Charlotte Biggs, 8 months, is breaking into the world of baby modelling in New York in a big way.
After only a few weeks in the industry she has landed a television commercial, a magazine editorial and has been busy casting and working for some global brands on a regular basis.
Her Australian parents didn’t want her to model but after copious amounts of encouragement they decided to take her to an audition.
“They [staff at the audition] wanted to make sure our baby was really comfortable so that she could just be herself and be happy, ” said Charlotte’s mother, Leonie Biggs.
Like mother like daughter, Charlotte's mother was also a model. Images of Charlotte @CityModelsNY.
"I was never asked to make her pose in a certain way or evoke an expression, the photographer worked around Charlotte," said Charlotte's mother, Leonie Biggs.
"The only thing Charlotte had to do was just be Charlotte and be in the moment," she added.
The first audition helped Charlotte's New York based parents decide if they wanted to get involved in the world of baby modelling.
"I was worried it was going to be long cattle calls and sort of like a pageantry type environment and it was completely the opposite. It was so nice to have our concerns appeased but more importantly for Charlotte she just had a ball. She had so much - it was almost like a playgroup for her," said Biggs.
We were told she was "ethnically ambiguous".
After "literally coming in off the street" to the audition, Charlotte's parents were introduced to the casting director who suggested an agent.
"That was the first time my husband and I heard the phrase 'ethnically ambiguous' which is how she [the casting agent] described Charlotte...she said her look is in very high demand and if we wanted Charlotte to model, she would certainly work," said Biggs.
Charlotte is a natural in front of a camera. Image @CityModelsNY.
Charlotte's Australian father has Malaysian born parents that were a mix of Spanish, Filipino, Angloindian, and Portuguese.
Charlotte's maternal grandmother is half Japanese and half Korean and the baby's grandfather had Scottish and German descendants. The maternal family is currently tracing its heritage and may also have been of Aboriginal decent.
Biggs says the search for diversity in the baby castings she has attended has been an incredibly positive experience.
"Everyone thinks their baby is cute, we are certainly not on an ego trip here."
"It really is something where were constantly being stopped and approached to have her do some modelling. So we just want it to be very unforced, very natural and as effortless as it can be," said Leonie Biggs.
Parents are auditioned.
But it isn't as easy as being super cute. Peter Derrick, from Australian modelling agency, Smallfry, says he turns away some babies.
"A lot of times you’ll find there’s some great looking babies out there but they might be a little bit scared or might be not quite as social as they should be.
"That’s what you’re looking for, you want them to be able to interact with anyone because you’ve only got a limited amount of time when you’re taking baby photos," said Smallfry founder Peter Derrick.
Leonie Biggs didn't need a portfolio for her daughter to start modelling. Image @CityModelsNY.
"What tends to happen is that if the mother or father come in for the audition - because we check them out at the same time, and make sure they’re suitable for the industry - if they’re quite laid-back and assured and not fussed it tends to show through the child."
"If Mum’s coming in and she’s scared about going for an audition or going for an interview sometimes you can get that from the baby too, because they can read that the mum’s a bit stressed," he said.
But so far Charlotte's parents have passed those tests and they have been told their child will probably get a lot of work given that she is "ethnically ambiguous". But Charlotte's parents aren't invested in the outcome.
The pushy parents.
"You can really tell the parents that have their hearts’ set on their child being a star or a future model," said Biggs.
"I rock up like this is an ordinary play-date and I don’t even run a comb through Charlotte’s hair, but you’ll see the parents that are very gung-ho about their kid securing this job. Their child comes all prepped and primed almost in pageantry fashion," she said.
Baby Charlotte's been selected for some global brands. Image @CityModelsNY.
However, the new mum is gravitating towards other parents with a similar approach and as a former model herself, she is aware of the industry pressures.
"I don’t benchmark my baby and the way she looks against anyone. When thinking about baby modelling I have to draw on my previous experience as a model whereby you learn very quickly that it’s an incredibly subjective industry," she said.
"If you don’t get booked it doesn’t mean the other girl was prettier than you it just means they got booked. It doesn’t mean you're uglier, it doesn’t mean you’re fat – you just don’t meet the requirements their looking for.
"If Charlotte doesn't get booked for a job I am not even going to ask why – it doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t make her lesser or not as cute as another baby. It's such a subjective industry and I’m not going to benchmark her against other children. There’s no point to it, it’s not helpful and it’s not healthy."
No baby is ugly.
The New York based mother is totally against any competition element in baby modelling - and could not stand it if any baby was judged as ugly.
"I do not think it’s possible for a baby to be ugly – when you think about a baby when it’s born, they come into this world with 100 per cent innocence, purity and there’s a vulnerability about them...It is impossible for me to ever think a baby could be ugly," she said.
The former model's experience has also shaped her approach to the financial side of baby modelling. The mother-of-one isn't about to quit work and fund her lifestyle with her baby's career.
"I was modelling from 14 to 22 and my parents never spent a cent of what I earned, and I was able to invest my money wisely and I had a nice little nest egg to make good decisions for myself as I entered adulthood.
"That’s something I’d like to do for Charlotte. So whatever she earns, 100 per cent of that would be going to her trust account so she can have a nice little nest egg - whether it be for college or something that she wants to do when she’s an adult."
After "careful consideration" Charlotte's parents have decided to enable their baby to experience modelling in a manner that they find "safe and appropriate" for her age. The work is regulated in the US by strict rules and so far it hasn't interrupted her feed times, her nap times or her other activities.
"This is really just an opportunity for her to experience the industry in a way that's fun and most importantly it certainly isn't going to be her career path.
"I don't know what that's going to be, she's only 8-months-old and it's not something that we have pursued it's more a case of constantly being approached for her to model."