Model Scout Erin Scimeca Launches Signed Management

New York Models Director of Scouting Jumps to the Other Side of the Biz

Model Scout Erin Scimeca  

I met Erin Scimeca—then, Erin Lundgren—when she was fresh out of college and running Elite Model Look. Elite Model Management’s prestigious contest was a model’s dream path to discovery. I was fresh out of college and off the international modeling circuit and running a modeling magazine called Tear Sheet. We were young and in positions of power in the glamorous and sexy world of supermodels (it just happened to be the height of the supermodel era, and I’ll leave it to you to calculate how many years ago that was). When most models had little power, except to jump the line at nightclubs, we could have let it go to our heads and turned into real jerks. Instead, we both became advocates for providing trustworthy and caring support systems to aspiring models. Over the years our paths have intersected, first at scouting events, then at New York Model Management (Erin became Director of Scouting; I landed on their board in my modeling twilight years, and in their kid’s division at the dawn of my children’s modeling hobbies). We both settled in Connecticut and of course she was the first person I thought of when I scouted Em Marie, 2016′s Modeling Mentor Model of the Year. It was exciting to stop by Erin’s house, as she set up for her annual model camp last year, and imagine the opportunities Em and the other girls invited to the unique weekend event had ahead of them. Now I’m even more excited to share the news of what Erin has planned for the next stage of her career.

Erin Scimeca

Erin Scimeca with Beau Garrett, at Elite Model Look in 1997

Tell us about your new venture?

After 23 years sitting on the desk as a director of scouting, I’ve now decided to switch over to the other side and be a mother agent, so I’m opening a scouting agency called Signed Management, or Signed by Erin Scimeca. Having spent 23 years at two different high fashion agencies, Elite and New York Models, both major players in the business, I can give something a little extra or different to girls. I’m taking the experience of working with mother agents and finding and working with models and turning that around to give these girls something that others can’t. I not only have the ability to scout well and have contacts all over the world, but I also have the knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work. So often the girls are forgotten as people. They are treated more like a product. People forget that they have feelings. I want to be able to show that you can be someone in the business who really cares about the girls, and I’ll be there to fight for them. I’ll bring not only my knowledge but also a family feeling and sense of comfort. That’s always been what I love, not only finding a girl who is raw and fresh and watching them grow and turn into a blossoming star.

Erin Scimeca and Em Marie

Erin Scimeca with 2016 Modeling Mentor Model of the Year Em Marie

Will Signed be solely a scouting company or will it also be an agency?

Right now I’m going to be scouting and placing. My primary focus will be finding a girl; helping develop her; teaching her the business, the do’s and the don’ts; and then finding the right people to work with her. I’ve visited all the main agencies in the main cities as well as smaller markets. I also have worked with quite a few people in New York, as I’ve done this for a long time and people tend to move around. I know what it’s like in most of the other agencies in New York. I’m different from a mother agent in Kansas and Kentucky because I’ve experienced it first-hand.

Signed Management

Are there other companies out there like yours?

Sure there are mother agents all over the world. I feel a lot of agents in New York have gotten lazy with developing girls on their own, so they depend on these mother agents to provide girls for them. But I don’t feel there’s any mother agent who has come from where I come from. Most of those mother agents, maybe they tried to model at one time or maybe they started a school and then became a mother agent, but they haven’t had the opportunity to necessarily work in a big market with some of the biggest agencies in the business, or travelled the whole globe, or have done it as long as I have. How can you take money from a girl and never have gone to Paris and never have visited an agency before and you’re placing a girl blindly, not knowing that maybe that agency isn’t the best agency. Maybe it was ten years ago but it’s not anymore.

Will you primarily be placing models with agents in New York?

No, not necessarily. I will be placing models all over the world. What I did at New York Models was placing models, so I have a lot of contacts in Paris, London, Germany, Milan, Denmark, Sweden—pretty much everywhere. A high fashion model can’t be made in one market; they have to go to different markets. One of the benefits I have is that I know some of these little markets like Chile, which is becoming a really good market, that people don’t necessarily think about. You can develop a girl there, you can build a great book for them, and that can help them in New York with getting higher rates or getting a better agency. So my focus will be global.

