Every new mum and dad thinks their child is the most beautiful creature ever created (and quite right, too). But what do you need to know before you launch your little one onto the kiddie catwalk?
The first step on the road to your baby becoming a model is to know what child modelling agencies are looking for. Elisabeth Smith, founder of Elisabeth Smith Model Agency, the UK’s first child model agency, explains. “We look for children with even features, and a natural, happy disposition,” she says. “When it comes to baby models, photographers like big eyes and a natural head shape. And babies who are of an average weight for their age tend to get the most work.”
Alysia Lewis, director of Urban Angels, another of the UK’s top child modelling agencies, agrees. “Alive, sparkling eyes are so important, as is clear skin, although we wouldn’t say no to a child with a birthmark, as long as the complexion was clear.” When it comes to hair, it seems less is more. “The slightly balder babies get more work than those with a lot of hair – I don’t know why!” she says. Temperament is important, too. If your tot is going to get stage fright or bawl at the bright lights, modelling probably isn’t for them.
Katie Froud, founder of Alba Model Info, the modelling agency watchdog, explains, “Many babies and toddlers are adorable to look at, but not all have the right nature to become a child model.”
In child modelling, Alysia Lewis believes the child’s parents are just as important as the kiddies. “Parents need to be relaxed and down-to-earth,” she says. “Photographers don’t like pushy parents – or “Fame Academy mums”, as we call them!”
Parents also need to be pretty flexible and able to cope with the logistics of travelling to assignments with children. Elisabeth Smith, whose agency is based in London, says that for this reason she prefers to work with children who are based in the South East. “Clients don’t like it when children are delayed in traffic, or over-tired after a long journey – it’s not fair on the children either.”
When it comes to choosing an agency, shop around and, most importantly, do your research. The independent modelling advice service, Alba Model Info, offers a list of reputable model agencies, including baby and child modelling agencies.
Not all agencies are the same, contracts differ widely from agency to agency – as can the amount you may be expected to pay up front – and sadly not all so-called agents are genuine. Find out as much as you can about an agent before committing to them, go and meet them, ask about their client base and to see samples of work.
So what next? Most agencies ask you to send two or three recent, clear snaps of your child/children, along with a letter giving details of their height, weight and age, enclosing an SAE.
Many agencies also now offer opportunities to apply online. There’s no need for professional photos of your child. “Clear, well-lit photos are best,” says Alysia Lewis. Another of her top tips is to avoid headgear. “We get so many photos of children wearing hats and it’s impossible to see what they really look like.” She stresses the importance of sending up-to-date shots, especially of babies, as they change so quickly.
The world of child modelling is highly competitive, so be prepared for rejection and try not to take it personally. ‘We get hundreds of pictures every week and we turn down 95%,’ says Elisabeth Smith. Prepare your child too, if they’re old enough – it’s important they don’t feel you’re disappointed with them if they get turned down. Although modelling should be fun, it’s not child’s play, and clients expect parents to be professional. So, if called to a casting or assignment, be well organised, punctual and go prepared with drinks, snacks and toys, as there may be lots of waiting around.
“Baby and child modelling is fun and can give you both something wonderful to look back on as your child grows up,” says Katie Froud. “But be realistic about your baby or toddler’s potential. It’s really important that they enjoy participating – the minute they don’t, it’s time for the modelling hobby to stop!”
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