Baby baby, I'm taken with the notion...
September 5, 2008 12:05 PM   Subscribe

My one-year old is a beautiful kid. Really. Should we try to get him into modeling or acting? I want to hear the good and the bad.

I know, I know - EVERYONE'S kid is the most gorgeous child around. So, just assume that I'm telling the unvarnished truth, and that he's a very good looking baby. I know this, because people routinely stop us on the street and tell us so. Not in a "hey, they've got a kid, I, a complete stranger, should say something nice." way, but in a totally unsolicited, they're just moved to say something way.

So, the wife and I have talked about putting him in front of a camera to see how it works out. Modeling, acting, whatever. We live in Burbank, and know a good amount of people in show biz, but none who know anything about kids modeling or acting.

We want to try it out and see if it works for him. If he seems to enjoy it, we'll keep going. If he hates it, we're done.

So, any experiences that you all have had with this, good or bad? How would we even start? I would love to hear your opinions.
posted by Spyder's Game to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't offer any first hand info, but there's a great deal of info and discussion in the message boards at That's where I'd start!
posted by blaneyphoto at 12:36 PM on September 5, 2008

You haven't said a word about why you are considering getting your toddler into this. He obviously hasn't expressed any desire to do any of this. Are you interested in money? Prestige? Fame? There are, obviously, downsides to introducing a baby into a world saturated with vanity and exploitation. Unless you explain what you're hoping to gain by this, no one can help you gauge the cost.
posted by limon at 12:43 PM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

I have a one-year-old, and we are stopped on the street incessantly. Goodness, that's a beautiful baby. Oh, my, she's just gorgeous. Omigod, so cute! Well, isn't she bonny. And it just goes on and on and on, every time we leave the house. Not just old ladies who you'd expect it from, but teen-agers and crusty-looking dudes and other untraditional baby-complimenters. Beautiful eyes! Such lovely curls! It never lets up.

That is not to say that the two of us don't have stunning toddlers, but. They are not rare, and nobody is following up the comments we get with "...and the thing is, I am a scout for an ad agency, and the one thing we're really short on is cute babies. You wouldn't believe how rare they are. Will you come in for a test shoot? Please?" Bonny-baby comments are nice but ultimately meaningless.
posted by kmennie at 12:54 PM on September 5, 2008 [6 favorites]

I wish I could remember where - but I read a fairly good over view of what the baby modelling business is like somewhere (I thought wonderful things about my own one year old).

The gist is that it is a massive pain in the ass for no money and the only ones getting anything out of it are the parents who can say their kid models.

There is a ton of schlepping and because of the unpredictable natures of a baby's temperament from moment to moment - every call has multiple babies booked. So you could get a call for a job - interrupt your schedule to make it work - and then not get the job.

Unless you are bored and looking for a hobby it just doesn't seem like there is any payoff. If you know photographers - they may be looking for a baby to do some stock work - but editorial and advertising shoots sound like a phenomenal waste of energy.
posted by Wolfie at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2008

I hear a good deal of complaining on this topic from a friend whose cousin is following this path with her child. Apparently the couple spends way more money, time and effort on the whole ordeal than they get out of it (at least success, fame and money-wise). Like limon says, I don't know what your end goal is, so it might be worth it to you. But I doubt you're going to end up parenting the next Mary Kate and Ashley. My friend's cousin started with pageants, if that helps.
posted by ml98tu at 1:09 PM on September 5, 2008

"A Minor Consideration"
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:18 PM on September 5, 2008

I actually worked at a model/talent agency yoinks ago.

Basically, what Wolfie said. And your kid has to be not only photogenic, but a) of a "look" that advertisers and photographers want; and b) with a sweet and placid temperament, able to put up with bright lights, noise, strangers, and long hours of work without having a meltdown.

Plus, as Wolfie pointed out, it's a heckuva lot of work for the parents, driving the kids from pillar to post. Usually one parent of a child model is a stay-home mom or dad, or have a very flexible schedule.

At the agency where I worked, we accepted maybe one out of ten or twenty of the (many, many) cute kids whose photos parents submitted, and out of those, maybe one in ten made worthwhile money through modeling.

It might be worth it to get your child into modeling, in which case, be sure to contact a reputable agency (not one that demands a lot of fees for "schooling" and the like). Just don't get the idea that this is an easy-peasy way to pad Junior's college fund.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:18 PM on September 5, 2008

That didn't work. Here's the URL:
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:18 PM on September 5, 2008

I used to work with a man whose sister was taking her very attractive toddler to various photo shoots and cattle calls. The kid was adorable, no argument (and I'm saying this from the viewpoint of a childless person who views most kids as monstrous drool-weasels). But just from his anecdotes, it appears that the parents of said toddler had to spend a lot of money on head shots and such, and then had to compete with many dozens of other adorable toddlers for print ads and local commercials. Many times it came down to which kid could sit still for several hours under hot lights and follow direction.