What are some other places besides Chile where you might send new girls to develop them, which people might not know about? Is Milan still big?

Milan has become more of a fashion week market, as a lot of the magazines shoot outside of Milan. There are still a few agencies that will develop a girl but most won’t. Mexico City is becoming a great market, especially for girls who are a little more on the beauty side. The Asian market is still great. I feel it’s kind of like model boot camp, as they do get a lot of work and work hard. If a girl can take away from that that they still want to model and they love it, every other market will be a lot easier.

Is Asia still a good market for girls who are a little shorter than the norm?

Singapore is more of an editorial market so they do take girls who are a little bit taller. Japan and China will still work with girls who are on the shorter side. The range is generally 5’7″ to 5’10″. It depends too though. I feel like the whole business in general is becoming a little more open to girls on smaller side, if they have an amazing personality, a great book, someone really backing them. Occasionally that can happen in Asia as well but the majority are in the 5’7″ to 5’10″ range.

Explain how you make your money?

Mother agencies retain 10% of the 20% already taken from the model. We don’t take anything additional from the models. They would have 20% taken out no matter what. We get paid from the agency that they are placed with. Typically it is for as long as that model is signed with that agency, as we are the ones who developed the model and introduced them to the agency.

I think it was 5% in my day. Why has that changed?

Rates have gone down and there are also more models out there. As a mother agent, you only make money if the model is working and you still have expenses—like promotions and website fees, which you don’t charge back to the models.

Are there expenses the models will incur while you are developing them?

I don’t want them to pay a lot of money because I know once they get to an agency, the agency is going to retest them and put together a book for them. I’m trying to find as many free test photographers as possible. I won’t do a ton of testing, just what I feel they need to get placed. I have the benefit of having my amazing stepdaughter, who is a great photographer and will be testing them all in the beginning and taking their digitals, at no charge. And of course if it’s a younger girl, she’ll probably test them over and over again so that they get more and more comfortable in front of the camera. There might be fees involved if we have to print comp cards. Now everything is done digitally, so a girl doesn’t have to have a portfolio. Most girls have a laptop or tablet that they put their photos on to show to agencies. I also will be sending all their photos to agents in advance and then they’re meeting the girl in person, which to me is the most important part.

Em Marie model

Model of the Year Em Marie, shot by Emily Scimeca

Will you only work with girls, or guys too?

I’m going to start with just girls. If I see a great guy, would I stop him? Sure. But I’ve always worked on a women’s board. It’s what I know. And having had two teenage girls in my house, I know how to handle teenage girls better than teenage boys!

What is the youngest girl you would scout or develop?

I wouldn’t put an age cap on it. I’ve scouted girls at 11 years old before and then take a watch-and-see approach with them. I feel the beauty of a mother agent is that I can take risks, so if I find a girl who is younger, I can work with her without exposing her yet to the world of modeling. When I feel she’s ready, even if she doesn’t get to 5’10″ or 5’9″, and I still believe in her, I can find another route for her, whether it be the commercial route or acting.

When you are getting a girl ready to send her to the agencies, how do you manage that if they are from out of state, as far as testing?

If a family can’t afford to travel to us, we would travel to them and do a shoot. If they can afford to come, then I can line up a few shoots and try to work that into the same time that I could get them in to see agencies. I also have friends all over, so I may know a photographer in their area.

Do you also advise on wardrobe, hair, makeup, overall style?

Definitely. I actually started a tip sheet with things that were pet peeves for me when a girl would come in to see us at the agency. How they should dress, how they should act, what they should expect—just so that they are not going blindly into it. Some New Yorkers are very mysterious, and there can be the slightest way a girl can talk or hold herself that will turn them off. I never liked it when a girl wanted to shake my hand, and I know other agents who felt the same way because of spreading germs. I get sick easily. Unless an agent offers a hand, don’t offer yours first. The business has become more and more about personality. It’s really important to show a bit of personality. Girls should go in with questions. They should go in prepared. It’s a job interview. Show that you are engaging and have thought about this, not that you are just there on a whim and excited but don’t care about the business end. Because it is a business.

