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Modeling agency widens talent base


Friday the 13th could be a lucky day for someone who’s seeking a career in modeling.

On Feb. 13, Peak Model Management of Windsor Heights plans to hold a model scouting event at Skate West in West Des Moines.

“It’s a fashion competition and a chance to be scouted by professional model scouts,” said Jason Ramirez, the agency’s owner. “People interested can walk a fashion runway for Peak model scouts, and we’ll make a determination whether we think they can work as a model in the industry.”

The event is part of an effort by the 1-year-old company to expand its talent base in Central Iowa.

Peak doesn’t work with everybody who walks through its door, said Liza Kindred, who was recently hired as the agency’s director of new faces.

“We turn down a lot of people, because as a new agency we have to make a name for ourselves,” she said. “We have to have a certain quality of people. The challenge is finding diverse types of people, from children to people over 60.”

Because it only receives its commission when its clients get work, the agency has a vested interest in finding and training successful models. Peak receives a 20 percent commission on each modeling job it arranges, with rates ranging from $60 to as high as $450 per hour.

Peak currently represents about 70 models, chosen from among approximately 1,100 people who have approached the agency in the past year, Ramirez said. The agency’s goal is to eventually build up its talent roster to several hundred models.

The lack of diversity among local models has been a continual problem, said Sally Cooper Smith, owner and president of the Cooper Smith & Co. advertising agency, which hires talent from the local modeling agencies.

“The ones we’ve worked with are great models, but I wish we had more,” she said. In many cases, none of the local agencies has a person with the right look, so her company has to “street-cast,” or recruit someone off the street. That often means having to work with models who are inexperienced, she said.

“We use models that are more real-people-looking,” Cooper Smith said. “We see a huge need for more of just real people in the industry.”

Many of the people who model in Greater Des Moines do it on a part-time basis, Kindred said, and only a few find enough work to make it a full-time career. Those few with the talent to model full time are usually sent to jobs in larger cities, including New York and Los Angeles in addition to regional markets such as Kansas City and Chicago.

A characteristic shared by successful models, Ramirez said, “is they have a charisma about them that allows them to sell to people, and to be (comfortable) in front of the camera.”

Ramirez said Peak’s models sign an 18-month, non-exclusive contract, which allows them to work with other agencies. “We feel by having them able to work with other agencies, it makes them more experienced and makes it easier for them to be able to get work,” he said.

Central Iowa companies are becoming increasingly specific about the type of people they use to represent their products, said Cecil Van Houten, production manager for OnMedia, a division of Mediacom Communications Corp. in Des Moines. His company occasionally hires models to appear in television commercials for local advertisers on the cable channels.

“I try to match the demographic to the type of product,” he said. “There are different looks that you want for different types of products.”

Van Houten said he’s had good experiences with the local modeling agencies, including Peak.

“Frankly, I think the market in Central Iowa could use some fresh faces,” he said of Peak’s initiative. “That’s not to knock the existing agencies or talent, but it’s always good to have fresh faces.”

More information on Peak Model Management can be found on its Web site, www.peak-models.com.

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