Expert Q&A on Child Modeling

Marlene Wallach -- author of the "Just Ask Marlene" series, starting with The Inside Story About Modeling for Kids, Teens & Their Parents: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Start in Modeling -- answers your questions about turning your little cutie into a model.

Finding an Agency

Q. Everyone from Day One since my children were born has harassed me to get my kids into modeling, saying they are beautiful. I did go to a model search and we got a callback, but so did 1,000 other parents. The agency wanted money up front to go to another show where agencies could look at them. We decided no because we know money should never be asked for up front. Who can I send pictures of my kids to, to see if they have what it takes? -- Feeling_Devine

A. If you are interested about submitting photos of your child to Wilhelmina, go to Applicants should live in the tri-state area and photos should be mailed to Wilhelmina Kids, 300 Park Avenue South.

However, if you do not live in or around New York, many smaller cities also have modeling agencies where your child can get exposure through local and regional advertisers. Always be cautious of industry scams when looking for an agency. Keep in mind that in this business no money changes hands between yourself and the modeling agency until your child books their first job. The modeling agency works on a commission basis.

Q. I'm not sure how to go about researching an agency in my area. I live near San Francisco. Should I look in the phone book or on the Internet? I'm afraid I would waste a lot of time contacting "fake agencies" instead of legitimate ones. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks! -- Kelli

A. Finding an agency appropriate for your child can be a daunting undertaking. One reliable resource is the Ross Reports, a monthly industry directory found at large newsstands or magazine stores. Doing research on the Internet or resource books at the library is another way to go. Major adult agencies may include a children's division ?- call them and ask. If they do not have a kids' division, ask who they would recommend.

    They've Got the Look

    Q. My son (now 4) loves to be photographed. I am thinking of putting him into modeling (maybe later for our baby daughter) because of their mixed-race features -- they just look different. Being only 2 hours from NYC (we live in Connecticut), I guess it is not too hard to do some shoots, but I don't know where and how to start. -- bruiny

    A. Before considering modeling for your child, there are some questions you should ask yourself. Have you considered the expense of travel to and from go-sees and jobs, clothes for auditions, haircuts, etc.? Is there someone available to take your little one on go-sees and to jobs? Does your child really want to do this? The process has to start with some soul searching for you and your family.

    Q. My 3-year-old daughter won first place at our local mall beauty contest last March. We went on to state finals in Indianapolis and won fourth runner-up. They said that she won a chance to go on to regionals, but the cost kept rising for the entry. Does this sound like any major deals would have come out of this? -- Amanda192

    A. My best advice to you would be to first figure out what is best for your child. Although beauty pageants and modeling share similarities, they are quite different. If you are interested in exploring the world of modeling, research agencies in your area and find out what they require for an application. Most legitimate agencies only require snapshots.

      Prep Work

      Q. I know you said it is fine to send snapshots to an agency, but what exactly are they looking for in the pictures? Should they be close-ups, full body shots, or both? Should my child be laughing and playing or sitting quietly? Would a silly outfit help or hurt?

      A. A variety of snapshots is always a good idea because that way you give the agency a chance to see different aspects of your child. The outfit and the background are not important -- it is always about the child.

      Q. It's obvious we parents are all partial to our beautiful children. We too hear many of the same things from strangers and family members telling us our kids should be involved in some form of modeling and acting. What would make my children stand out over all the hundreds of other children's applications and snapshots? Is there a different look that photographers prefer and is it constantly changing or does the "look" stay the same? -- Amy G.

      A. Everyone asks me about that special look that sets one child apart from another. The simple truth is that it is only the children themselves that have the power to do that. A professional can see right through the hairdos and accessories to the raw beauty of the child. Just make sure your child is well rested and well fed, with clean nails and clean hair. Your child will do the rest.

      Q. How should I prepare for going to an agency for the first time?

      A. First thing to do when preparing for your first time at an agency is to clue your child in to why they are going to the agency. Make sure they are well rested and well fed, wearing age-appropriate clothing ?- the Gap casual look is always appropriate. Relax and leave the rest to them.

      The Fine Points

      Q. Who or where should I contact if our child is under the age of 3 (1 year of age)? Can you refer me to a company? We are located in Connecticut, 30 minutes from Manhattan. Thanks! -- Melissa O.

      A. Each agency has their own requirements in regards to the age range. Wilhelmina accepts children starting at 2 weeks. If you are interested in learning more about submitting photos of your child, go to our site at and follow the instructions.

      Q. My son has done some modeling, but after a little while the calls from the agency stopped. How do I keep the agency interested in my son?

      A. If you have not heard from the agency lately, simply call and ask them why you have not heard from them. Clothing sizes 3T, 5, and 10 are sample size and when your child is not "in-size" they get fewer calls. Maybe his teeth haven't come in straight or you need new pictures. There are lots of possible reasons -- call and find out.

      Q. What is the typically percentage an agency takes for commission?

      A. A 20 percent model agency's fee is what Wilhelmina Kids charges. Some may charge more and some may charge less.