What about wardrobe faux pas?

Show your personality in your styling and how you dress. A girl with a really cool style can make a great impression with that alone. Some agents just love that. Remember it’s an interview and you won’t have a chance to make another first impression. Don’t come in in sneakers and ripped up or baggy jeans and a baggy sweater or a turtleneck. You want to wear something that will show and flatter your body.  You also don’t want to go on the opposite end of the spectrum and be wearing a fancy dress or business outfit. This is a trendy setting and environment; you want to be that cool girl. You aren’t going to a formal. Show your style in a cool way. I’ve seen many girls come in with crazy makeup that I’ve had to ask them to wipe off or girls coming in in extremely inappropriate clothing, especially at a young age. We don’t need to see the goods! I don’t want to see you in something that makes me wonder how your dad let you out of the house.

Should girls come in with no makeup when coming to see you or an agency?

A little bit of mascara is ok, but no foundation, no eye shadow, and no bright lipstick. A little muted Chapstick or gloss is ok and a little concealer if needed for a bad breakout but nothing heavy. As natural as possible is best.

Will you be giving girls social media guidance?

That’s definitely part of my talk. Obviously in this business nowadays, it’s important to have a social media following, so you should have an open account, not a private account. You can have a regular account that is private and a model account that is open. And remember it’s out there for the whole world to see. So, if you are underage and show pictures drinking or smoking or partying, not a good thing! If you are wearing revealing or inappropriate clothes, not a good thing. And it shouldn’t be selfie, selfie, selfie. Sure have some pictures of yourself but also show your interests. If you love to draw or cook or sing, share those pictures. Share posts about your family. People want to see who you are as a person. And parents should monitor it. Way too many times, I’ve seen girls posting inappropriate things and I call the parent and they have no idea. Never post where you are located; if you start getting crazy followers, you don’t want them to find you.

Which platforms are most important?

Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Agents and clients will look at overall followers.

Do you see a lot of the stereotypical issues people hear about that scare them away from the business: anorexia, bulimia, low self-esteem, sexual harassment from photographers/clients?

In my time in this business, I’ve seen girls who have eating disorders. I’ve seen girls who have been treated badly. I do feel there has been a change to that. Girls used to go into modeling a bit more blindly than they do now. Now you can educate yourself more with social media and websites. I’ll be honest, with anorexia, I have seen a few cases but not as many as you would think in this business. And I feel the few that I’ve seen would have had that problem whether they were a model or not. Eating disorders are very emotional; it has to do with the girl herself. It’s not the modeling industry that is making it happen. Most of the girls are just really lucky with great genes and metabolisms and I’ve seen them eat like pigs, and they can do it!

Do you think that the changes happening in Hollywood are seeping into the modeling world?

Definitely. People are making allegations against Bruce Weber. And there are girls that have spoken out. I think it’s great for them to find their voices. I don’t feel harassment happens as much as it used to, but as long as there are beautiful girls (and boys) and men who think a certain way, it will be a problem.

Tell us how Model Camp came about and will it continue?

When I was doing Elite Model Look at the beginning of my career, I loved getting on the road, finding girls and then we’d have this long weekend of teaching them about the business and doing events with them. When I first got married and moved out to Connecticut, I thought, We could totally do a boot camp here and revive the concept of the old school approach: really teach girls and bond with them and get to know them. Once we had a proper new faces team at New York Models, we launched Model Camp. So obviously I would love to do something like that for the girls I represent, to teach them the business and bond and bring in some industry professionals to talk to them and help them as well.

model camp

Model Camp, Erin’s brainchild, included a shoot with Seventeen magazine

No other agencies in New York do a camp like this, right?

No.

Best scouting story?

