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More on Kid Modeling, and Kid Role-Modeling

So, where did I leave off? Oh yeah, dragging my two-year-old to New York for a Huggies casting.


Well, it started with an old modeling friend calling to see if my eight-year-old wanted to do an acting camp with her ten-year-old in New York last summer. Seemed like a great way to get away from my four-kid household and spend some quality time with a girlfriend in my favorite city and J, a dancer and extrovert, was up for it. So we signed up our kids for casting director Madelyn Burns acting camp at Performing Options. It’s pricey but run by actual casting directors and concludes with a showcase for actual agents. The waiting room has “Dance Moms” potential—Southern moms hanging around for six hours each day gabbing about their kids (h-ello, it’s New York! There are a gazillion better things to do!). Anyway, the kids loved it, and after day 2, Madelyn approached me and asked if J had an agent. She said, “That kid needs an agent.” Who am I to argue? Next thing I know he interviews at Shirley Grant (management company that launched the Jonas Brothers and reps many of the kids on Broadway) and he’s signed on.

Now on top of dance classes four days a week here and Saturday afternoons at Alvin Ailey in the city, we’re running to auditions in New York after school. Luckily, only about four a month. Unluckily, they seem to come in batches, so we’re bouncing in and out of the city like pinballs some weeks. It’s exciting, though, and only a tad depressing that many of the auditions are held in the same places I used to frequent as talent not stage mom. Now there is a new crop of poreless vixens crowding the places, texting and using slang words I don’t understand.

I know, what’s all this have to do with the Huggies casting? Well, my old partner (Tear Sheet) was holding a casting for Joe Fresh and needed toddlers. He asked if I could bring mine. But she needed representation. I asked J’s booker if they’d rep her for the casting. Why? Temporary insanity? Equal opportunity model mom? I don’t know, but I emailed some pics of her and they agreed. The Joe Fresh job didn’t pan out, but then out of the blue the agency calls with a Huggies casting for her. I can’t really say no (cardinal rule: You don’t say no to your agent—or your son’s agent). So I have to come up with an outfit for her with no stain on it by the next morning and figure out what to do with her hair (fourth child—haircuts don’t happen). And BTW, aspiring model moms, castings generally come in the day before, sometimes the day of. You don’t get advance notice.

On the train platform, it’s funny, because there is a little girl about the same age as T, all dressed up, with her dad. For a second I think maybe they are going to the same place. Then I realize how ridiculous that is, seeing as we are in Connecticut, an hour from New York, there are numerous stops in between, and many things a dad and daughter might be doing, the least likely of which is an outing to a Huggies casting in New York.

We have a really nice ride to the city. From Norwalk on (5 minutes in), T gets up at each stop and chirps, “We’re in New Yoik?!” (For some reason she has a Brooklyn accent.) Her enthusiasm is not diminished by the ten times that I have to respond, “No, not yet.” At the casting, guess who we run into? Yep the dad and his little cutie pie. I let him know I’m relieved I am not the only lunatic living in our town.

Despite the large crowd in the waiting room at the casting agency, they shuffle the kids in and out swiftly. This is one thing I’ve noticed on auditions with J, they definitely respect kids’ limited attention spans and move ‘em through. It’s remarkable. At this audition, I also notice that most of these little tykes are not New Yorkers. They are dressed up in fancy frocks that scream New Jersey and Long Island. The casting directors aren’t going to care about that. What they care about is if your toddler will happily leave you and head off with a stranger into a different room where they must smile, laugh, act cute and forget all about mommy. The boy before us comes out in tears. I try to distract T so she doesn’t get any ideas.

She must not have because I was told she was “great” and got a call later that day saying she had to go back the next day for a callback. And the day after that there might be a fitting. Seriously, for a two-year-old modeling diapers?

After the struggle of trying to come up with a second unstained outfit, we headed in again the following morning. T was still game. I was not sure what to wish for. Again I was told she was “great” and that “she by far has the coolest wardrobe of all the kids we’ve seen.” Wow, I duped them. She was wearing pink Converse high tops, and her “MC Hammer pants” (that’s what my husband calls them). Most of her clothes are hand-me-downs, but they came from the sale box of a French vendor at the Christmas Fair at a friend’s kids’ school in England. They are really cool. We left with a coupon for a free package of Huggies (nice) and went up to Toys R Us in Times Square for a ride on the ferris wheel. Luckily T did not get a call for the fitting or the job, because she would have shown up in something from Carter’s and her cool girl image would have been shattered.

That might be it for T’s modeling career. Unless someone figures out a way to clone stage moms. But if any of my kids do venture into the field again, I’ll take the advice I just gave a friend. She tries hard to raise her girls as smart, resourceful, ambitious leaders (like herself) and shuns shallow values. But her daughter, who likes acting and singing and has her mom’s gorgeous Mexican-American looks, is often told she should model. My friend of course worries about the superficial nature of this industry and the messages it sends. I say, her daughter should use modeling as a platform to become a spokesperson for what she believes in (as many models have) and donate part of what she makes, so that modeling is a means to an end. It’s when it’s the be all and end all that it’s a problem.

Up next: my interview with Good Morning America‘s Lara Spencer, a supermom and now an author as well as TV personality (her book, I Brake for Yard Sales, is out!).