The Secret Camp Attended by Up-and-Coming Models
Modeling agents regularly send editors information about the newest faces on their boards, so it’s not unusual for us to receive emails filled with pretty faces. But a recent note from one particular agent at New York Models specifically highlighted girls who had been at something called model camp, so (as visions of America’s Next Top Model–style chaos filled with my brain) I immediately asked her to tell me more.
“Model camp is an event that we put on for our development girls,” Taylor Warren explained to me. “We have two weekends a year we invite the models to our director of scouting’s home in Connecticut. They learn all about the industry via talks and various events.” But it certainly isn’t all work, no play—alongside runway classes and test shoots, the girls get to relax with a fun balance of yoga and s’mores. Visions of my own summer camp experience rose up at the thought, though I had a feeling they didn’t quite compare.
To get the full story, I spoke to the director of scouting herself, Erin Scimeca, who hosts the girls in her home every summer, along with Lily Brahms, an up-and-coming model who attended the camp last year and has since done work for the likes of Mansur Gavriel, Nylon and Cake.
Keep scrolling to see pictures from the camp and find out what they had to say…
WHO WHAT WEAR: Erin, when and why did you decide to launch model camp?
ERIN SCIMECA: When I first started in this business, I organized model searches and put events together. About 10 years ago, I moved out of the city to Connecticut and [kept thinking] how fun it would be to organize an event at my house to train the new girls like we had in the past. A few years ago , the underage law came into effect, coupled with the fact that we [now] had a full team working on development and new faces, and I felt it was the perfect time to launch our camp.
WWW: Lily, how would you describe the model camp experience?
LILY BRAHMS: Model camp was unlike anything I’d ever done before. I learned so much, but I also made lots of friends and got a feel for the business. We did three shoots, a runway lesson, and had an in-depth conversation with our agents [as well as] successful models represented by our agency. It taught me a lot about what to expect, and it made me really, really excited to be able to take part in this industry.
WWW: How many models (roughly) attend each year and how do you decide who gets to go?
ES: We try to keep it to around 12 girls, but we have had up to 16 attend at one time! The decision is based on a few things. One, the girls that attend the camp are models that are signed to New York Model Management—it’s not open to the public, as we don’t charge anyone to participate. Two, this is something that the girls do only once—so no repeat performances! Three, we gauge it by [who] really needs it the most, which is really almost any new face under the age of 18. We hope that each of our young girls will get a chance to participate, as we feel it is only a benefit to make them a more successful model!
WWW: For those not in the industry, what makes someone a “development” girl, and how do you determine that they’ve graduated beyond that?
ES: A development girl is a girl that is just starting out modeling and most likely not a full-time model yet. Maybe they are in school and still growing, or maybe they have just been scouted and [are just] learning about the industry as well as how to model. So they are “developing” their model potential and are the newest faces to the agency. Some of the girls, just like in life in general, develop quickly, while some take more time. They “graduate” from that stage of their career when their book has been built and when they start to work—usually they are also modeling full-time as well in order to move to the next stage of their career.
New York Models
WWW: Lily, what was your favorite part of the weekend?
LB: My favorite part of the weekend was becoming close with my agents. They made it clear that we could talk to them about anything and that we are always welcome. It made the idea of modeling a lot less intimidating because it made me feel like I have [another] support system and family. Now I go in to visit the agency whenever I’m in the area.
New York Models
WWW: Can you tell me about some of the talks that are hosted each year?
ES: We have some amazing people that come and speak to the campers. Typically, two of our top-level girls come and speak to the girls about their experiences, give some advice on what to do or not do, as well as their tips for success. We also have someone that speaks to them about health and nutrition and the importance of eating and exercising. The other seminar we give to the models is from myself and the new faces agents on the ABCs of modeling—castings, options, dos and don’ts—basically as much info as we can give them to understand this business. We encourage the girls to take notes and ask questions, and most of them do quite thoroughly!
New York Models
WWW: What are some of the dos and don’ts of modeling that your agents relay to the girls?
ES: Do show your personality, ask questions, listen to your agents (as you signed with them for a reason), be respectful to everyone you meet on set and at castings. Don’t ever talk about how much you make at a job, change your appearance without speaking to your agent, be late to a job or casting.
WWW: Lily, what was the best lesson you learned while at camp?
LB: The best lesson I learned was to not compare myself to others. I think that’s so important to keep in mind because I’m only 16, and I was 15 when I signed. As a teenager, having self-esteem can be hard, and [working] in a world where you are surrounded by girls who might be taller or skinnier than you can be detrimental to your confidence. My agents emphasized the fact that comparing yourself to others is the worst thing you can do and that you deserve every opportunity you get.
New York Models
WWW: What do the test shoots at model camp entail?
ES: We work with three amazing photographers to shoot each of the girls. Since my house is on the beach, we have beautiful locations to shoot [which] no other model will get out of a New York–based test. We were very excited to have Seventeen shoot this past model camp for its September issue! For some of these girls, it is their first time ever in front of the camera, so we have photographers that are good with working with the model and helping them with movement. They get to wear amazing clothes, get their hair and makeup done, and have a blast being treated like a princess! These photos will be what we use to start off their first portfolios.
New York Models
WWW: Most people associate models in a house to the dramatic antics of ANTM. How does this experience compare?
LB: I've gotten this question a lot, but model camp was nothing like ANTM. I was nervous going in that there would be drama, but no one was rude at all. Before going to the camp, I was having a really hard time with one of my friends, and it was actually a great escape from that. It was a chance to make new friends around my age who were all going through similar experiences. The agents did not pit us against each other, or favor any one girl. They made an equal effort to really get to know each of us. Everyone was so sweet and I've run into a lot of the girls at castings and jobs since then.
New York Models
WWW: Erin, how do you avoid that drama and ensure that it’s more rewarding than competitive?
ES: After four Model Camps, we have not had any drama, which seems surprising. One thing to remember is that these girls are coming from all over, with very different backgrounds, but after 20 years in this business, no matter where they are from, they all have one thing in common—they are usually a bit insecure and unsure of themselves. They are thin, they are most likely the tallest girl in their class, and [they have probably] been picked on by the other girls in their school [as a result of] these things. Now all the sudden they are with a whole group of girls that have felt those same insecurities and doubts, so they have instant friends that know what it’s like to be in their shoes. That’s one of the things I love most about doing the camp—the friendships these girls make that will last throughout their careers as a model. It’s so important to have that when you are far from home in a different city. We actually do throw a little competition in there as modeling is very competitive and, I believe, something important to teach any model or really any person in general—but we do it in a fun way!
New York Models
WWW: Lily, I take it you would recommend the camp to girls just starting out…?
LB: Model camp is something everyone should do if they can. It’s really fun, but it also teaches you so much about this crazy new world you are entering. I know some agencies will throw new girls to the wolves and have them learn on the job, but model camp is a controlled environment where you can learn and practice so many valuable skills that will help you in your career. It made me feel a lot more excited about modeling, and less worried about making some crazy mistake. Also—there’s a hot tub.
WWW: Lastly, if you could only give one tip to new models, what would it be?
LB: Be smart, respectful (to yourself and others) and have a good relationship with your agency. It’s really important to take care of yourself and to feel safe at every job. Confidence and self-respect are key: Rejection is a part of the job, and you shouldn't blame yourself. It’s also really important to be easy to work with and understand how lucky you are to have such amazing opportunities.