• Jill Johnson
  • Exclusive Interview With Page Parkes From "Scouted"
Exclusive Interview With Page Parkes From "Scouted"
Contributor
Written by
Jill Johnson
January 2012
Contributor
Written by
Jill Johnson
January 2012

I caught up with renowned agent and scout Pages Parkes last week to talk about modeling and Scouted on E! The final episode of the first season airs tonight, and we’ll see if Page lands another Texan beauty at One Management in New York. She’s already placed Gillian (Episode 1), Kelsie (Episode 2), and Marissa (Episode 7). Will she be 4 for 4? Tune in tonight at 10 PM EST to find out.

Page Parkes

In the meantime, read on to learn what Page, one of most respected, sincere, and experienced people in the business, looks for when scouting, where she looks, what she says to skeptical parents, why there are more opportunities than ever for models today, and who Angelina Jolie posed for back in the day…

How did you get started in the modeling industry?

I attended fashion design school at the American College in Europe. I won the Young Couture Award, and I had the opportunity to work at the House of Pucci. During the process of working with the models there, I realized they were the ones that made him make money. That’s when I realized how important a model was. Back then, over 30 years ago, there wasn’t much talk about the modeling industry. That was the first time I ever thought about models.

When did you open your agency? I co-opened the agency in Houston in 1981. I got home from Europe and Texas was the talk of the world economically. I was from Texas, so I tried to come back and make it happen. We opened in Dallas in ’84 and Miami in ’89 (the Miami branch merged with Ford Miami in 2003).

Who were the big stars in the industry at the time?

Kelly Emberg, Claudia Schiffer, Linda, Cindy—the supermodels. It was the top of the game but of course we didn’t know that then. Not only were those girls popular, but the walls in the rest of the world hadn’t come down yet. The American girl was the beauty.

How did you develop your eye for talent?

In the beginning I worked with a lot of over-the-edge talented people like Paul Fisher and Michael Flutie. I learned from people who were very editorial. The agencies at the top liked the talent I found, but not the commercial agents. Early in my career, I got a call from Ava Delorme, who owned an agency called Delphine. She was the first Paris agent to land in Houston. She was blown away by the models I found. She left from the go-see and went back to France and called to ask if they could invest in the company. I was 21 years old. I wasn’t sure if the offer came because I looked like I needed money! (She laughs.) Apparently I made quite an impression. I think living in Europe for four years, I developed an eye for street beauty. In Europe, the architecture inspires you, the way people dress—it’s not fancy but it’s fabulous. It was the time of Blondie—that helped.

Who are some of your biggest discoveries?

She wasn’t my discovery, but I booked Angelina Jolie for her first J.C. Penney’s job. She was short but very exotic. Early on I found Woody Harrelson. I found Channing Tatum, Shannon Elizabeth. Brooke Burns was our first modeling camper. Alexis Bledel came in to audition, and we put her in the self-improvement classes because she was so short and so shy!

Where do you find most of your new faces?

As a mom of three, I don’t go out specifically to scout, but it’s something I do every single day of my life. I find new faces at burger joints or on the way to my kids’ games. I’m constantly having to interrupt my family and friends, and they say, “Really Page, do we have to go chase the skinny chick?” The other day I was at the mall with my kids, and when we left, my son said, “Mom, there were only two tall girls in the whole mall today!” But now there are people standing around at the places where I found people last time. It’s like they are scouting me!

Most surprising place you’ve scouted a model?

A homeless girl, a girl on the side of the road. Kelsie, on Scouted, her mother was an alcoholic on unemployment; she was pretty much a street person.

Are some people resistant to the idea of modeling, or in this day of modeling reality TV, does everyone want to be a model?

There’s much more content available to the general public about the industry. So they talk about it more than we did. But people are still skeptical, especially about the pictures and the cost. They hear that if they get an agency, they don’t have to pay anything. A girl may be plucked out of obscurity, but she still needs pictures, a haircut, to be styled. Being discovered is just the beginning of a long journey. That’s the biggest message of the show.

Has what you look for in a model changed over the decades?

