Mother Agent: A Lesson in Good Mothering
Navigating the modeling industry can be a daunting and overwhelming endeavour. Although technically an art form, modeling boils down to a business with contracts and clauses. It can be scary for a young model to navigate all the nomenclature, norms, and mores of a business they have had little or no exposure to. It does not have to be an insurmountable task, not when there is help available. A fledgling model, much like an infant, needs that first point of contact, that bond, that connection. In the way the first person we meet in life holds the title “mother”, the first agent a model signs with carries the nomer: Mother Agent.
A mother agent or agency is the first agency a model signs with. It is their job to, like a mother nurture the model and guide the model. They are responsible for working hard to get their model booked, busy, and making money. Mother agencies should want what is best for their models and be working to keep them on the right track. Most importantly, a mother agency believes in the model. It is the task of the mother agency to get models work by getting them signed with other agencies, and placing the models in other markets they think the model will thrive in. The chief responsibilities of a mother agent, or a models first agency, are: Global oversight, agency placement, and coordination with the agencies. A mother agent is a conduit for talent to find work and gain exposure.
Typically, the mother agent will start their talent off locally in order to dip their toes in the water. This allows them to see how the model performs and address their strengths and weaknesses. Then, the mother agency can get them placed with larger markets. Other agencies must defer to the mother agent on all matters, as they are responsible for the overall management of a talent’s career.
It is in the mother agency’s best interest to get the model more work. Work begets work, thereby giving the mother agency more commission. This is how mother agencies make their living: by finding the model work, the model then owes them a percentage of what they bring in. Mother agencies typically charge 20% commission. In placing a talent in larger markets, booking them with other agencies, the mother agency and each additional agency both receive 20% commission. This trade-off ensures mutual benefit between model and agency, all in the pursuit of gaining exposure that models need even moreso than livelihood.
Before signing onto an agency, the talent should feel comfortable with the people they are agreeing to work with, and ensure that they have their best interests in mind. There should be an open dialogue throughout one’s career. If a model feels that they cannot speak freely with them, they should consider to expand their search and continue looking. A mother agency is meant to represent the interest of the models, and not the profit margins of theirs and other agencies. If a successful business, a mother agency should be respectful and caring of a talent, treating them well so that the talent can grow and succeed.
Beware of scams. There are agencies out there who will posit that in order to sign with them, they first need to “create your portfolio.” This is not necessary as there are lots of photographers out there you can create your portfolio with in exchange for adding to their portfolio. These imposter agencies will flatter you, acting as though they are very serious about you in order to inflate your ego and illicit excitement from you. Then they will require you go to their studio, bring three different outfits to shoot in “in order to assess your skills and see how you perform.” This is all a scheme in order to then charge you $500 for taking the photos. These agencies simply want your money. I hope it isn’t slander to call these companies “scams,” but let’s just say they are doing very bad business. An agency should only get paid WHEN YOU GET PAID, after they have successfully gotten work for you so that you may grant them their commission. I am writing from experience. I can laugh at it now, and luckily I caught on before paying, but these companies are very much preying on hopeful young models who desperately want to believe that they have been scouted and that all their dreams are about to come true. Looking at you NYC model scouts. When you are signed by a mother agency, there will be no prerequisite fee. Their top priority will be finding you gainful employment.
Examples: EMG models
Now, reader, you may be asking, how does one get signed to a mother agency? There are a few methods of accomplishing this. First off: look at their website! You can email agents and managers a submission email along with your headshots. Also, look out for their open calls. When going to the open call, you have to look like a model, dress like a model, and act like a model. Be professional. Wear clothes that are simple but amplify and complement your features. Wear very minimal makeup, your face should look fresh and clean. A light coverage foundation, mascara, natural combed eyebrows, and a nude lipstick should do the trick. Long hair should be pulled back from your face.
Confidence is key. If you believe in you, they will have to as well. If confidence is something you presently struggle with, I recommend repeating affirmations to yourself until you trick yourself into feeling it. Sentences like “I am a radiant being filled with light and love,” or “Confidence comes to me easily.” You can even listen to affirmations on Youtube or Spotify to relax you and give you clarity before arriving to your open call. Mother agencies are looking for individuals who are self assured and who know what it is that they want.
Once you have signed with a mother agency, you have now entered a relationship with that agency. More specifically a business relationship. Like all relationships, you must tend to them like a garden. Do not neglect your relationship with your mother agency. They are working hard for you, but they cannot be responsible for all the work. It is your duty to be responsive to them. To show them how much you appreciate them taking you on, it is imperative that you arrive to your bookings on time. Even on your off days, even when you don’t feel like doing anything, it is essential to your self care, well being, and professional success that you push through and give it your 100%. Some days your 100%, may not be your absolute best, but so long as you are giving it all that you can, you can’t go wrong. In order to be professional, have a positive demeanor and an open mind. Life can burden us and weigh us down, but when we choose to be positive, our truest and highest selves shine through. You may not realize it, but you are powerful, and your energy can affect the energy of an entire shoot.
In summation, mother agencies are a powerful tool for models. They are your liaison into the modeling industry. Mother agencies exist to connect you to more agencies and to launch your career as a working model. A business relationship, they receive commission for the work you do. Most of all, they are a support system while you are navigating your career path. Mother agencies are the first thread in your network, and they are there to guide you to your most
optimal working life.