About fifteen years ago, I did a model search on a tour bus in August. There was a very eclectic group of us on the bus, scouts from New York and L.A., we had a makeup sponsor, a couple of musicians—it was a very interesting group of people. We had a problem with the bus and they didn’t have another bus to give us. So we basically got a glorified Winnebago for about 12 of us. We had to drive from Florida to Chicago, do a show there, and then get right on the bus to Seattle. As we were wrapping up and getting ready to leave Chicago, we couldn’t find the driver but found the keys and a letter saying he could no longer do the tour with us! There had been some squabbling along the way, and I guess he was done with us! One guy decides to drive and no one has slept. At one point we pull over to rest at a Wal-Mart but they make us leave. Then we end up getting a flat tire in the middle of nowhere Montana and it felt like the Winnebago was going to flip over. It’s hot. We have not cell reception. We’re thinking about how we’d have to hoof it to find a gas station, when a really nice tour bus flies by us. Of course we all do some inappropriate finger gestures to the bus as it drives by, and it slams on its brakes. It was Judas Priest, and they pick us up and take us about 20 miles to next gas station, where there are men playing poker in the corner. We have to wait for the one sheriff who is at the town fair to give us a ride. Long story short, we ended up making it to Seattle and then hanging out with Judas Priest at their show.

I have some great rock star stories. My friend Ricky just reminded me about hanging out with Guns & Roses in Munich. We had dinner with them after the show—I remember that part, but I didn’t remember her French braiding Slash’s hair!

I always said one day I’ll write a book, because I have so many stories.

I’ve written one. I just need to finish revising it, and add that French braid part in. Your favorite model finds?

The most exciting for me, to watch how she’s evolved, is Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Jane Margolis in Breaking Bad). I scouted her at a mall in Pennsylvania. We were doing an Elite Model Look event. She had a Guns & Roses t-shirt on and overalls. She was about 15 or so. She lived on a farm and didn’t want to enter but I convinced her to. Then when she saw all the girls dressed to the nines in black dresses and heels and makeup, she said, “I don’t think I want to do this.” I told her, “I am the only judge. You should enter.” She did and ended up making it to the finals in New York. I can’t remember if she went on to France. To see her now, all the movies she’s done and her own TV show, it makes me proud. She always had such a great personality for acting.

Why did you decide to move on now?

First of all, we have one stepdaughter who is out of the house, and the other will be out soon. My dream has always been to move to Cape Cod. On a personal level, it seemed like the right time. I’m going to be 45 next month. I had a goal to be out of the main market by then. I really think there needs to be a change in the business, with everything happening with the Me Too movement, it’s a great time to be a woman who can help these young women find a path to their dreams in the right way, without taking advantage of them or being someone who doesn’t know the business but tries to pretend they do. I have a special place in my heart for the girls I’ve found. I was never able to have children myself, so they are the children that I didn’t have.

Will you do scouting events?

The Cape would be a great destination. It’s definitely something I have thought about.

Can people submit to you?

Yes, just go to signedmgmt.com and fill in the online form.

Height/age/size requirements?

I want to keep it open. You never can tell when that great girl who is only 5’5″ could grow late—or could be a great commercial model.

Any plus–size or petites?

Plus-size is a market I would love to get into, yes.

What look is in now?

There’s a transition back to beauty, which I love. I loved those 80s and 90s models who were so beautiful. You will always have interesting editorial girls too. But with budgets the way they are and the way the world is right now, people are playing it a little safe and booking that beautiful girl they know multiple people can relate to. Latin and mixed ethnicities are very popular right now. Girls who can be ethnically ambiguous work very well.

If you like a photo submission, what is the next step?

If they are local, I would meet with them. If not, I would do a Skype casting. Obviously I would want to talk to the parents and the family and then take it from there as far as meeting in person or arranging a photo shoot.

I’m excited for our Skype call tonight with my 2017 Model of the Year Alexa Kissling! Stay tuned readers. I’m looking forward to sending a lot of great discoveries Erin’s way, so we can continue to blaze safe trails for young people to pursue their dreams. Take the first step and…

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