Baby Model
June 21, 2016 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Everyone thinks their kid is gorgeous. Our baby really is a cute baby. We've had strangers ask if our baby does baby modeling enough times to start to consider it. We'd like to look into the possibility of having our baby do some modeling, but we have no idea where to start.

We live near NYC and would be happy to travel around the area for auditions/test shoots etc etc. I do not plan on becoming a stage mom or making this a career for our kid (so suggestions such as "move to LA" would not help).

but just a lark to 1.) see if it's something our kid would be suitable for and 2.) if our kid likes it, to continue and 3.) push all proceeds into our kid's education fund.

Our kid is under 1 years old if that changes anything.

So how do I go about doing this in a legitimate fashion and not be taken by scammers? Does he need headshots? Do we try to get an agent? Or is it better to google auditions and go stand in lines and lines of babies? (I know nothing about this process other than what I've seen in television).

Hope me movers and shakers of MeFi!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think this is as common in NYC, but in Los Angeles it's a known scam for reps from a supposed child actors' agency to tell parents that their kid is cute/funny/poised/whatever and "recruit" them for the agency. After a couple of meetings, the agency says that the child has potential, but will need thousands of dollars of acting classes to start booking the really good gigs.

The whole thing is a scam designed to pressure people into buying acting classes so overpriced they make other scams designed to part actors from their money look like Yale Drama School.

If the person who said your kid should model offered you a business card and suggested you reach out to them about this opportunity, you should understand that you were marks and, while I'm sure your baby is very cute, she or he is probably just a normal baby.

Even if you are the ones seeking out agents, you should RUN at any mention of an outlay of money on your part.
posted by Sara C. at 12:11 PM on June 21, 2016 [9 favorites]

Perhaps your baby will be the one to strike it big, but I've known some people who did kid modeling here in NY for extra cash. They would dress the kid up, report to some out-of-the-way place, and then sit around for hours, end up not getting called, and waste the entire day. It didn't sound enticing. And my kids are objectively gorgeous. I still wouldn't do it.
posted by Liesl at 12:17 PM on June 21, 2016 [12 favorites]

I can't tell you how to get started, but I imagine your best bet is to look up casting directors and ask. Legitimate agencies probably have info on their websites about when and how they accept new casting. Any agency that asks for an advance fee or requires a class first is running a scam.

I will say this - how cute your baby is, is almost a non-factor in whether your child would be a good model. There are tons of cute babies out there. Even if yours is the absolute cutest cute baby ever (of course he/she is!), what agents and agencies are looking for is the rare cute baby that can sit patiently in the same position for 10-15 minutes at a time. Who can stay cheerful when there are bright lights in their eyes or they haven't had food in way longer than they're used to or if they're wearing itchy clothing. Who can look to a focus point and stay focused in that direction when asked (usually, but not always by their parent). Who is comfortable and cheerful being held by strangers for a length of time. Probably 85-90% of babies can't do all this. That's why most acting jobs for babies and even small children use twins and triplets - so they can swap one out when the other gets cranky.

This isn't meant as a judgment about whether or not your kid is cute enough to be a model. It's just that modelling - even for babies - is actually a job, and cuteness ranks pretty low on the skill set required to do it. If the shoot doesn't go well, no one will care how adorable they look in that onesie.
posted by Mchelly at 12:20 PM on June 21, 2016 [31 favorites]

My kid did some modeling as a baby. We don't have a big industry in the bay, but she did print ads for department stores and she did the Pottery Barn Kids catalog a few times.

It was a pain, only worth it for the entertainment value of having her catalog pics, really. We signed her up with a local modeling agency that specialized in kids (we sent them non-professional snapshots of her per their specs.) (This agency was eventually bought by one of the big ones, Elite I think.) They accepted her for representation, and then we had some headshots done by an independent photographer (these were cute but not as cute as I had hoped, and cost like $180.) We'd get called for auditions by the agency. The auditions were basically waiting in line in a temporary studio until it was her turn to be called and then they'd take a picture of her. We'd get a message the next day saying she'd been booked, and then I'd take her to the photo session. These were a mixed bag. We quit doing it after one particularly badly managed one, where they made her wait so long that she cried.

She made a couple hundred bucks per shoot, but for each shoot, I'd had to take her to the audition as well which was unpaid. So it was a lot of time for not a lot of money in the end. But I wasn't busy, so I didn't care.

The catalogs do make very fun souvenirs now, particularly one bizarre one where they cut and pasted her head onto another baby's body.

