SOUTH SALT LAKE Offices for one of the world's foremost modeling agencies are opening here today, providing a ticket out for young Utah women with their sights set on modeling haute couture in Paris, Milan and New York.
Elite Model Management, which has discovered supermodels like Alessandra Ambrosio and Coco Rocha, will have scouting offices in South Salt Lake in a partnership with Pulse Management.
Neal Hamil, Elite's North America director, said the new "look" is all-American.
"We're seeing the return to the American model," said Hamil, who turned Naomi Campbell into a supermodel while president at Ford Models. "We had the Brazilians. We had the quirky English. We've had the Russians. The (Utah) girls typify American beauty: They're tall, blond, light eyes. And they're nice."
Hamil has had luck in Utah in the past by working through Pulse Management. Pulse discovered East High student Ali Stephens, who launched her career modeling for Milan fashion houses Prada, Gucci and Versace.
But not all faces in Utah resemble northern Europeans. In fact, Pulse discovered Korean-American Hye Rim Park, an Olympus High graduate whose face has graced eight Vogue covers.
Here's how the relationship between Pulse and Elite works: Pulse, based in Oregon with offices throughout the West, will find models for Elite, Hamil said, and Elite will work with the models to develop their talent and find them work with designers and fashion magazines. If Elite isn't interested in a model, Pulse will find other agencies. Pulse founder Stacey Eastman also has an extreme-sports management company and represents people looking to get into film.
Utahns, while nice, are also conservative, and that can create problems in the fashion industry. Eastman says models need to realize that refusing edgy work will mean less money. But he points out that if a model is good, she'll become successful on her own merits. Ali Stephens, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is an example.
"Sure, she won't be doing those jobs that are a little more risque," he said. "But at the end of the day, there's far more important things in life than money."
Model Danna Lee Ballard, 20, originally from Pleasant Grove, is represented by both Elite and Pulse. Elite lines up her shoots and casting calls. But Pulse also negotiates for her. If she needs a break during a shoot, she says she calls Eastman, and he talks with the photographer, which avoids hostility between the model and client.
Ballard was discovered at age 12 when she was looking for work as a television extra.
"I was a freak of nature," Ballard said. "I was 6 feet tall in the sixth grade."
But her career has taken her to 22 countries in Asia and Europe. For a year, she lived in Paris. Her magazine covers include Glamour in Italy, Elle in France and Vogue in Russia.
But while many young women in Utah will seek modeling work through Elite and Pulse, Ballard warns parents to be wary of scouts and agencies that lack solid reputations. And Eastman says plenty of beautiful men and women never get work because modeling requires a specific look that's described as a science having the right bone structure, a symmetric face and a genuine personality that comes across the camera. Women need to be 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall.
Having parents that are cool also helps.
"We deal with more parents that want this for themselves than their daughters actually do," Eastman said. "So they're vicariously living through their child the stage mom, the stage dad."
The modeling offices are located in the first building of the $500 million Market Station real estate project, centered around 2150 S. Main, developed by Utopia Station Development Corp. They are scheduled to move across the street into the location of the current Manny's Bar & Grill, 2105 S. Main, in about two years when a building there is complete.
Steve Aste of Utopia said the 18-acre, mixed-use Market Station project will be finished in six years and will feature 900 condos and some office and retail space.The modeling agency decided to open its offices in Market Station when Eastman of Pulse met with Aste, whose 15-year-old daughter, Anja, is represented by Pulse and Elite, Aste said.