By Eden Strong for Yourtango.com.
“Great, perfect, beautiful! Oh so beautiful! That is exactly what I want to see gorgeous, work it for the camera, lean in baby, lean in! What a natural you are, so BEAUTIFUL!”
Those are the words that every model wants to hear, words that made me absolutely sick to my stomach because this model, this beautiful model working it for the camera, was my four year old daughter.
She was eleven months old when she was scouted at a playground by a woman who handed me a business card, told me that my daughter was gorgeous and said she would love it if I would send a few pictures of her into the agency.
Obviously I was skeptical at first. A playground? A random woman handing me her business card after apparently singling out my child? It had “strange” written all over it, but I won’t lie: I was also intrigued. I looked the company up online and realized that it was one of the largest talent agencies in the city that represented a few big names.
I took a few weeks to think about it and decided, what could it hurt? It would be a fun experience for my daughter to talk about when she is older and we might get a few good pictures out of it. Not to mention all the things she would learn: self-confidence! How to interact with adults! Poise and grace! And I figured: it’s not something she has to do forever.
I sent a few pictures of her into the agency and two weeks later I got a call asking if I could bring her in for a test shoot.
We went in for the test shoot and then a week later for a follow up “interview,” where they put her in front of a video camera and taped her reaction to strangers, loud noises, flashing lights, and watched how she followed directions.
My husband and I signed the contract the next day.
What proceeded was a flurry of head shots, measurements, fittings, and small bookings. I was totally unprepared for how much work it would actually be. The agency made it sound like it would be a wonderful family experience. “Your daughter will love it! She will fit right in here! Look how happy she is playing with our director!”
Castings were the worst. What typically happened is that a booking agent would choose her photo from the agency’s look book and then the agency would call us, along with the other potentials, for a test shoot.
A test shoot basically included a bunch of hopeful mothers and their dressed-up, overtired children cramming into a small room where no one is allowed to to eat with their clothes on, touch their hair, touch each other, move from their chairs, or act like the children that they were.
Fun times. Not.
To make matters worse, the other mothers didn’t view you as a potential friend whose child was in the same activity as theirs, they viewed you as competition. They didn’t want to like you. They wanted to see your child fail so that theirs could succeed. So not only was I trapped in a small room with a bunch of grouchy children, I was trapped in a small room with a bunch of grouchy children and their glaring mothers.
Not long after joining the agency, my daughter won an award, and suddenly we weren’t just being sent on small mom and pop photo shoots—child modelling became an actual job.