Edit - agree with someone above that it is less about cuteness (although my girl was so cute omg) and more about baby's ability to sit still and be smiley.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:23 PM on June 21, 2016 [9 favorites]

i worked for years as a children's photographer(studio, not modeling) and would take shots for parents to use for modeling stuff (think head shots, but less just head bc baby) . absolutely do not pay anyone any money - that's a scam every time. also, yeah, it seems to be a whole lot of driving and sitting around, cuteness rarely is the reason for booking, and it seems more like a lark and less like a 'fund education' type project.
posted by nadawi at 12:40 PM on June 21, 2016

Here's how my daughter (16 yrs old) did it:

There is a very reputable agency in town (a local kid did a Very Big Nickelodeon show as a regular with this agency). We went to the website and submitted an application and photos. The first time, she was turned down. We went back again with professional photos (taken for free by a friend) and she was accepted. She's had dozens of auditions in the past six months (and one job) and we could have done more except school is always the first priority. I mean, we could be auditioning nearly every day, and this is not a huge market.

As part of the deal with her agency, I get access to all the open calls in the NYC area and holy crap are there a TON of those.

And yes to the fact that the babies who will get the jobs are the ones who "perform" for the camera. They like being fussed over, they smile when toys are waggled in front of them, and they don't get crabby.

Sure sign of a scam: the "agency" wants significant amounts of money to sign you. A reasonable fee is an administrative fee (or something like that) that's well under $100.
posted by cooker girl at 12:45 PM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

My kid is older, but he has done some work as a "background actor" (e.g., an extra) and loves it. I've noticed that his agency seems to post on Facebook at least a couple of times a month looking for babies. In NYC there are several agencies like this, as well as sites like Backstage or Casting Networks where you can look for listings. Then there are agencies, of course, which you can turn to if you want to seek representation... I'd say check out their reviews on FB and the BBB to help decide. Good luck! It can be fun, although there's also a lot of boredom involved on the parent's end!
posted by lgandme0717 at 12:54 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, my close friend's ridiculously gorgeous sister married an incredibly attractive guy, and had two kids who look like they're constantly trying to sell me insurance or golf shirts. The entire family is ridiculously photogenic.

She tried to get them into modeling because they're stupid attractive, and all I heard is that it sucks. The better kids get shut down for the relatives of the people running the shoots, and the money isn't what you think it is.
posted by Sphinx at 1:17 PM on June 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

I have known several families whose kids/babies model. In all cases, it was knowing someone at a corporation and being discovered from there.

For example, a Parent works at the corporate office for [retailer]. Their Ads/Marketing department gets Parent's kid a gig modeling for the weekly ad. Someone from a bigger agency takes note of models in smaller-production ads and contacts [retailer] for the kid's info, then the kid is legitimately "discovered" from there.

And these kids that model are not all that attractive, etc. That isn't what modeling is about. It's about what a photographer can do with the kid and what post-production can to with the kid. My wife's cousin is a model and her friends are also all models. They are as normal-looking as can be. Except the fact they dress to the hilt because being "into fashion" sort of comes with the territory, there is absolutely nothing special about the way they look outside of their modelling jobs.
posted by TinWhistle at 1:50 PM on June 21, 2016

I did some modeling as a baby/toddler in the 80s in the NYC area. I obviously have no memory of it but my mom remembers it as sheer hell and entire days spent waiting around. My grandma mostly took me to the shoots while my parents worked. We made around $10,000. So it's definitely possible to make money doing this!
posted by pintapicasso at 2:23 PM on June 21, 2016

I was a creative for several very big ad agencies and used to select the babies and kids for my ads, mostly diaper and cereal commercials. We did indeed cast internally for some of the roles but used casting agencies generally.

Everything said above is true. Your baby looking cute is the least important of their attributes. I mean, maybe, maybe it will get the kid in the door but what will get them the role is their ability to be calm, relaxed around strangers and bright lights and give whatever performance is being asked for at the time. And because babies are so unpredictable, it wasn't uncommon to have 4 backup babies. It was pretty unusual for your first choice baby to pan out, actually. They'd be tired or cranky and time is money, so bring in backup baby number 2!

There is lots and lots of waiting around, lots of tired mothers and babies - and only one of them end up on air. The others may get a token amount of money. When my son was born (who is also pretty damn photogenic) ALL of my industry friends told me to put him in their ads. And given my network, he almost certainly would have ended up on tv. The thing is, I know too much and I couldn't think of anything worse than putting my child through that. For someone who doesn't have the 'in' that I have, where at least we would get the reward, it would be even worse.