Not to outright discourage you, but it's a very competitive market, and even for those kids that get regular work, it doesn't always add up to profit when you factor in the parent that has to take unpaid time off from work and pay for gas to schlep the child around from audition to audition to photo shoot to commercial shoot, etc.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:24 PM on September 5, 2008

Best answer: Here's an LA Times article that goes behind the scenes a bit into the industry.
posted by platinum at 1:31 PM on September 5, 2008

I knew a kid when I was about 10 who'd had a part in a popular commercial. In the commercial, he wrestled with some other kid when they were both in shadow - you couldn't tell it was him. That didn't stop him from growing an ego about it - "well, to be an actor, you need to have the looks, you need to have the talent, it isn't easy." If your kid is an actor/model at an old enough age to know what he's doing, it will go to his head. If he's too young to know what he's doing, then why are you putting him through it except for your own vanity?
posted by Dasein at 1:47 PM on September 5, 2008

Best answer: Speaking as a screenwriter, please don't.

What kids have to go through in these industries can be so painful if they're not successful- would you ever spend every day telling your child, "Well, you're pretty, but not as pretty as Lisa?" Because that's what auditions and to-calls and cattle calls are- you're signing up your kids to be evaluated by people who will, in fact, tell them to their face that they're not pretty enough, thin enough, type enough, that their teeth are funny.

You're signing them up for a full time job on top of the fulltime job of their education- would you really be comfortable with the idea of your child being the family breadwinner? Would you really be comfortable putting the weight of your mortgage on your child's shoulders?

And let's say they are successful. Even moderately successful, not Hannah Montana, but say, Jeanette Gurtler (iCarly, Nickelodeon.) What's the first thing you teach your kids- don't talk to strangers, right? Well, in this, not only do they have to talk to strangers, they have to *charm* them. Anyone, everyone, they have to be on all the time, to sparkle the most, to be the most charismatic- all the time.

And hey, most child actors are adorable, so that's not hard, but when you sign your kid up to act or model, you're offering them to the world- they have to learn to sell themselves, and that's not really something they can just stop at the end of the day. But it's something that most likely will come to a crashing halt at puberty or adulthood- so that's something to consider. That your child will have a young life full of the entire world showering love on them, and an adult life of having that adoration snuffed. You know how bad it feels to break up with your first love. Magnify it by a million.

But really-- this is the question I pose to most parents who want to know if they should get their kid involved in the entertainment industry. And this is the question that I keep in mind every time I sit down to write a movie- because I don't write parts for children anymore, and this is why:

I want you to sit down and think about this: if your child is even moderately successful in modeling or acting, his first kiss will be scripted, and witnessed by 60 some odd crew members, with somebody he doesn't really know or necessarily like, and he'll have to do it over and over again until he gets it right.

Are you willing to sell your child's first kiss?

If you're not, man, sign them up for community theatre. Or soccer. Or anything. Just please don't sign them up for modeling or acting. Hollywood and New York will still be there when they're old enough to decide for themselves, how much of themselves they're willing to sell.
posted by headspace at 1:48 PM on September 5, 2008 [27 favorites]

It seems like the determining factor (from my perspective as a photographer) would be how well the kid holds up in front of a bunch of strobes popping while a bunch of strangers hover and fuss over styling for hours and hours. All babies are cute, but not all babies will behave on a photo set.
posted by bradbane at 1:49 PM on September 5, 2008

I was a really cute baby (I won awards!!) and grew up to be a pretty mediocre adult. So, so glad my parents never tried to take advantage of this for anything other than bragging rights. Can you imagine peaking at 1-5 years of age? Neither can I.
posted by shownomercy at 1:52 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I want to second headspace. I work in Hollywood, and I see the kid actors and their parents. The stage moms/dads mostly are CRAZY, because they have all their hopes/dreams/ambitions tied up in their kid, and it really messes with a kid's head to be around the business, and the reality of how they are treated.

It's super hard to be a working actor or model as an adult. My wife is a successful professional actress, and, in many ways, it's the worst job in the world. Constant rejection. I mean CONSTANT. And she works! But she's an adult that chose this path for herself. It's asking a lot out of a kid to get them involved in the business.

Are you ready to schlep them around to audition after audition after audition to get one job?

