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Models are people and at the same time they are commodities. They are the seductive objects whose looks, bodies and charisma push the glossy product that populates the fashion industry. Sometimes in this tough business, the fact of the model's humanity gets lost in the shuffle. Models are hired, fired and retired in the eternal cycle that searches mercilessly for the next and the newest. Feelings, emotions, care, concern...well that is not necessarily the priority. Which is where Clear Model Management comes in.
By shrewdly focusing on the emotional aspect of her business, Clear's owner Ingrid (everybody know her by her first name) has built an amazing company where integrity, commitment and honesty are not just convenient buzzwords but are the everyday terms under which she does business. And the policy is paying off beautifully for all her models from legends like Ryan Locke (he of Gucci, Nautica & DKNY fame) to current Gucci icon JR.'s Wayne Sterling caught up with Ingrid one hectic Friday afternoon at Clear's lower Broadway offices and by conversation's end needless to say, this particular's agencies assets shone with crystal clarity.
MDC: What was your first entry into the fashion business Ingrid?
Ingrid: I was a stylist for 12 years. I assisted a lot of the big stylists . I assisted Patti Wilson for instance. I still have the steam marks on me. (LOL) I was lugging the bags, working 14-25 hour days depending on what the project was. Then that evolved into working on independent films and videos. Then I made the move to NY.
MDC: So I presume you were working out of LA ?
Ingrid: Yes. I had been in school and I loved working with children, that was really my intended direction. I dealt a lot with physically disabled children. My heart became too emotionally attached, especially in certain individual cases where you put in a lot of effort and then they would go home for the weekend and somehow the family would "re-baby" them. It was very frustrating and heartbreaking. 

MDC: So what was it that triggered the switch to the modeling industry?
Well now after I arrived in New York I assisted a friend of mine to open a Men's Division of Women Management. So I came in and nine months later Paul Rowland, the owner of Women, made me the Director Of The Men's Board. Now I didn't want to be the Director of any board and I was kind of in shock. I mean I was like "I don't know if this is what I want to do and I don't know what I'm doing!" And Paul said "You do know what you're doing honey. You have an eye. That's the first step." And that gave me the security and I learnt and I didn't even think, I just threw myself into it. Maybe what made it easier was the fact that it was a small boutique when it began and I zeroed in on the fact that I had a responsibility to these kids. They were looking to me to fulfill their careers, to maintain that balance in their bank accounts so they would be able to provide for themselves and their families.

MDC: So for the record, the Men's division of Women was called...
Ingrid: Sky...Women decided eventually not to have a Men's Division anymore and after Sky I became partners with Chris Forberg (current Director of IMG's Men's Board). So now I've been in the industry for two and a half years. Chris & I became partners and we headed up DNA's Men's Division. And I brought 25 of my guys there. I left DNA after a very successful year to open up my own company. I started with only three guys. And here's the thing...Feb 28th was my sixth year anniversary in NY. And marks the third year anniversary of Clear.
MDC: Did you have a "Clear Model Look" in mind when you opened the agency?
Ingrid: No. Not at all. Like I said. I had three models.At that point I really came into a funk as to what I wanted to do with my life. And these three models said, "Ingrid, We believe in you. We can do this! We're going to do this" I had no intention of opening up my own agency.
MDC: Who were these three models?
Ingrid: Ryan Locke, Mike Campbell and Jason Fedele.. 
MDC: OK Ingrid. Just your average everyday male model legends !
Ingrid: (LOL)And I worked out of my bedroom. And I mean it's one of those stories where I picked a name and my sister who's a lawyer said we have to go through about 10 names and I said No. I want this name! I will get this name. And she called back to say..."You got the name!" And it was through my disappointment, my frustration, my angst with what I had been through in the past where I just wanted everything to be "clear". I don't want any illusions, I don't want any BS. I want clarity. I want to assist the client in a very direct manner. If I were the client I wouldn't want all the power playing. I would want someone who was just...very direct and honest and give me what I wanted and didn't try to throw every single guy on the board at every single casting that they're not right for. And I think this is where my styling background and that eye helped. It was a very easy way for me to gain respect from the clients. And that is truly what I do, which is why I only have 60 guys on the board! I then found this space and it needed everything redone, the lighting, the floors were ridiculous. And the boys built it! There would be a group of us here until twelve midnight every night working to make this happen!
MDC: What's your secret to commanding such a deep loyalty ?
Ingrid: I think because I was always very very direct in our relationships in a very honest manner, rather than the authoritarian thing of "You have to do this and that!" My position was "Guys, you want me to do this. It's because of you and your conviction that I'm going "OK". I think it's that universal power, that spirituality of earnestly and honestly putting the best intentions out there, of not being afraid. I realized that I had to do something different. So I did choose to be very " nose to the grindstone". In total tunnel vision. Because of my styling, I am a creative soul so I needed that expression and I needed space and I needed this creative bubble and I love the fact that dogs and skateboards whiz back and forth and we can do photo-shoots in here, and we have access to the film industry. We have an amazing relationship with Susan Batson. We are on the same floor. So kids with the acting ability have an outlet. But that's the thing. They do need to expand as individuals. We are dealing with young men. All these experiences right now are going to mould them. It is a little bit of everything that's involved here.

MDC: What is the most inspiring thing about being in this business for you?
Ingrid: For me the most passionate aspects of it, the very "Jerry Maguire" moments are when you take something from nothing, It's when you believe in a model who might have had every negative distraction in life .. you might have had your family issues, you might have had your personal issues. It's when they are able to transform themselves and then they finally take off. The thing is, an emotionally sound mind and body makes for a spectacular individual in front the camera. So why wouldn't you put that time and effort into that model? Models are human beings. They are not disposable.I've had models here who have been in situations that were horrible and I'm so proud of them, that they can go through what they've gone through and transcended it.The wonderful thing about keeping it small is that the Ryan Locke's are here for them to see as an example. And of course they're in awe. But there's no ego. It's like "Welcome aboard buddy!" At this agency you see kids high fiving each others for getting campaigns because they've been there. They know the struggle and everybody wants it for everybody else.

Next page: Part 2. Ingrid discusses the art of putting a new male model on the map, the value of editorials in building careers, upcoming market trends and the future of Clear...

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