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modeling & talent ● modeling By Eve Matheson ELENI RENTON Opportunity Knocks Thanks to the blossoming eCommerce industry, modeling agencies like Leni’s Model Management have been able to succeed despite the economy F or five action-packed days, the International Model and Talent Association Convention at the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan was the epi- center of the modeling and acting world for hun- dreds of young people from Beijing to Shanghai, Finland to South Africa, Puerto Rico and all over the Unit- ed States. Their enthusiasm was matched by the model and talent agents and managers from as far afield as Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Eastern Europe, the United King- dom, Japan and, of course, throughout the United States; a multicultural event for a multicultural world. I had just arrived in New York from London, and I had been impressed with news of a hot new agency, Leni’s Model Management, located in the center of the city. It wasn’t just the caliber of models that had caught my atten- tion, but the feedback from various sources on the integri- ty and philosophy of the owner, Eleni Renton. I had a chance to sit down and chat with Eleni at the end of the IMTA convention while she waited for a car to take her to the airport, on a flight back to London. It was so refreshing to talk to this charming, outspoken, young woman who had been a model for a while and then worked as a booker at several prestigious agencies in Lon- don, including Premier, which represented such supermod- els as Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer. I asked Eleni about her time as a model. She said: “I’m 5’7” and I realized I would never be tall enough or thin enough to have a mod- eling career. Also I’m too much of a control freak, and as a model it is difficult to be that.” Eleni has been a little surprised and very pleased with the quick success of her agency, which she opened only four years ago. She told me: “It has been interesting and we have been very lucky. From day one, we started billing and after the first year we broke even. In this last year, we have be- 30 PAGEANTRY come a profitable business, which I think is pretty good given the current economic climate.” From the start, her focus has been on the health and wel- fare of the models, making money for everyone involved and consistent hard work. She told me: “The recession affected everyone in the industry. When I opened my agency, we knew our focus had to be on the money markets of model- ing. eCommerce is completely changing the face of the in- dustry. Shopping online for clothes, fashion accessories and products has virtually taken over from the bricks and mor- tar businesses and provides a great deal of work for models. Our focus is strong in this area. We also work with the cat- alogues, the high street shops and some of our girls do Fash- ion Week. We are not an image agency. Some agencies are very showy. We are not about that. We’re about being healthy and happy and successful. It’s a family enterprise. “We want our models to make a really good income and to do this they have to realize they are in a business. We want them to understand that they have to make a certain amount of money to support themselves. You are not a model unless you are earning enough money to do this. They also have to understand that modeling is hard work, and in order to do a good job they must eat well, exercise and be very professional.” I asked Eleni about other changes brought about by eCommerce and how they affected models. She said: “eCommerce shoots every day; it is not seasonal. Models work really hard. They normally do about 30 changes a day, sometimes more, seldom less, be it for dresses, tops and jeans, tops and skirts and so on. They also do still shots and video. A certain number of shots have to be done every day, and if they are not done, everyone has to stay late. This means that how a model presents herself is a very important factor. Her appearance must be impeccable because the online shopper