How Zooey Got Into Modeling
Updated: Jan 28
So, you think your kid is the cutest kid in the world and every time a stranger tells you that your kid should be a model, you get that happy feeling inside and think...OK, we need to do this!!..but HOW?
We get DMs every other day of people asking us how they can get their child started in this industry. Sometimes, it's not only about modeling/acting, but also about how they can grow their Instagram for their child and get noticed by brands. I will write about this Instagram topic in another blogpost..but today, I'm going to focus on this model/actor tips.
Before I get into how ZOOEY got into modeling, I'd like you to read this article. After you read it and still feel YES, my child is made for this and I'm willing to sacrifice my freedom for this...
please continue reading my blogpost.
So you've read the article above and feel, I'm ready for this....well then, let me tell you how we got started. Please note, that everyone's situation is different and what has worked for us might not work for you. Ultimately, you have to know YOUR child and believe in them.
A little background about us tho:
I've been in this industry for a very long time, since living in Tokyo back in 2005. I dabbed my feet in PR and Social media and learned about marketing + PR while partying through Tokyo. I connected with influential people and celebrities along the way. I could usually be found backstage of fashion shows, and meeting hair stylists, photographers, make up artists...After I got pregnant and had Zooey, she came along with me to parties & events and joined me backstage at all of these functions. While I don't know if that had any direct 'influence' on her (bc she was still a baby), she was somehow already exposed to the industry (and everyone knew who she was). Zooey got to even do little magazine features through friends' that did PR for kid's brands and often showed up in party reports with me.
Anyhow, I wanted to share my background because it plays a big part in Zooey's success in this industry. It takes time to build those connections and understand how this industry works. A lot of work that Zooey has gotten has been through my own connections but you will still need to be in an official talent agency to get paid well and be protected by contracts.
After Zooey spent 2 years of her life in Tokyo, we decided to move back to the US and this is where the modeling + her Instagram @zooeyinthecity began. First we will focus on only her modeling part tho.
These are 2 important things you need if you want to get your child into modeling.
It would be really helpful if your child had experience in front of the camera. They should know how to listen and take directions well from someone other than you (tho most times they allow the parents on set as well in addition to a child wrangler). You should know how to make your child smile / laugh when the casting director asks you to at auditions too.
So, we moved back to California when Zooey was 2. Life over here is definitely not as fast paced and exciting as it was in Tokyo, but I felt the quality of life for Zooey would be better (especially to be around a lot of family). I was now back to 'normal' life and Zooey just went to Japanese school. I continued to take photos of her and posted them to my Instagram (@maisassygirl). At that time, I didn't know a lot about kid's brands and only knew of the basic GAP, OLD NAVY etc.. I never thought I would ever put Zooey into modeling until one night I was scrolling the explorer feed in my Instagram and found a "made in LA" kid's brand called ULTRA VIOLET KIDS. They were doing a model search for kids through their Instagram and wanted people to submit photos of their kids by using a hashtag. Their clothes were so cute (crop tops and bloomers) and the photoshoot would happen in LA, so I thought, why not! I didn't really expect anyone to get back to us but Michelle, the designer of the brand picked Zooey to model for her!! I was so excited!!!! My husband and I both drove Zooey to meet Michelle to do a fitting. After Michelle decided what Zooey fit, we came back another day for the photoshoot. We had absolutely no idea how these photoshoots were supposed to go but it was really chill and the photographer took photos of Zooey just doing her thing.. Zooey ended up on the cover of Michelle's first official lookbook that season and til this day, we are still so grateful for that opportunity and all the things we learned that photoshoot.
Through Ultra Violet Kids, we discovered more kids brands and noticed that it was common for local brands to do castings through Instagram. We were told that people referred these brands as 'Instagram brands.' They are usually smaller local brands and sell most of their product through word of Social Media, mainly Instagram. I really recommend if you're looking for experience for your child, to pay attention to casting calls of your favorite local brands on Instagram. Their compensation is usually in exchange for product or shopping credit but it's a great trade for when you're starting out and you'll get some amazing photos from them while your child gains some experience in front of a camera and builds a resume! Of course, you should also make sure to research the brand before entering your child into the casting call. You should NOT have to pay to have your child be a part of a photoshoot. (Unless it's far away, then you might have to pay for your own gas to get there...)
Zooey for Little Giraffe in Spring 2015
We also shot for a baby blanket brand called Little Giraffe. A friend of ours from Tokyo knew the creative director for Little Giraffe and introduced us. At first, we just went to meet the creative director at their showroom, and eventually after some communication and keeping in touch, Zooey got an offer to model. This time, there were a few more technical things and requirements..In order to model for Little Giraffe, we had to get a work permit and there was a studio teacher on set. I soon learned that this was the legal way for kids to work. All minors also need to have a COOGAN Account in order to work in the industry. Big companies will automatically deposit a certain % of the pay into your child's coogan account so you need to have this account in their name. This is to protect your child's wage and they (and especially not you) cannot touch the money in it until they are 18. You can easily open one at your nearest Well's Fargo. I also recommend opening a separate savings account in your child's name to deposit the remainder of their pay checks.
FIND AN AGENCY When your child joins a model agency, the agency will be able sign contracts and legally protect your child and negotiate fees for you. They play the mediator between you and the clients who want to book your child to model. They also should be looking out for your best interest. Also NO legit model agency will ever ask you to pay money up front. Beware of those.
photo by Sylvia Gunde
After modeling for a few more 'Instagram' brands, and Little Giraffe for a few more seasons, we decided it was time to get Zooey into a model agency. I felt that Zooey had gained enough experience to model more professionally.
