back to me about the board’s decision, he said that they all loved me as well, but the problem was that they already had 3 other girls on the board who had the same coloring and look as me (dark hair, green eyes). Even though they loved me, they felt it wouldn’t be fair to their existing models or to me. He suggested that I check back and send additional pictures in 3-6 months as models leave and change agencies often and the board could be completely different by then.
Our next stop was to the talent agency Abrams Artists. We were referred to them by one of my mom’s close friends who has been pushing my mom to get me back into modeling for years and is one of my biggest fans. I met with a very sweet man named Joe who was immediately interested in me for all aspects of his business from print to on camera/film. He talked to my mom and I for an hour about all the things I could do with their talent agency, we left very impressed and will most likely be signing with them for the on camera/film end of the business (for commercials).
Next, we were told about the agency APM Model Management through a friend of a friend. APM is a “boutique” modeling agency in NYC run by an extraordinary team with loads of industry experience. We met with Shawn who is formerly of DNA models, and now the director of new faces at APM. He was wonderful, filled with experience and is currently working on revamping APM with a new faces division and a new men’s division.
Shawn loved me and referred me to the director Louise who literally has 40 years of experience in this business and simply made me feel comfortable and at home. She offered me a contract and even though we took it with us to look over, my mom and I knew that we found the right place for me. Even though they are smaller, I can look forward to a more personalized management experience and an agency that has huge potential for growth. I am so excited to be working with them and starting this new career, finally.
In summation, there are a lot of agencies out there and all of them seem to be looking for different things. For some I had the wrong look, some I was too short, some I was too pretty. My advice is to do your homework, ask advice from people in the industry, and never give up until you find the right fit for yourself. I’m looking forward to having an enjoyable and successful career and I wish luck to anyone reading this who has the same dream.