Tiffany Rosenfeld was an industrious freelancer in New York when a serendipitous meeting with an executive at an advertising agency set in motion a series of events that would eventually lead her to start her own casting agency.
Tell us about how you got started in casting.
It was serendipity; no, seriously. I started a conversation with the right person at the right time. While freelancing in television production I was in a casual meeting with an Executive Vice President at Grey Advertising. From that I was asked to join the casting department at 777 Third Avenue. That’s where I grew up professionally.
How do you define your role in the industry?
How has casting changed since you began?
Everything has changed and is still changing. Picture it: photographers and directors shot on film. Ad agencies had their own in-house casting departments; the fax machine was the epicenter of the casting process. Polaroids were standard issue. Clunky ¾ tapes were fickle and archaic – even then. Size cards and books were messengered over and RUSH meant you would get a submission in your hands in as fast as two-hours. Everything has changed. In our quest to make things simpler, we have overcomplicated things. Today, we receive submissions electronically and almost immediately. Our digitals are color corrected. We shoot in high-definition. Tablets have replaced books. In addition we share our castings instantly. Budgets are leaner. Timing is tighter. Clients are more frugal, informed and savvy and since the supply of models exceeds the demand, model rates are significantly lower.
Tell us about how you started serendipity.
On a college road trip I passed a Hooter’s billboard that said A kick in the ass is still a step forward. The image is burned into my brain and still makes me giggle. When I felt stuck professionally at my last job, I kicked my own ass and took a huge step forward; I launched serendipity casting and never looked back.
A constant criticism leveled at the fashion industry is the lack of diversity. What are your thoughts on this?
Yes, the fashion and beauty industries lack diversity. More diverse decision makers will lead to more mainstream diversity. We are ready! In 1992, Revlon was one of the first mass beauty brands to sign a non-white model, Veronica Webb; CoverGirl followed shortly after by signing Lana Ogilvie. This led to the to the onboarding of more diversity, albeit way too slow.
Part of the services you offer are coaching. Why do you feel this is an important service?
Everyone who shoots for the gold at the Olympics has a coach. Separate from serendipity casting, I launched serendipitous productions, which offers coaching to industry veterans and newcomers. I have photographed some of the world’s most elite models. In my casting, I hold space for models to feel safe; I allow them to be vulnerable with me. Some of the most beautiful images I capture are borne from that vulnerability. I recently started asking models, “What is beautiful?” and “What makes you feel beautiful?” One too many times, I have heard “I don’t feel beautiful.” It is hard for the public to understand, but models are insecure – more insecure than you and I. Reality is: the models we admire in our glossy fashion magazines suffer the most from being insecure. Worse, there is a global epidemic happening – women are suffering from a crisis in confidence. My coaching not only gives my students the professional tools they need to excel, but also, and more important, lifts them up and helps build authentic confidence.
Social media changed the landscape of how businesses operate. What role does social media play in your business?
I admit I am fashionably late to the social media party. I may not like social media, but I respect it. Social media has solidified the influencer category. Models are aspirational. Celebrities bring awareness to a brand and carry a hefty price tag. Influencers, i.e. video bloggers like Michelle Phan and her YouTube how-to tutorial videos are a source of inspiration and information. Phan introduced a new and more youthful consumer to Lancôme. Today, our clients want models with the right look for their brand and a significant social media following.
Yes, our clients use social media as a deciding factor when casting. Nowadays, a model with a large number of followers and significant audience engagement and growth is chosen over a better-qualified model. Like it or not, there is value in social media.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
More of the same, just on a bigger platform.