Life Of A Model Booker
Life Of A Model Booker
Jonathan Phang (Model booker) gives expert video advice on: How much travel is involved in being a model booker?; What was the most glamorous part of your career?; Are many of your friends are fashion designers or models? and more...
How much travel is involved in being a model booker?
Model bookers never used to travel as much as they do now. In the old days, agents would only travel to very established markets (i.e. Paris, Milan, New York) because of their relationships with foreign agencies. Now, because of more scouting, and with Eastern Europe opening its doors, everybody had to start travelling everywhere to start finding new talent and meeting new ties with other model agencies.
What was the most glamorous part of your career?
When you do a job that you enjoy, you don't really think of it in glamorous terms; you think: "This is, what I'm supposed to be doing, this is why I get to pay my mortgage every month." I was very blasé about being a model booker by the end of it. Now, of course, I sit in an office in West London and I don't go anywhere and I sort of miss it, but now I realise that it was glamorous, particularly to people that weren't involved in it, because it was work and I was always tired and people demand so much from you in such an individual way. Travelling became a dread of mine. I think, just before ending my career as a model agent, I went to the Nelson Mandela Children's' Foundation Versace show in South Africa, and every Star girl was there. There was Shalom Harlow, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Amber Valetta, Bridget Hall, Susie Bick, Kate Moss - the whole lot of them. At the aftershow party it was the one time I wished I had kept a camera with me, because I don't have very many memoirs of my twenty years of representing girls at all and I regret it now. There was Christy Turlington, Naomi, Amber and Shalom dancing around handbags to some disco song, and I thought, "God, actually this is almost historic, isn't it?" All the Versace crew were there and it's like, "Wow, there are a lot of people that would really kill to be in this party, and I am." And I thought, "Get me home and I'll give it all up", but I suppose that was really probably my high point and low point at the same time.
Are many of your friends are fashion designers or models?
No, I have great relationships with a lot of my old models, because remember, I was quite young when I met some of them. We grew up together, so I was privy to a lot of what went on in their personal lives, probably more than their families were. I'm very proud that some of them are now old and fat with children, and we still maintain a friendship. I think my relationships with the models was very genuine. Relationships with clients often end. The modelling world is a very fickle industry, and if you think your clients are your friends, you probably won't go very far with that, ultimately. Clients were friendly to bookers because they want something from them.
What makes a great model stand out from the crowd?
A new face becomes a star model because she delivers something unexpected and she maintains that and she keeps inspiring people. Then, she has to constantly keep reinventing herself to keep her market and her public. What keeps us wanting to see a picture of Angelisa and Kate Moss? It's because of their lifestyle that we feel interested in and the images that they produce constantly surprise us. If a girl can maintain that, she can maintain her star status. It can only come from the girl and it's a combination of mystique and surprise.
If you could work with any fashion designer who would it be?
I'm very lucky that I've been to the shows by the designers that I've always really respected and I've wanted to go. Some of them disappointed some of them didn't. I love couture and I would like to have been around in that wonderful period in the 50s, with Dior and the heyday of Givenchy and Balenciaga. I love skill and I love elegance; I love to be detached from something and I like to feel that something is unattainable and I like the mystique of it. In that generation, probably, it really typified what was really attractive to me about fashion and being a model booker.
What is the worst thing about being a model booker?
Booking is a very thankless job. Don't expect models to say, "Gosh, thanks a lot for all the devotion you've given me." Don't expect a Christmas or birthday card. Do expect to be called up at 3 o'clock in the morning with a girl making your life difficult, saying, "I have a headache, I can't be bothered." But also remember that you're the one with the skills to get her out of it. Your career may last longer than a model's, and don't expect too much from her.
What is the best thing about being a model booker?
Because you are dealing with individuals when working as a model booker, you're allowed to be individual yourself. There is no right or wrong way to represent anybody or handle anybody's career. There were some times I'd look back and think, "Gosh, I wish I could just switch work off at six o'clock, like a lot of other people, namely there's a right and a wrong way." But really the best thing about it is that it exposed me to so many interesting people and talented people. You're in the middle of this creative field where you can then go off and do lots of other things because there are very few jobs that expose you to so many different people.
How damaging is a bad shoot to a models career?
When a model gets to a certain level and she's a star, you have to really, really put a lot of thought into what your moves are. Sometimes, you have to turn down millions of pounds for the good of keeping the career alive. When somebody has been doing Vogue and they have a huge fan base, if you let that fan base down, they'll move very quickly on. It's not always a good idea to associate somebody to a naff brand, just to help that brand out but killing a career whilst doing so, and that's happened a lot over the years. People underestimate how bad one campaign can affect someone's modelling career. It can set them back for a long, long time.