Is Child Modeling Right for Your Family?
Your Child Could Be a Model...But Should They?
You hear it all the time, your child is beautiful and should go into the modeling business, but what is the business really like? Here is one mother's experience trying to "break in" and the reasons why she "broke out."
When Your Child is Discovered
It happened everywhere we went. Our family would be out for a stroll in the park or at the mall, and somebody would inevitably stop us wanting a closer look at Brendan in his stroller. He was hard to resist at one year old with his still chubby cheeks, infectious smile and bright blue eyes. “He’s gorgeous,” they would say. “He could be in commercials.”
Of course, my husband and I thought Brendan was the most beautiful baby in the world, but the more we heard people say it, the more we actually thought about trying to make it happen. We had neighbors whose 4-year-old son did some child modeling and had his own agent named Sheila, and we finally asked for the number to call her. Her office was in Miami, so we drove the hour and a half it took to get to her and presented Brendan for her inspection. We had been asked to take some pictures and bring them with us, but Sheila quickly dismissed them saying they didn’t look professional enough. Brendan needed to have a portfolio done, and she gave us the number of a photographer who could make this happen.
Making a Portfolio--Sparkle, Sparkle
We met with the photographer at a nearby park a few days later. She had brought her 3-year-old daughter with her who was also in the modeling business. She began to take a few pictures of Brendan but became a little frustrated as he wasn’t giving her the poses she was looking for. My husband and I tried everything we could think of to get Brendan to smile, but he was too busy playing and exploring the park to comply. “Let me give you an example,” the photographer said. She called to her daughter nearby and told her to smile. As if on command, the little girl quickly turned around and gave her mother a pose and clearly coached smile worthy of Shirley Temple status. The kid was obviously a professional.
We did finally end up getting some good pictures at the park that day and presented them to Sheila, who felt they could be worked with. She told me that she would keep an eye on auditions and call me with the details so I could bring Brendan. She warned me that most of these auditions would take place in Miami, which was quite a drive for me then, but I was willing to give it a try. I didn’t really know a thing about how the child modeling business worked and figured a car trip or two wouldn’t be such a big deal.
Waiting, Waiting...and Waiting Some More
Sheila actually called me the very next day to tell me that there was a print ad that she thought Brendan would be perfect for, but we needed to get down to the audition by noon. I dropped everything and packed up Brendan and his baby bag and we drove straight down to the building where it was being held. Pulling into a parking space, I noticed a large group of mothers and their little ones congregating outside in the hot Miami sun. We soon joined them and waited for Brendan’s turn to be seen. We were both sweating profusely after about 15 minutes, and I was grateful that Brendan’s stroller was provided him with at least some shade. It took about an hour for Brendan’s turn, and I wheeled him in to be seen by the casting agents. A lady reached her arms out to hold him, but Brendan was at the age where he was wary of strangers and clung to me with a worried look on his face. He was also still hot and uncomfortable. “Okay, thank you,” the lady said as she showed us the door. We made the long drive home with the majority of the day already having passed us by.
Sheila called us the next week and told us that a kids’ clothing company from England had seen Brendan’s pictures and wanted to audition him for one of their print ads. We made the trip back to Miami, and I was grateful to see that all the moms and kids were indoors this time. I had brought bottles and snacks and toys to keep Brendan occupied, but the longer we waited the more I ran out of resources, and Brendan began to get cranky for his usual noontime nap. A lady handed me a long-sleeved shirt and overalls that she wanted me to dress Brendan in and sent us into the next room where a group of mothers and their children were hurriedly taking off and putting on clothes. I smiled and cooed at Brendan as I changed his outfit, hoping to keep him happy after having already making him wait so long. Once Brendan was dressed, we waited as other children were being seen. Brendan was losing his patience quickly and getting so tired. One of the casting agents passed by, and I tried to explain that my son was getting past his usual nap time and tried to get an idea of how long the process would take. “You can leave right now,” she said curtly. “Just leave the clothes up front.”
My Modeling Faux Pas
When Sheila asked me later that day how the casting call had gone, I gave her the details. “You didn’t COMPLAIN, did you”? Her voice sounded horrified as if I had committed some sort of heinous act. Honestly, I didn’t know if what I had done could really be called complaining. I had been polite and tried to explain that my son needed a nap and was just wondering about the time frame. Obviously, this was a big no-no.
Sheila then told me that she had a little gift for me. She had gotten Brendan cast in a print ad for a large department store. There would be no audition; he was definitely in. Once again, we packed up for Miami and went to the location which was on the beach. I was hoping Brendan would enjoy the sun and the sand while they took pictures, but unfortunately the process of setting up took quite a while. I tried to keep him happy with toys and bottles and extra hugs, but by the time the actual pictures were taken he was cranky and tearful. He did end up in the department store catalog, and the picture itself was adorable, but if you look close you can see Brendan straining to smile through tear-stained and tired eyes.
What it was really all about--at least for us
When Sheila called me the next time, I told her that it was time for Brendan to retire from the modeling business. She sounded surprised that I would pass up such an opportunity, but I felt it was the only choice I had. My son clearly was not having a positive experience and definitely not any fun. He would have gotten much greater joy from a few minutes in the baby swing in the park near our house being pushed by me or even just sitting in his little chair watching Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street. Brendan was a generally happy and good-natured little boy and was fun to be around. I had just made the mistake of putting him in situations that tested the limits of his good nature.
I know that there are plenty of young children out there who do ads for magazines and TV and such. I don’t know what the experiences are like for them, but for our family it was just not a good fit. I was definitely not cut out to be a stage mother, that much I knew, and I just wanted to have a son who was happy and content and enjoying life. For us, it wasn’t worth the prospect of Brendan being famous. He was famous enough in our family where it really mattered, and I wouldn’t have traded that for the world.