LA Market Report: The Young Maverick/Nous – Pt.2

MDC’s Wayne Sterling interviews Nous Model Management Owner Kenya Knight – [continued from page 1]

WS: How does Nous fit into the very mainstream and commercial LA market as a boutique operation?

KK: The one thing I love about this market is that there is truly something for everyone. There are plenty of fashion jobs, with our weather and landscape bringing the very top photographers and productions to the West Coast, and there is an abundance of catalog and more “commercial print” shoots. We have a large runway market, and a growing Mercedes Benz Fashion Week twice a year. Los Angeles is also the #1 city for film and television, so models can make serious bread and butter doing commercials and for the theatrically inclined, LA is the only place to be to break in to the movies. This is why I found it necessary to open our own commercial department, and it has been a very wise and successful choice. One of our competitors, who shall go nameless, opened almost to the day at the same time we did, their approach was to be very “edgy” and uninterested in the commercial market here. Unfortunately this direction has proven fateful for their business. We have to respect the market where we are based. We are not a commercial agency by any stretch, however, I aim to have a nice selection so the majority of the time we have appropriate talent for our clients.

WS: Speaking of which … who are the clients who drive LA as a market?

KK: The top catalog client on the West Coast is Macy’s West. What I appreciate about them is they really support the West Coast agencies and give us a lot of their business. Also, the market is driven by the fact that Southern California is home to the largest garment district in the United States. Finally, the money brought in by commercial productions contributes an extraordinary amount of support to our business.

WS: What’s your dream scenario for the idea of fashion in LA right this minute?

KK:I look at the front rows of all the top shows from New York to Milan and I see celebrities. Los Angeles is where the celebrities and many of the top models live. If the right designers were showing here and the Fashion Week was allowed to grow in the right direction, all that would be necessary is for the celebrities to hop in a limo and roll down the hill. It doesn’t get any easier than that. When you look at what is driving sales in fashion and you take a look at the tabloids you see most of the footage is coming from LA. My agency is on Robertson Blvd right next door ( to the Ivy ) , I call it Us Weekly come to life just outside my front door. LA is hip and happening and should and can be more important in the fashion scene. I would also dream that all LA fashion agencies would operate on a certain level of integrity and class. If we all stuck to our guns on the rates that are appropriate for models and there was no “undercutting & package deals” going on then we’d all win in the end.

WS: It’s the classic struggle right? Going back to your board who would you say are the next generation of Nous Models to look out for?

KK: I am so proud of the girls & boys we represent. I handle quite a few girls who started with me back at Elite, so were talking 10+ years. Loyalty and trust go a long way in this business, which can be exhibited by the success of girls like Amy Bracco, Cynthia Kirchner, Angela Highsmith, Ksenia Deshchekina and Anesha Ndiaye. I’ve represented Taylor Cole since she was 13 years old and now at 22, she is a very successful actress. Next generation is all about Alyssa Miller. She has had so much success so quickly but has taken it all in stride, which is very rare and hard to achieve. Our men’s division has only been open for 2 1/2 years, and already David has managed to create one of the most successful men’s boards on the West Coast. Nous Men has discovered and launched Trent Garrett, Josh Pence, Joshua Louvrin, Brandon McCay, Clint Mauro, Jay Sanz & Chris Woods. We have also been given the opportunity to handle such top male stars as Tyson Beckford, Ryan Heavyside, RJ, Heath Townsend & Chad White.

WS: How significant is Nous’ function as a mother agency to your overall operation?

KK: Earning the role of mother agency is very important to us at Nous. I say “earn” because we do not take our place in our talent’s lives lightly. Our models rely on us to guide and protect them and we utilize our years of experience and connections to offer them a future that is protected and successful. For the most part, the money and high fashion opportunities are much greater in cities like New York & Paris. A model must travel to truly take their career on to the next level. Models can make a nice living in Los Angeles, however, if they have the potential to work with the best high fashion clients and photographers then they must put themselves in the middle of the action. Clearly the more successful our discoveries become the more successful we are, the role of mother agent allows us to take part in making that potential success a reality.

WS: How do you diversify your business without compromising the quality control of your boutique aesthetic?

KK: If you could see some the jobs and rates on offer, you’d fall off your chair! Sometimes we wonder “who would do this project?” We realize that sometimes you have to just say no. Having said that, there are plenty of lookbooks, overseas commercials and print campaigns, and short term advertisements for more mainstream products such as “Coca Cola” and “Mc Donald’s” that pay well and really will not negatively impact the potential of the models future, be it in high fashion or film & television. We have also explored the “celebrity model”. I represented Paris Hilton for 4 years and helped promote her in not only the fashion media but also the mainstream media. I think the changes we were able to make in her overall image finally led me to be able to secure the Guess Campaign for her. That was a match made in heaven, she looked great in that campaign! I currently represent Kimberly and Ruby Stewart, two of Rod Stewart’s daughters. Kimberly has been extremely successful, including campaigns in England, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands. Ruby is 18 and just about to graduate high school, she has definitely inherited her mom, Kelly Emberg’s, “supermodeling” skills. We are also proud to represent Mercedes Scelba-Shorte, the 1st runner up on America’s Next Top Model Season 2. America fell in love with Mercedes while viewing her on the show; she is a total charmer, a very talented emerging actress and a devoted supporter of the Lupus Foundation of America.