Since I started out always looking for a more editorial type of girl, it hasn’t changed. I’ve become more knowledgeable about a good commercial working girl and you have to scout both. Lorri Bagley, Brooke Burns—I would still say they’re gorgeous if I found them today. Then there’s the other extreme: the Prada girl looks like ET. That girl would never come into my office. That type of girl has to be scouted.

What do you look for first, height? 

Yes, we’re still looking for 5’9″ and up, maybe 5’8½” for a catalog girl or 5’8″ for a striking ethnic girl. I can scout from behind too. Usually you stop at the bootie and you’re done, you can go back to grocery shopping.  As far as age, we start girls at 12 or 13.

Do you still send girls overseas to build their books?

We do, but we never send them there first anymore. They go to New York and build a foundation and then we send them off. We keep a parent with them until they’re 19 these days. I haven’t sent girls alone in 20 years. Before that, we didn’t know we couldn’t trust the European agents! Now Eastern European girls are going there too; it cuts the agents’ costs in half, not bringing the whiny, spoiled American girls over. The Russian girls are so gorgeous and they never complain; they were starving at home.

Is there a maximum age for a new face?

Agents pull it off as an age issue, but it’s about return on investment. With younger girls, agents have more time to make money. Kelsie, one of the girls I found on Scouted, is 20.

Let’s talk about Scouted. Do you have a discovery in the final episode tonight?

Yes, I am on the last episode, but I can’t say what happens. We cover an important issue of schooling and modeling. I would never take a girl out of a full ride for college. My goal is to empower them. College or modeling is not an either or, especially now, for an athlete, with branding opportunities.

You’re 3 for 3, with Gillian, Kelsie, and Marissa all signed by One. That’s a pretty great track record!

Gillian

 

 

I not only scouted but also made sure to do a reality check with the girls and their parents. I wouldn’t send a girl to New York who is going to resist having her hair cut. I try to play out some of that at home. Gillian has already done Abercrombie and she’s just been confirmed by Teen Vogue!

Kelsie is not a conventional beauty, but she’s super skinny. Is that trend continuing?

Kelsie

Yes, as of now the runway sample size 2/4 is the designers’ desire. History, even the 80s, has embraced larger body shapes. Weight is not an issue in all areas of the industry, though. Kelsie is an example of how beauty is not defined by anything. It crosses economic, ethnic, geographic lines—there’s no common denominator. These girls come from different upbringings, different family lives. There’s nothing else like that. I don’t think I was supposed to be a model agent. It was a way to empower each of these girls one at a time. I always paid my models, always treated them with respect, always fought for them. So many have done so well. They are presidents of hospitals and running corporations. They may not have become supermodels but they tell me, ‘You changed my life!’ It’s a journey. Getting a girl to like herself, that’s real work.

Marissa

What do you think is the best aspect of a modeling career? All the people that you meet to build the foundation for your next career, whatever that may be. Parents say, “Well, what’s she going to do after modeling?”

I reply, “After she’s had her worldwide education? Anything she wants.”

People in the industry often badmouth modeling schools, but you have one. What’s your advice to someone considering taking modeling classes? My advice is to first consider the location. If you are in Paris, Texas, find the nearest modeling school—it will get you to a higher level and it’s a good way to get the tools you will need. If you are in any of the major markets, you can go directly to the agencies. But acting is a craft; you always have to study that. Girls fly in from all over for my model camp, but we have requirements: you must be at least 5’8″ with hips no bigger than 35″. With a lot of modeling schools, all it takes is money to get in.

Is it harder to make it now than it used to be? Are there more models?

It’s all still the same. What’s affecting the girls is that clients are going bankrupt. The middle section of models is still where the majority of the money is. But now models are zooming right into movies, and there are more branding opportunities. The biggest change is that a lot of the people who didn’t treat the business professionally are gone. The crazy folks left with the 90s because it got tough in the next decade.

Was it fun doing the show? It was truly absolutely a blast. I was treated with so much respect, and I was impressed by the integrity of the show. I thank Michael for recognizing my talent and giving me this opportunity.

Will there be a second season? We don’t know yet.

Fingers crossed that there will be. Thanks Page, and best of luck to your gorgeous finds! Stay tuned for an interview about Page’s other life: supermom of three adopted siblings.

See more blog entries and articles by Jill: modelingmentor.com/blog


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