I just finished reading Robert Lacey's wry biography of Eileen Ford. Once you stop to consider what this woman and her husband did, which is to build what we know as the modern modeling industry from scratch, it's as if their lives coalesce into a kind of cultural destiny.
"Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty", is a must read of a life history that justifies the Vogue Paris, NY Times and Vanity Fair tributes that poured in upon Mrs. Ford passing last year. But the book begs the question of what would an Eileen Ford make of the industry, if she were operating within its limits today. Reality TV reality, social media celebrity, Instagram metrics..how would her calculating mind reconcile these variables to her business practice.
I was at Le Petit Four on Sunset Plaza circulating the idle hiss about a former Gucci model who had relocated to LA in a smart act of rebranding, when I got immersed in a dialogue about management LA style, ( where such an occupation takes on life and death proportions.) The fashion driven but market conscious manger was updating me that he was swiveling his strategy away from the "blank manques" to the "slashers". For the details of that I go to the i-Phone transcript…
FM: I was meeting, these multi talented "slashers" …multi tasking millenials ..it's a Zeitgeist kind of change…so many agencies now are becoming not just print - but managers for branded talent. Modeling is just one facet of their lives, and the more arsenal I can help them develop as a means to communicate a client's message - then it's one up on all the competition,..L.A. is not just a local market - clients cast between all markets now -at least clients that are desirable, meaning they are on every agents most wanted list…I've seen a few agencies also adapt to this new niche that is forming with our industry - so I keep my roster to 25 and it allows for a long term game plan with a springboard to the long term goal of having a career full of milestones and a transition to the ultimate goal, whether it's still involved with modeling, fashion, or acting, music, etc. And now we can't forget the new "social stars" …All my girls have put in time every day to really cultivate REAL TIME users as followers/fan base - on the channels that matter, IG, FB, Twitter, Youtube ..100K is the goal for each girl to have so I can present to certain clients and have proof when stating a model has that capability to influence…
TI: God Bless Kris Jenner (net worth $125 mil)
FM: Kris Jenner - she is Lady Boss - people trash her, but the work ethic she has her family on ...maintaining that intense force of will to become stars of their own making - and change the game - I have respect for getting where they are. That deft handling of their rise through unchartered territory - she got game, serious digital voodoo... kind of 6th sense almost…
And we're in for another shake up because of technology...in my niche I find it's better to look for the gorgeous and beautiful individuals that have focus on other pursuits and have a identity through their main life pursuits....and help develop them so it's a double down type of growth.
TI: I should put all you just said , in print, about Kris Jenner. On the subject of uncharted territory, she is the great pioneer of the Post-Hollywood idea of fame.
FM: I don't think there can be such a separation now as it was then - WME's IMG's purchase leaves so much room for a smart agent from the talent side to basically find and farm their own set of superstar actresses...
TI: Meaning farm from modeling to feed movies a/l/a Kate Upton?
FM: A kid like that, guided by the right management at an agency - would have the ultimate killing machine -if you find a talent that have the skills and looks to be massive in scope and vertical in her reach. Power talent needs a power agent, not 5 handling publicity, 5 handling their modeling throughout the world, as markets grow into each other ...10 more for theatrical and new media..What's missing is a combined personal manager meets print/theatrical/new media/branding wunderkind - then it's game over. You can't just have one type of skill - and you can't compete with just a model these days. I can't compete with the network agencies and resources. But I can compete with singular talent that can generate intellectual property worth hundreds of millions. All you need is one, then two, then four.
TI: Are we cutting to the Kardashians again? Do you find it difficult getting access to the entertainment market when you are working from what is perceived as a fashion platform?
FM: Modeling is not a talent or skill and the ability to generate $100 million dollar fame, it has to come from within . at least the full force to engage in all media platforms , since even fame now is a platform. All management now is fame management and then you quantify it so that it generates real deals - hello Estee Lauder.
TI: And so the metrics become the everything of post-digital life? Not taste? Not inspiration?
FM: As the jumping off point. But now the whole thing has been reversed from our days Wayne. In your time a kid became the face of Calvin Klein only because Kate or Travis were his taste in that moment. Calvin's taste. And then his 10,000 billboard buy and his 1000 page print ad purchase MADE that kid famous. Everybody was going to buzz because they've seen you on a Calvin Klein billboard. Now the KID can bring 10, 20 millions eyeballs, guaranteed, verified, sanctified on IG, FB, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, as a pre-condition, prior to the signing of the contract, to the Calvin brand. If you're corporate what could possibly make more sense? And after that, apart from Vogue, which is big in the game of all that, nobody gives a damn about the opinions on a talent. Opinions are not numbers. Numbers don't lie. Justin Bieber cannot lie.
"And then Late Capitalism will have had its last laugh," I concurred. "Here's to your life as a 24/7 commodity," I said raising my glass of Landmark Overlook chardonnay
to the chemically enhanced orange blaze of the setting LA sun.