Kristen moved to Europe when she was 17-years-old to pursue a career in modeling.  Based in Milan, she worked as a model all over Europe and Asia.  In 1992, Kristen began working at Why Not where she was a new faces agent and then Director of Scouting.  Kristen is the Director of Scouting for Stars Model Management in San Francisco where she puts her skills and experience into discovering the talent of tomorrow.  Kristen spoke with me and Emily Sandberg about what she learned during her tenure as a model and why she thinks older models can bring a world experience to the modeling game their younger counterparts can not.   Kristen’s model discoveries/developments include Jamie Rishar, Amy Wesson, James King, Bridget Hall and Danielle Z.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kati Nescher landed the Louis Vuitton spring 2012 campaign.  In industry terms she is considered an advanced age to be starting her career.  What do you think models in their twenties and beyond can offer that teenagers can’t?

A model in her twenties can bring a level of maturity and life experience that will enable them to channel emotions a teenager would not be able to.  She is also out of school and more available to travel and devote herself one hundred percent to being a full-time model.

When scouting models do you take into consideration their look and the markets you think they will work best in e.g. Milan, Paris, New York or Tokyo?

When I look for models I normally do not scout for a specific market.  Although, that is something that comes to mind once I spend time with the model and get a feel of her personality.  Working in a regional market opens up more opportunity to scout more commercial girls too.

You started your career as a model before becoming a scout.  How do you think your experience as a model informed the way you scout and handle models?

My past experience as a model has definitely been an asset.  I can fully prepare them for what to expect but also can sympathize and really understand what they are going through.  My travel to Europe at sixteen was tough but positive so I have some great tips to share.  I can also prepare the mothers for what to expect now that I am closer to their age (yikes) than that of the models.  I sometimes used to scout with my mom, who not only was my biggest fan, but could give a lot of insight as a parent of a young model moving to Italy at such a young age.

What advice would you impart on someone wanting to enter the modeling industry that you wish you knew when you started your career?

Modeling in the 80’s was so different pre-internet.  Young models now have a vast source of information available to them.  I was very lucky to have a supportive family and a great agency to guide me.  I was a model at Why Not in Milan before becoming their scout.

Androgynous model Andrej Pejic is the face of Dutch retail giant HEMA’s push up bra campaign.  Do you think the choice to feature him in this campaign pushes the boundaries of taste or advances issues of gender identity?

To each his own.

What standards would you like to see adopted by the fashion industry to advocate for working models?

The Council of Fashion Designers of America enforcing a minimum age of 16 for New York Fashion Week is a move in the right direction. I have to admit that maybe 18 would not be a bad thing either.  Younger models are not as equipped to deal with the stress and long hours as perhaps an 18-year-old would be.

Much of the focus on models is placed on the girls.  Do you think male models have it easier than their female counterparts and why?

Male models have a tough time as the work is more limited than that of the girls and the rates they are paid are lower too.  Modeling is one of the few industries that a woman is actually paid more than a man.

You were an agent in Milan for Why Not, can you tell us how that prepared you for finding talent in the US?

My experience as an agent inMilancertainly gave me an advantage in theU.S.for scouting girls forEurope.  I know first hand what the clients and agencies are looking for.  I’m also a good judge of character and can tell which girls are ready to make that next step into the high fashion markets like Milan and Paris.  It’s tough!

Models often don’t have any idea what business skills are necessary to become successful.  What are three that you consider to be most important for a model?

1. Keep a detailed record of expenses and receipts

2. Be on time and remember people’s names

3. Be professional and helpful when on set e.g. help the stylist hang the clothing

4. Sending thank you notes is always useful

Once you find a girl your really excited about, how do you distinguish which agency you’ll place her with?

I am the Director of Scouting for Stars Model Management inSan Franciscoand I scout and sign girls for this agency.  When considering where to place a model a lot depends on a girls personality as well as her physical attributes.  An edgy rocker type girl would go to a more editorial agency where maybe a classic beauty would suit another agency better.  After 20 years of doing this I find there is a little voice inside me that always helps me make the right decision.

I also think it is very important that a model visits the agency and the agents before I place them. That way they get a feel for where they will be calling their home away from home for several months out of the year.  Harmony is important!  This is not always possible, but when it is, I have always found it to be a wise way to do business.

Follow her at @krikrik

Learn more at Stars Models Management