This is a path that people should chose for themselves. Get them involved in plays or whatever, and see if it's something they're interested in. Don't impose it on them.
posted by MythMaker at 2:05 PM on September 5, 2008

Anecdotal, but pertinent. My mom recently told me that she and my dad had thought of making me a baby model. They decided against it. I don't quite remember how it came up, but I was relieved to know that there were no random creepy professional pictures of me laying around. Just before you do, make sure you think about what the kid will think when he's 18.
posted by MaHaGoN at 2:19 PM on September 5, 2008

Best answer: My daughter did catalog modeling for a few high-profile retailers at about age 3. Her success with those led to a few more print and fit modeling gigs thoughout the years and eventually tapered off by the time she was 10. I was not the adult primarily involved in dealing with this stuff, although I did participate from time to time, and here are my impressions:

The work she did directly for a local photographer (who then goes out and fetches models from his book) was the best in most respects. She had more fun, the results were good, and the pay was excellent.

The later work she did through a talent agency was the most unsatisfactory. She was frequently called for something known as a "go-see" in the industry and a "complete waste of time" outside it. These events were more or less modeling gigs except they tended to be at inconvenient hours (i.e. during school) and completely unpaid. Often she would encounter adults who had no clue how to photograph and work with children, or arrive only to be told she was entirely outside the intended age range. Few of these gigs resulted in something you can point to in a portfolio or show grandparents -- often the pictures were never published where the public could see them.

Meanwhile, the agency (a large very reputable one in San Francisco) did all the billing and was frequently very very very glacially incredibly slow in paying for billable hours. There were multiple cases of 3-4 month gaps between work and compensation. Jobs tended to be scheduled badly, often late in the day at the end of a school week, or during state standardized testing. On several occasions, location and appointment weren't even set until the night before.

There was also a general assumption at the agency that you wanted all the work you could possibly get, and then some. I met kids on some photo shoots who had been working 8 out of the previous 10 days.

In the end she socked away a couple thousand dollars of savings -- good! -- but it was a tremendous hassle. Working directly with a photographer was infinitely more satisfying than dealing with "the industry." Industry people seem to assume you're going to drop everything to do an hour of billable work, and that you're at their beck and call. Even if you give them that level of availability, they waste your time a hell of a lot.
posted by majick at 2:25 PM on September 5, 2008

Babble published a decent article on the trials of baby modeling.
posted by zoomorphic at 2:51 PM on September 5, 2008

Best answer: As Limon said, we don't know why you'd consider pursuing this for your child. I can tell you that for my two-year-old kid, there are about a thousand things I'd rather he spend his time doing ... like playing on the swings at the park, climbing through a tunnel made from couch cushions, exploring our back yard, digging holes in the sandbox, knocking down stacks of blocks .. I could go on and on but the point is, to me, those activities will pay off for him in a much bigger way than going through what it would take to have his picture in some forgettable Target circular.

He's a gorgeous child too .. people comment all the time on his looks. They want to play with his blond curls. As kmennie said, there are a lot of really cute kids out there. Personally I'm happy to let all the others compete for fame and fortune. While they're doing that, Jack will be playing with his Legos and his Curious George.

Good luck if you decide to pursue it.
posted by Kangaroo at 2:58 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

But I doubt you're going to end up parenting the next Mary Kate and Ashley

Do you really want to parent the next Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen? I see their, erm, stardom, for want of a better word as an example of what's wrong with the industry. The twins were "hired" when they were 6 months old and started filming at 9 months.

Sure, at this point they're considered (by Forbes) the 11th most wealthy women in entertainment, after Mattel dolls, direct to video movies, clothing, books, fragrances etc but Mary-Kate has been in rehab for anorexia and/or drug problems, and in 2007 weighed just 80 lbs.

Apparently Ashley cried every time they took her on the set for the first year of filming, so much so that Mary-Kate alone is featured during the first season of Full House, when, remember, the twins were nine months old. Today she's suing a tabloid for implying she does drugs.

Weight and drug issues are tragic and happen all over the country, but I can't be alone in thinking that the twins might be healthier and happier (if poorer) if they had had a bit of a chance to grow up before being thrust into the spotlight.
posted by arnicae at 3:06 PM on September 5, 2008

The very young children (ie: under the age of four) who "make it" are usually twins. This is because the child labour laws pretty much everywhere in North America restrict the hours a child can work (I'm not sure of the specifics but the hours get longer the older the child). With twins, the producer/director/photographer/etc suddenly have twice as much time to get what they're after.
posted by philip-random at 4:15 PM on September 5, 2008

Why not check out simple theater programs? Like community plays, when he's old enough. They can be a lot of fun. If this is less about fame and more about exploring opportunities that open up to him because of his good looks, that might be a more positive path.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:50 PM on September 5, 2008

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