Model agencies today are facing more and more challenges as the demand for increased ethnic diversity and equal representation of body image grows. The question we should be concerning ourselves with is, “how are agencies overcoming issues of diversity?”
Diversity extends to different categories, not only race, but body shapes, cultures, gender identity, etc. So, when my editor-in-chief asked me to cover AMTI (Angie’s Modeling & Talent International), an agency that was celebrating their second anniversary in Toronto, I was delighted! Finally, my chance to get up close and personal and address my concern about the fashion industry and the continuous use of (predominantly white) size two models on magazine spreads.
Dressed in my Dolce and Vita silver booties, and my deteriorating Forever 21 faux-leather jacket (that will teach me to buy a jacket on sale for under $21), I thought I would teach agencies a thing or two about diversity! My editor-in-chief likes to refer to this practice as “Nuda Schooling”.
Armed and ready, with a picket sign in one hand, and my recording device in the other (umm, my iPhone) I felt ready!
…Ready to be completed disarmed by what I saw. How was I to go into battle with those delicious frosted blue cupcakes I spotted when walking in. I swear they looked like they came straight out of a Wes Anderson movie!
“No, don’t get distracted! Focus Laura! Focus!”
As I stood there looking for my prey I was greeted by the most gracious and charismatic Karine.
She was poised in every way, and quickly directed me to Dimitrious Seymour, director at AMTI.
This was it! As we relocated to a quieter spot, I began the interview with a friendlier question, eventually leading to more direct questions that not only engaged with the fashion industry but with the entertainment industry as well. I was hoping to be inspired enough to change my picket sign to read “AMTI: THERE MAY BE HOPE AFTER ALL”
Laura: Tell me about Angie’s Agency.
Dimitrious: “We’ve been in Toronto for two years now, and it has been super successful up to this point. AMTI started 25 years ago, based in Cornwall Ontario originally. And that was when Angie discovered mega star Ryan Gosling. Most of our business has always been in the Montreal and Toronto markets, so it only made sense two years ago to make a splash with Ford Modeling leaving. There is a major void to be filled and we definitely hope to fill it.”
Laura: Who does AMTI represent?
Dimitrious: “ We represent actors from ages 5 and above, models ages 13 and above.”
Laura: I find in interesting that your AMTI also represent children and teens under 16. I want to address an issue, if that is ok? How does your agency insure that a child has the proper education, before divining into such a demanding industry?
Dimitrious: “If we decided to move forward with representation, one of the factors that actually goes into our decision is that a child has to have a minimum of 70% average. So if they have a 60 or 65, it’s a no-go. We are firm believers that school and this industry go hand in hand. If a child is not going to take school seriously, they are not going to take us seriously as agents. So having a minimum B average is one of the requirements for a child or teen that is still in school to be accepted by AMTI.”
Laura: What does it take to be accepted by AMTI?
Dimitrious: “Good energy, Respect. One of the major things we look for when scouting models and when they are coming in for open calls is number 1. Enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter what you look like, if you walk into that door and have that spark and that twinkle in your eye, that is the biggest thing we actually look for. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 5 or 65 years old. If you walk into that door and you hold eye contact, talkative, and you believe in what you want and have a strong belief in that, then that is key. All of our models and actors are family, and one of the values we believe is in high character.”
Laura: Diversity, race, ethnicity, body shape are major issues and gaps that are found within the modeling industry. How does Angie’s agency overcome these issues?
Dimitrious: “One of our major models, actually our top model is Herieth Paul. She is 19 years old, and she is a Tanzanian Canadian, born in raised in Tanzania. Herieth moved to Canada at 12 years old, joined our agency at age 13, and at 14 she began traveling the world. At the age of 15, she was on the cover of Elle Canada Magazine, and it was around that time that Perez Hilton and many other bloggers began to catch on. They blogged about her, calling her the next Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, and that is a huge deal for a 15 year-old model.
We also have a diverse roster that stretches across South Asian, East Asian, South American, gay, bi-sexual, straight, the list goes on and on, including plus size. So we really do take into effect the wide variety and diversity of Canada and of every model out there.”
Herieth Paul – Image courtesy of AMTI online
Like the aftermath of every battle, I began to see the light at every tunnel.
I left AMTI that evening feeling hopeful that agencies across the board will begin to embrace diversity on the runway. But it doesn’t end there – designers must evolve as well, and be more inclusive of what they consider ‘plus’ size, or request specific models to strut their garments down the catwalk.
While the majority of Talent & Modeling Agencies still cater to the standardization of female beauty, more and more agencies are beginning to produce a portfolio worth opening. This is of course not to say that the battle of diversity is won, however with agencies like AMTI, perhaps there is after all a silver lining to be found within the fashion and entertainment industry.
What are your thoughts on diversity in the fashion and beauty industry?
*All images provided by AMTI