Marie Anderson is an international model agent and scout who’s currently the fashion and beauty director for Agency Galatea. Besides being a veteran in the modeling agency for over 30 years and discovering one of the most successful models in the industry, (Cindy Crawford) Ms. Anderson is also the author of two internationally published books (Model: The Complete Guide to Becoming a Professional Model and Model: The Complete Guide for Men and Women) and co-producing an industry documentary.
Take me through your career… This is the third agency for me. The first one I worked for was Jane Stewart when we were called Stewart Talent and then [a year later] that evolved into Elite Chicago. I went from being the booker to the director to the vice president in just seven years. Then I quit in 1990 to open up a scouting company called Model Futures, and I had that for two years. The challenge with that was the models would come back to me saying, ‘I need you to be my agent, not just my scout.’ So that evolved into Aria and then I had Aria Model and Talent for 13 years. I sold Aria in 2003 to Ford. I eventually retired and was out of the business for four years. Now this is the third agency I’ve been with, Agency Galatea, which is a division of Grossman Jack Talent. We turn 5 years old in January 2014.
How many agents are working at Agency Galatea? It’s me and Christopher in Agency Galatea. Then Katherine who has G and J, the lifestyle commercial print, and three in the voiceover department. We also have another four agents in the on-camera/theatrical department. So technically we have 10 agents plus a support staff.
So when you scout out a model with your sophisticated eye what do you look for? What is that really grabs your attention? Whether it’s a man, woman, boy or girl, the first thing I’m looking for almost immediately is the size proportion – that they have the height and body type that will fit the sample-size garments of the clients here in Chicago and internationally. If they’ve got the right height and body type, I’m also looking for an insane personality. Somebody who can just wow us and be entertaining and be able to engage in a conversation, have ambition, be interested in education and expanding their knowledge.
Also, someone who has great skin and hair – common aesthetics that every other agent is looking for. But for us the most important is the personality. It’s easy to be born with good looks, but being able to engage in a conversation with an agent or a client is far more important than just being pretty. We’ve actually passed on quite a few people in my career that have the look but just don’t have the personality. A lot of times the personality will overcompensate for a person that doesn’t have the height or the body type. A model with a good personality has the ability to sell themselves. You know?
Of course, personality is key. How many models do you have in the agency? We have a total of 30-45 models and we have some in development as well.
What piece of advice could you give to a girl just starting out in her career? Gosh, there’s a long list of tips I’d give. But the most important is not to trust just because there is a certain name on the door; use common sense and instincts. Always go with your gut. There are a lot of things that are important, but I’d say the single most important thing is to have people earn your trust. Always do research before you go in and talk to someone. Is this the kind of person you want to do business with? Because all of this is really a business partnership, in my opinion. Some agents think of it as a dictatorship, but I prefer to develop partnerships. We work together to forge an international career. It’s more like a collaboration.
What’s the longevity of a model’s career? Nowadays, there’s a lot more diversity. There’s an agent in New York, Doris, who says, ‘From the womb to the tomb.’ Anyone can model these days. I personally don’t book babies or older people like Katherine. Her minimum is 25 and goes up to grandparents. We prefer teens to early 20s to develop our fashion models. Every agency looks for different things.
When you say fashion model are you talking about runway models, print models or a variety? Not everyone understands the wide variety of modeling divisions that are truly out there. Yes. Fashion, print and runway is what we do at Agency Galatea. We don’t do any trade shows or conventions. My specialty is fashion and print. I’m not a fashionista when it comes to runway either – that was never my forte.
How have you seen the business change since you started? The business has changed a lot for the better and at the same time not for the better, specifically the Internet. It was the first thing to make a drastic difference and photographers shooting digitally, not using film anymore. It might expedite the ability to send pictures within seconds of photographing a model overseas. I could be talking to someone in London, Paris or Milan about my model just because Christopher took some shots of them. Back in the day, we didn’t have digital; we had film that had to be processed. You know, sometimes it took weeks! Then we would have to put in what we called the mail! And it could take weeks. (Laughs)
Snail mail? Exactly. So that has changed drastically. I think the downside to it is that anyone can call themselves a model, a photographer, a make-up artist, a stylist. With digital now it doesn’t cost anything. Anyone can do what type of photo shoots they want to do in theory for no charge and create a website for no charge. They can create a presence very quickly.
I think social media is also a bittersweet experience. Social media can help a grassroots agency like Agency Galatea: getting us out in the mainstream where we don’t have the budget that bigger agencies have to do PR. Also, what can happen is there’s a whole area of the industry called ‘social media models,’ where a lot of clients are low balling legit models because those social media models will take a job for $25 an hour where we might charging $187.50 an hour because they’re authentic polished models. A lot of clients don’t know the difference between a social media model and a regular model, all they see is a pretty girl. It tends to under budget a lot of our clients.
I think we used to be a very tight knit community back in the olden days when there was Ford, Elite and Wilhelmina. You know there was the agents inside of the agencies. Everybody knew who they were. Nowadays, with the Internet and digital, anyone can call themselves an agent. There are literally agencies popping up in these really random markets calling themselves agents. People want to get involved with these small town agents without even realizing that spending $2,000 a year to be on a website isn’t a good idea. Internet agents…there’s a lot of scams that are out there.
Who do you think out of everyone is your main competitor in Chicago? There’s no doubt it would be my former agency owner, Jane Stewart, who owns Factor and the former agency I used to own, which is now called Ford. Those are my two primary competitors. They are superb agencies.
What’s your personal passion? My personal passion in life is to educate. Whether I’m in the agency teaching or doing seminars teaching, that’s my favorite thing to do – teach and empower people so they can have more significant minds.
If someone wanted to come hear you speak how would they find you? They can send me an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org