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This Month exclusively on the MODELS.com Member Forums
we are proud to introduce Kwok Kan Chan, director of development for Top 10 New York Agency: Marilyn. Kwok will be answering member questions about modeling on the forums. Kwok's primary job at Marilyn is to discover and develop new talent for the agency.

The chat session will be starting Monday June 3rd and will run through June 17th. You can start posting your questions now!

To introduce Kwok to our members MODELS.com's Betty Sze and Wayne Sterling went to interview the man in person. Read our exclusive interview below:

MDC: Kwok, your name is unusual. What's your background?
Kwok: I'm originally from Hong Kong. I came to the US when I was 12 with my Mom and Dad and two sisters. I have four sisters overall. Came to NY, lived in Queens, went to school for music at Performing Arts High School. Went to Conservatory College. Got a Bachelor's in Performance for the flute.


MDC: From master flutist to model agent. How did that happen?
Kwok: When I was in college, I realized that being in music was one of those things I did since I was a kid, coming to America and not speaking any English. And that was how I adapted. It was something I could do on my own, English was really hard for me, so I really focused on music. But when I went to college, there was a totally different level of competitiveness and I couldn't compete anymore because I had performance anxiety. When I finished my degree I realized that it wasn't for me. After college I became a manager in a clothing store, then Urban Outfitters recruited me to become a merchandiser in Boston. When I was in Boston I realized there was something more for me than just running the store. I realized that my background was in music, in performance ...and maybe that's what I needed to get back to. I thought that maybe I should now be a TV agent or a screen agent. I got the Ross Report. I sent my resume out to all the TV agents. Nobody called me back except J. Michael Bloom and SCMM.

MDC: Which wasn't too shabby.
Kwok: Except I didn't know who they were at the time. Now I do. So I met with them and their feedback was "You totally have the personality. but we see you more in fashion". This is why I say everything happens for a reason, I was sitting at a counter and there was an article in Cosmopolitan listing the Top 10 Modeling Agencies. I picked up the phone, called every agency as to who my contact should be, sent in my resume. 4 agencies within 48 hours called me back.

MDC: Wow.
Kwok: Well on the resume I said I'd work for free (lol). They called me in. The first place I went into was Metropolitan. I walked in not knowing anything about the modeling industry and there's Claudia Schiffer, like, plastered everywhere. I looked at the board with only four people working in there. I met with the office manager and she was like "You don't want to get paid?" So I was like "I don't need to get paid right away because I don't know what I'm going to be doing. I just want to observe the business. Whatever you need me to do I'll do". She was like, "When can you start? " Literally! So my whole crazy career started at Metropolitan as an intern. I was there for three years. In the third year there was a gap open and Thomas the owner of the agency decided to have a New Faces Division. So they did, I started it and a year later I got a phone call from Marilyn Gauthier. The girl on the phone was like "Marilyn Gauthier for you" so I was like "Yeah right. Give me the number and I'll call back" because I totally thought it was a hoax. Plus Marilyn at the time was Paris based, so her being on the phone in NY made no sense. There had been rumors though that she was opening an office in New York. But it WAS her and so we met. Then I came to Marilyn and now it's literally five years later. I feel very fortunate that Marilyn believed in me and gave me the opportunity.

MDC: Well you're known to have one of the best eyes in the business. What is it about a new girl that stops you dead in your tracks and think, "I must, must scout this girl?"
Kwok: It's energy. It's the confidence. If you're sitting in a park and there are ten million people walking back and forth, why does that one person grab you? It's that energy, that inner strength. There are millions of beautiful girls out there but you look for the one with that aura. Of course the physicality is the starting point but when you're scouting, flying all over America, going to those conventions, that modeling school, how do you distinguish the stars? Their aura!

MDC: How do you structure the scouting for Marilyn?
Kwok: The way we scout here in Marilyn NY is I do conventions and search on MODELS.com. I go to into the smaller market. I don't do carpet scouting like most agencies do...

MDC: What's carpet scouting?
Kwok: Carpet scouting is like...let's say I will go into a state and literally drive from little city to little city. But because we're a small agency and so selective, we only take about five to ten girls a year. Before we take them on, everybody on the booking table has to agree. My experience is if I hear a buzz on a specific girl, I will fly in to see that one person. For instance, two weeks ago I flew into Kansas City. I was supposed to meet this one girl but then I found another great girl.

