So, you think your child has got what it takes but there’s more to child modelling than just the right face says industry expert Fran Lee who offers her frank advice.
(Image Etta Loves)
From birth, most parents are set on capturing every single moment of their little one’s life on camera. From the obligatory in the hospital bed shot to that first cute close up to post on social media; it’s only natural that at some point most parents gaze adoringly into their child’s eyes and think ‘my little one should be a model’.
However, how many go from thought to action to success are few are far between. London based child modelling agency, Bruce and Brown get between 500-700 applications a week from parents hopeful that they’ve created ‘the next big thing’ but with less than 1% percent actually making it through to a follow up call, the reality of what parents see and what an agency is looking for is vast.
However, you’re convinced your child has got what it takes (why else would you be reading this?), so you’re first port of call is probably Google.
You’ve typed in ‘child modelling agencies’ and are bombarded by a long list - Where do you start? Perhaps you’re doing a bit of research first, before you throw your child into the glamorous world of fashion and advertising (Spoiler Alert - it’s not glamorous!) and have ended up here.
Either way, arming yourself with as much information as possible is probably the best idea. So, before you print out fifty adoringly cute pics of Sid/Sam and post them out to the agencies, you need to take an honest look at the product - that being your child (and you).
Your child will need to be confident.
They do not need to be able to walk into a room full of strangers and address the entire space; they might even (if they are under five) still wrap themselves around your legs trying to hide. Importantly though, they need to overcome this shyness - ideally within 5 minutes at a casting, or a bit longer if they’re on a job - first impressions count.
Your child will need to work in a space with lots of grown-ups, all with a job to do (and the pressure that the right outcome/shot/footage is needed by the end of the day), so a child who is confident is a must.
Time is money and waiting for a child to be ready is not always an option. So, be mindful of is your child confident? Can you leave him/her alone or will he/she get upset? Nobody from the set to the studio, at the agency or at your home will want an unhappy child in any circumstances so think long and hard - will your child enjoy this and have they got the confidence to do it?
If your child is to become a model, you’ll need to take him/her to castings. These can be all over the place so you will need to be flexible in your lifestyle. Can you or someone else take time off from work? Is there someone to look after siblings etc.? Are you willing to take the bus, train or tube or drive two hours to a casting that might only take five minutes? Be realistic in what you can and can’t do.
Learning to let go (a bit)…
This is a hard one.
You are putting your child into an industry and to some extent ‘handing them over’ to work with professionals. You might not even be chaperoning your child to the job so you’ll need to learn to let go a bit. Most children behave differently when their parent/guardian is around so more often than not, you’ll have to keep out of the way and let them get on with it if you're ‘on set’.
Parents who are over eager, giving direction to their child on a shoot for example is a definite no. You’ll need to instinctively know if and when you are needed by the production team and by your child. There are guidelines in place to ensure your child’s best interests are met and as previously mentioned a happy model is the best kind of model amounting to the best outcome so trust those who your child is working with and let go as much as you have to.
Models (and parents) may go to 5-10 castings before they get a job says Alysia Lewis, director at Urban Angels Agency who are based in London and Manchester; so it is really important that children and parents are prepared for the rejection.
You have to be realistic, another child might be chosen over yours simply because of their shoe size or hair length. How you explain this to your child is really important. Alysia advises parents to say to their kids to ‘Enjoy the experience and be positive, if not this one than the next one… Something else will happen!’ Whilst Bruce and Brown echo this in that ‘the casting is an experience in itself, rather than the end goal being the shoot’ something which ‘takes the pressure off the child so that they’ll be more relaxed and happy in front of the camera’.
The Bigger Picture
On average a child modelling career can last from birth to sixteen but many children discover other interests and hobbies along the way that they’d rather pursue. Your child’s image however, will probably live the test of time so from that perspective - are you comfortable with this?
When Johnny/Jane is twenty-one what will they say to you and what will you say to them? In an age where we all are constantly uploading images of our little ones, will they one day turnaround to us and say ‘I wish you’d never done that!'
Show me the Money
A successful child model could earn anywhere between £1000 to £50k and then some in their career according to Urban Angel’s Alysia. So, hopefully Johnny/Jane will have a nest egg to go towards something substantial which you can remind them about when they start moaning at you for that TV advert about wetting the bed!
Before you get to that point though you’ll need to be investing in your child’s career. This does not mean paying for professional pictures upfront (don't eve do this!) but it will mean paying for the travel to go to castings, potentially taking days off from work etc. Your child may make a lot of money during their career or they may not. So, if you want a nest egg for your kid, perhaps also consider the traditional route of saving and/or investment.
Finally, being a parent to a child model is often very boring, you are tucked away unable to watch or participate. This is not a football match where you stand on the sidelines cheering, you might be lucky enough to be the one dishing out the oranges at half time but more often than not your kid will be on the bench and it’ll be raining and you’ll be drenched. It is not glamorous and you do not get lots of free clothes.
There is an enormous amount of downtime where your kid will need to be entertained either by you (if you’re there) or a colouring book, but more than likely an electronic device. Shoots can be long, bedtime routines messed up and schooling missed. On the upside though, it is fun, your child will get to see and experience many different types of people and locations. If you’re lucky they might even travel abroad.
You will often have wonderful pictures of them to share (imagine the calendars you’ll be able to create for grandparents?). You will be educating your son/daughter about the world of work from an early age and potentially making contacts with people who can help them in the future. You will no doubt make friends along the way and discover a new kind of ‘family’ to share your child. The child modelling industry is unlike any other - it isn’t just about the end result it’s about allowing children to be children and capturing them just at the right moment.
You can contact Fran here or follow her on Instagram @fran_lee_london and Twitter @franleestylist
** Unfortunately, Fran is unable to answer individual emails about kids in the fashion industry. But, please email any questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org