I had a lot of friends who were working in the Entertainment Industry as Asian American Actors and some recommended a few model agencies to us. We were introduced to one that said they represented a lot of 'asians'. I will not name them, but the experience was not what we hoped it would be. They sent us to our first audition which was a complete CATTLE CALL, and the communication was confusing. I felt really lost and didn't know what we needed to do. We waited over 3 hours to be seen and didn't even know what to expect / do at the audition.
We left this representation right away and heard about Zuri Models from another friend. We didn't try to submit Zooey tho because we heard that there is an interview process to be considered. I really wanted to join an agency that wanted to meet Zooey in person and 'want' to represent her. But this was my personal choice. It could have been because I wasn't taking this whole modeling thing very seriously. I wanted it to happen naturally. I wanted Zooey to be scouted and know that not everyone is this lucky, but I was willing to take my chances. If you're interested to submit your child to some model agencies on the west coast and want to see how they are ranked, this blog is very helpful:
Click below to see the Top Talent Agencies on the West Coast
Definitely research all the model agencies in your area before submitting your child. They all have their own reputations and you might hear different stories from different moms within each agency. Some are stronger in print and some are stronger in theatrical. Unfortunately, I don't have this experience on how to submit your child to certain agencies nor do I have the contact (I'm sure you can look it up), but I can tell you how we chose the agency that we ended up choosing to represent Zooey.
Zooey for Old Navy
By the Summer of 2015, we had started an Instagram for Zooey and she had a pretty decent following. We received an email from a photographer that had cc'ed a few other moms that he was going to be in town and wanted to do some test shots with our kids. This was completely NEW to me. It felt weird. Why would I trust this stranger to take my child's photo? Was it safe? I consulted with my husband and he agreed to come with us. I had just started her blog as well and needed content anyway.. At this shoot, I met a really nice mom who introduced Zooey to the boutique agency that her sons were in called Bensimon Models & Talent. I also met another model who was in Osbrink. I had heard a lot of great things about Osbrink but also heard that there was an interview process too.
After meeting Ursula from Bensimon Models & Talent, I immediately felt great about her. She was also a photographer and loved fashion. Also, being an owner of a small boutique agency, she really took the time to give attention to all of her kids. She told me that she really loved how Zooey photographed and wanted to sign us. We also heard that she only chooses unique kids for her agency, none that looked alike so that they do not compete with each other... hearing that also made our decision feel right. This was the real beginning of Zooey's modeling career where she modeled for national and global brands like Old Navy and Oshkosh. She was about 3.5 years old at this time.
I learned a lot from being in this agency and I appreciated how much love Ursula had for all of her kids! When people ask me about where they should start, I always ask them what they want. When you're in a smaller agency, there is a better chance of better communication / attention with your agent. I've heard that some parents have never even meet their agents from the bigger agencies that their child is in. It's up to you tho, and how much effort you put into building a relationship with your agent. Another thing you need to realize is that with a smaller boutique agency, your agent might not have the connections to bigger clients so sometimes you might not be sent to the same auditions as kids who are in a bigger agency. But at the same time, if you're in a bigger agency, your child might get lost in a sea of other kids who look like them. The only upside of being in a bigger agency is that your agent will have better and bigger connections with clients so your child might have a better chance to be sent on auditions that a smaller agency might not have the connection to.
I've met some parents that always complain about not getting auditions and blame it on their agents. This is not always the case because most of the time the casting directors are requesting certain looks from your agent that they think would best fit their client. Your agent is most likely submitting you to everything that they can, because how else will they make commission off you if they aren't. However, I have also heard that some agents have their favorites..There will always be rumors, but at the end of the day, it's how YOU feel and what you want to believe. You as the parent are responsible for building this relationship with your agent. If you keep in touch with them and let them know what you want, then there is a better chance they will keep your child in mind when the perfect client comes their way. If you’re not happy, don’t complain to other moms, speak about it with your agent directly.
In terms of submissions to agencies, when we were with Bensimon Models & Talent, I learned a little bit of what happens on the agent's side. They receive a lot of submissions on their website and facebook page and it can be overwhelming. Sometimes, the industry is looking for a specific look, so don't feel bad if you don't receive a reply right away. I've also heard that you don't need to be TOO persistent. The agents will contact you if your child is the look that they are in need of. I've also heard that the agents like to see 'natural' photos of your child. Try to submit different looks of your child in natural light, some smiling and some not smiling. Also submit full body and profile. Don't forget to include your child's age, measurements, and special skills. This will set your email apart from most as a lot of people don't even bother mentioning those basic things. Also, avoid sending super professional photos with heavy photoshop. Be natural and real. Preparing headshots can be nice too but it might cost a lot of money. For us, we didn't prepare headshots until Zooey signed to Bensimon Models & Talent.
I hope this blogpost was helpful to most of you. I tried my best to answer all the questions that we have been getting about how we got started. Everyone's story is different and we wish your child the best of luck if you're thinking about putting them into modeling. Remember all the things you'll sacrafice in the article that we posted in the very beginning of this blogpost.
In regards to Zooey's Instagram, we will talk about how we grew Zooey's Instagram in another post.
Things your child will need:
2. A Model / Talent Agency
3. Miscellaneous: Work Permit, Coogan Account, Head Shots after they join an agency (this you most likely have to pay for if you cannot take them by yourself)
If you have any other questions about the model industry that I didn't get to, please leave a comment below and I will answer them as soon as I can.
Thank you for reading!
Please note: Zooey is no longer with Bensimon Models & Talent because it was time for her to move into a bigger agency that focused more on commercial and TV. She is now represented by CESD for print, commercial and Theatrical.
For Talent booking, please email Csher@cesdtalent.com. Talent Manager is Snow Entertainment email@example.com