MDC: It's like being a sport agent and tracking this great high school basketball player.
Kwok: Exactly. You hear about great talent and you investigate. But a lot of agents don't do it that way. But because we're so small that's how we like to do it. There are times too when I'll say, "When is the last time I went to the West Coast?" So then I'll go to the main city because usually the agencies will bring all the main talent from the surrounding region into the main city. Like Chicago. I'll see all the girls on the wall then if I see someone I like, I'll follow up. The great thing for me about MODELS.com is because there are some surprisingly interesting girls on it. The site is beautiful, it's well written. The delivery of information is really great. You have very current information and that's so important for aspiring models to know..the agents, the agencies..what to expect...in the business..that's so helpful.

MDC: What would you say are the worst things an aspiring model can do that will turn you off as a scout?
Kwok: One thing that bothers me is a girl who keeps calling asking "Did you see my pictures?" Again and again. That's like interviewing for a job and calling the office everyday to say did I get the job? The other thing is attitude. Lack of sincerity. Fakeness. This is my job to deal with people constantly...so I can tell when someone is being fake. I'd rather see a shy girl who doesn't say much but is sincere rather than someone being phony. Let's say it's a girl at a convention. At first she's smiling at everyone, then she gets 30 call backs and the personality changes. That's a bad sign. The people who I am really interested in are the ones with that open personality. A lot of times if you notice, it's the girls who are convinced that they should be models are the ones who never become models. Arrogance and knowing-it-all will turn off agents, photographers. The people who are more calm about the whole idea of modeling usually have a better feel.

MDC: In other words it's important to come to the table with an open mind.
Kwok: Exactly. It's the scout's job to pre- screen. You can know that a fashion girl is around 5ft 9, you know great skin helps and if you have that look then that can be your goal. Or you can be more of a girl-next-door commercial type and that's your goal. But then submit your picture to something like MODELS.com. Pose naturally in simple pictures with no make-up and let things take their course.

MDC: Kwok, your job as a scout is to think like a designer, think like a photographer. They're like painters looking for blank canvases. They don't want a complete package brought to them.
Kwok: That's so true because a lot of the time I like to take a Polaroid and afterwards I'll be able to tell. Even though a girl might be, to my eyes, visually beautiful, if I take a Polaroid and it's not there then.....And sometimes there's a girl who I'm not sure about but then the Polaroids capture something and that changes everything. Because you think.. if a Polaroid can come out like this then you know with hair, make-up and a professional photographer it can be that much greater.

MDC: Talk about some of the girls the team here at Marilyn has discovered.
Kwok: I'm glad you said team, because that's what makes Marilyn what it is. We all work together. We all decide together to take on a girl. We all work on a girl's career as a team. There's no self-promotion here. So it's most of the girls on the wall actually. Caroline Ribeiro (currently No. 4 on the Top 50 Models) came from another agency. She was looking for a new agency when she came to see us. It was like 5:30 at night on a Thursday. We took some Polaroids and we were like, Oh My God! We told her to come back the next day and took some more Polaroids and sent those Polaroids out on her and started testing her. And the tests kept coming back more and more amazing each time. She was such an amazing model. So we did a whole development process with Caroline. We have re-launched various other girls on the wall.

MDC: Michele Alves comes to mind.
Kwok: Michele Alves is a great example. This is really important too. There's a lot of models out there. I always ask a model this question when she joins the agency. "Are you ready?" And they'll say, What do you mean? And that means "Are you ready to be really serious?" Getting on the plane at the drop of a hat. When you're one of those "Of The Moment" girls you literally never know where you'll be the next day. Are you ready for that? There's a whole selling process involved in your castings. You have to make an impression.

MDC: Talk a bit about the parents' role in the scouting process?
Kwok: Well I have a philosophy in life that I will treat people the way I want to be treated. If I had a 14 year old daughter interested in becoming a model, I would have a lot of questions. As an agent I have to able to answer those questions. If I'm going to send my sixteen-year-old daughter out to Manhattan for the first time, I want to make sure she'll be taken care of. A young girl coming from a foreign country, not speaking a word of English. We want the parents to know she's safe. I think about what they need. We try to put ourselves in their shoes. That's what makes a model survive. You have to be built strong. What inspires me is finding somebody new. That's my favorite part of my job!



Chat with Marilyn's director of development: Kwok