The odds are really slim of a) your child being selected as the final few and b) your baby having the very mild, malleable personality type needed to put up with endless hours of faffing around and bs that occurs on a tv set. Yes, a few children do make very good money. Most however, get signed up by excited parents with dollar signs in their eyes and five years pass and you never receive even one call from your modelling agency. That's just how it goes. Give it a shot, but don't have any expectations at all.
posted by Jubey at 3:40 PM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm in Tokyo and my kids are half Caucasian/half Japanese. I think they're cute, but I'm biased, but the fact that they are "half" means they get a LOT of attention, and when they were babies we were told constantly that they should do child modeling. My wife looked into it but was not impressed. It didn't seem like a scam, per se, but for the parent--almost always the mothers--who takes the kid to auditions and gigs and whatnot, it's basically a full-time job. And the pay is a pittance, likely just enough to cover transportation and other day-to-day costs.
posted by zardoz at 5:00 PM on June 21, 2016

I was a child model/screen actor. Mom wasn't working so it was worth it for us but the amount of "hurry up and wait" is ridiculous. Plus you have to attend a lot of auditions for each job you get. The non-union stuff paid very little in our market (Detroit) and after a few union gigs you have to join the Screen Actor's Guild which has annual dues. The first year or so of work only covered the headshots, and then you need new ones bc kids grow fast. What else? The money for your time isn't that great - the real money is in residuals from your spots being aired, but those take time to come in and depend on how much airtime they decide to buy. There's a limit to how far you can go if you're not near a major market. There were people who would fly to Chicago to catch auditions. I wound up landing a spot in a Disney TV pilot but it would have involved moving the whole family to LA, schooling on set, having Mom chaperon full time. All for a frankly unimpressive amount of money. And spending your childhood around some terminally phony people, oh my God. On the other hand after I declined the role the guy they got went on to marry Megan Fox, so.
posted by BinGregory at 5:36 PM on June 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Everything everyone else has said about quiet well behaved babies being far more important than cute babies is true. But also u have friends that have had their babies' diapered butt glued to a seat and made to wear powder foundation. Maybe this is less of an issue with photoshop and digital cameras but really turned off my friends involved.
posted by k8t at 6:24 PM on June 21, 2016

You also have the Instagram/social media route. The couple kids that I know who have modeled all have parents who take beautiful photos (not professional) of their life and post all the time and grow their social media account. This exposure and growth (and I'm guessing practice in modeling) has led to small business/brands sending products and hiring a photographer to take pics of the kid wearing or using their products. The companies have varied in size from small etsy shops to Gap. Another family I know entered their toddler in some contests or calls for kid models that major brands have held and had success that way.
posted by Swisstine at 8:33 PM on June 21, 2016

My toddler is currently signed with a modeling agency in New York. It's not very lucrative, but she seems to enjoy it. You don't need professional headshots--just simple snapshots that are clear, in focus, and well-lit. Send those off to any number of reputable children's reps and, if they think they can work with your kid, they'll usually try to schedule a meeting and will go from there. I've read that some of them will try to sign your kid right away, but I don't know if I trust those people. They should want to know what he/she is like in person and whether the parents seem like reliable people.

You can find a list of the most trusted agencies and other information about recent go-sees on the Child and Teen Models section of the Backstage forum. (Backstage is a weekly publication for actors.) You can ask more specific questions there. The members are really helpful. Most of the big agencies and managers have online submissions now, via their websites.

The Bizzy Mama blog is also extremely helpful. Start with this post and work your way to the present. She takes you through finding representation, taking photos, what to bring to go-sees, setting up accounts for your child's earnings, etc.

Speaking of accounts, you're going to need to have those set up in order to get a work permit for your child.

And finally, I'd like to add that it would be ideal if there's someone (you or a trusted carer) who can take your kid to go-sees with no more than 24-hours notice. My husband and I both work and have had to turn down appointments a few times. If we do it too many times in a row, they stop contacting us for weeks, sometimes months. Some agents (I've heard) stop calling frequently busy clients altogether. Even when we book out (give the agents the dates and times that we know we'll be busy), important work meetings, events, deadlines, etc. come up and, suddenly, neither of us has the time. It would have been a lot less stressful for us if one of us had been a stay-at-home parent or had an extremely flexible schedule.
posted by zerbinetta at 10:21 PM on July 14, 2016

Oh! About the work permit, you'll also need to have a doctor sign a health form (included in the permit's paperwork). You don't necessarily need to have any of that taken care of until you've signed with an agent/manager, but it'd be helpful if you could tell any prospective talent rep that your child can start working right away.
posted by zerbinetta at 10:25 PM on July 14, 2016

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