Tessa Peay. All portraits courtesy of Chadwick Tyler.
Scouting is an essential component of the modeling industry: stories of supermodels being discovered in schoolyards or restaurants are legendary, but what does it take to actually find that next great face? Industry veteran Trudi Tapscott has worked at powerhouses like Vogue, Elite and DNA, but now she turns her attentions and a discerning eye to finding the next generation of talent right from the heart of Texas. Tapscott details her journey from seasoned model scout, to Vogue bookings editor, to agent and tells us more about her latest finds, the fresh faced Tessa and Paige.
MDC: How did you first get into the industry?
Trudi Tapscott: I grew up in what used to be a small town in California, Santa Barbara, and after attending college for a fashion degree, I was involved in retail and producing fashion shows. I started a small agency and met Eileen Ford who encouraged me to pursue a career in the industry. First chance, I moved to New York and began interviewing with anyone related to fashion or modeling. I was hired at Elite as an assistant after several interviews and that was my first job in New York.
MDC: You’ve worked at some of the industry’s most illustrious places. What did you learn at each place and what were some of your favorite memories?
TT: Working at Elite in the 80’s and the beginning of the branding of “supermodels” gave me the foundation of scouting and development. I worked on the contest, which was my favorite part,and learned about production, scouting around the world and the U.S. as well as public relations.
No other work experience compares to working for Vogue and Anna Wintour. It was an opportunity that gave me a tremendous amount of knowledge about fashion and publishing. There is so much attention to detail that goes into all aspects of the brand and it was an amazing education for me. I have many favorite parts, but what stands out most was learning from fashion editors and photographers what makes a great picture, and outstanding editorial.
At DNA I was able to apply what I knew and really absorb model management in a modern and personal manner. The relationships I developed there will last a lifetime and I am forever grateful for the chance to culminate my scouting background with all of my experience. My favorite part was the relationship with the models and watching them grow.
MDC: Who are some of your favorite all time models and for what reason?
TT: This is an impossible question as so many have influenced my career and me personally. But to mention a few, I would say that Linda Evangelista has always amazed me in her ability to be a chameleon. Gisele Bundchen for her energy and distinct beauty. Natalia Vodianova who not only has an impeccable career, been a role model, and mother but also has been so generous with herself in many ways. Stella Tennant, because I think her timeless beauty and true authentic character is inspiring. And very close to my heart are Raquel Zimmerman, Edita Vilkevecuite and Magdalena Frackowiak.
MDC: What made you choose Texas as your base?
TT: The main reason was to be close to family and have more time to myself. My father has lived in Texas for years and has a small horse ranch and as I was looking for a peaceful life change, it seemed a perfect fit. I pinch myself everyday as I have amazing animals around me, a great environment, and as I am talking to agents, teenagers and their parents, I am looking out on a wonderful horse pasture. So Texas is the base, and the models are from all over the United States. Erin Olson in Utah joined the company in March and her scouting talents are a great asset to the short and long term plans for the company.
MDC: What do you miss the most about NY?
TT: I lived in New York for 30 years and never thought I would live any place else because it was the center of my universe. Now I look forward to my frequent visits because the things I miss are always here. I miss the pace, the access, the energy, the people, the constant change, and the attitude.
MDC: Can you tell us a little bit about Tessa and Paige?
TT: The first time I met Tessa her beauty was non negotiable. What has been a pleasure to observe since then is her complete absorption in learning how to model and where she would like to take modeling. She has a very supportive family, which has allowed her to work once in a while around her school schedule. But her eyes are set on the big picture and every step she takes is evaluated as to whether it will help her reach her goal of the fashion world. She is funny and smart and determined.
The beauty of Paige is that she never had a clue that she could be a model. She was a track star, and waited until she finished high school to pursue a career in modeling. Once she realized it could be a reality, she set eye on learning like a student training for the Olympics. Putting the mechanics aside, she has an ease of attitude in front of the camera and feels quite comfortable in her own skin. She is discovering how fun and different the fashion world is from the ranch she lives on in Idaho.
MDC: What do you see as the qualities that will help models make it?
TT: The biggest challenge of scouting in America is bringing aspiring models from a small town to a big city like New York or Paris. Certain personal elements that can’t be taught are characteristics that one can hope develop over time. I think beyond their photographic talents, which improve with the photographers they work with, there is a strong sense of themselves that needs to dominate. Being comfortable with being a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, enjoy meeting people, being a bit fearless and a sense of humor certainly helps. Thinking of modeling as an element of a big picture, whether at photo shoots or a shows. It is a job, a fun and rewarding job, but it is business nonetheless.