A modelling career usually begins with a casting or by being “a lucky one” discovered by someone influential. Gisele Bundchen was discovered at the age of 14 while eating a burger in McDonald´s in Sao Paulo. Kate Moss got interest of Sarah Doukas at the airport when returning from a holiday. Miranda Kerr won a modelling contest. Well, what have those top models in common? Their career began when they were around 13 years old and agencies took care of them.
However, how does it work when a model – Anastasia – is only 3 years old, her early fragile childhood is just about to begin, the world is too big for her and parents try to find a balance between her career and happy childhood desiring the very best for the daughter? Let’s find out all the answers in a lovely interview with Anastasia´s mother Maria.
Child modelling is not that common in Slovakia, how would you describe it?
I think it is at a very beginning here. I can count on the fingers of one hand all solid modelling projects for children. In other words, a bit metaphorically saying, it is like believing in a magical unicorn – we all believe, but nobody has ever seen it. I have a hope that with a particular development of “hand-made” fashion brands in the country which want to be originally creative, the child modelling could be lifted to a more serious market segment getting interest from all relevant parties – photographers, modelling agencies, producers, etc.
You are doing really maximum for your daughter whom you would like to see as a model in the future. When have you decided that this might be a right career path for her?
It is just a coincidence, honestly. The daughter likes photos, trying different clothes and just to play like being a model – to show herself to mum with a smile. At the beginning, my husband and I, we thought it was like other children, you know what I mean. However, Anastasia couldn’t attend school activities groups due to her medical conditions – she was very sensitive to illnesses, some children are like that. So, I had to figure out which activities she could do, where she could go and how to get her into socialising with children at her age. I didn’t want her to be at home, isolated and lonely. As a mother, I had a mandatory task to provide the very best conditions for a childhood of my daughter. I got an idea – photography. We started and considered photography as a fun – family pictures, some TFP sessions – she was very happy, spoke with photographer and children, too. I realized Anastasia found something she liked. Gradually, we started to ask for some professional fashion photography sessions. One photo shoot, the second, … it all has started.
What are the possibilities for a mother with a child for whom she wants a modelling career in Slovakia?
Frankly, there are very few opportunities. Modelling agencies usually begin working with models at the age of 13. Fashion brands use global photo resources – all marketing materials are from the headquarters and therefore valid for more countries. Projects are almost invisible because they are mostly done by “children from the family” – these one-off activities do not develop childhood modelling. There are only local fashion brands left.
However, I do not give up, I work with Anastasia as I can. I believe that the gathered experience will return in a form of a good offer from domestic or foreign production. If a child understands you believe in her success, it is a great energy and encouragement for her. At the same time, she is learning a lot about the world.
What motivates you not to give up and fight for your daughter’s career?
A look in the eyes of my daughter. With our husband, we realized a balance between the meaning of life and our parental roles. The most beautiful in marriage is to see a happy child and to enjoy the fact that we are creating conditions for our daughter’s life. The pictures are beautiful, but the feeling that the child is happy is indescribable.
What are the biggest obstacles in child modelling in Slovakia?
Time – all parents know it is the most precious “commodity” in the world. Furthermore, some underestimation of the quality of child photography – basically I can not find photographers who are interested in taking pictures of a 3 year old child in a nice style and with some ideas. I am therefore very grateful to those who helped me and devoted time at the beginning. Also, the overall atmosphere of this modelling segment in the country tells a lot; to illustrate, there are always some children found for the job which I consider as a marketing failure. There is always room to find someone, but it is not better to develop child modelling and promote a professional approach, so children can later become true personalities with experience?
What are the requirements for a child in modelling, what does she/he need to meet to do it?
They are completely different from adult models. It’s not about makeup, height or weight. The most important factor is personality. The child must have something unique. The second requirement is related to skills – one of the most important assets of child modelling – a child must listen, be open to cooperation, perceive the photographer’s instructions, be patience, and have an ability to participate in the atmosphere (smile, facial expression, pose). Then, it depends on the project leader, some are looking for atypical children, others want diversity or special features. But the goal is always the same – to engage a particular audience and get its curiosity. In other words, why are we buying so many things for children? Because they see them and want them, advertisment works.
What is the feeling for a mother when a child shines in a video or a photo?
Fantastic! It is a form of a reward when you see how hardwork, suffering, self-sacrifice or maximum effort pay off at the end. Once experienced, you realize that words are insignificant, feelings unforgettable.
Working with children is always a sensitive topic for filmmakers and photographers, what approach have you met so far?
You’re very right. Therefore, we’re keeping an eye on, husband and I, we do not let everything happen. We are careful. At the beginning, I had the principle of taking pictures only with a female photographer. I was afraid. I’m checking people, I’m interested in their work and reputation. Also, we only agree with a photo shoot scenario that is suitable for our daughter. The world is very dangerous and protecting my little one is a maximum priority.
Yes, I would like Anastasia to do photo shoots developing her career. On the other hand, I prefer quality output, not projects at any cost. We also had a little bit of luck since Anastasia mingles photographers, assistants and people in general very well. Consequently, I’m in touch with people who were interested in her progress. I would like to thank these people for their attitude and commitment.
Having beautiful photos is one thing, the second one is to get a real contract – is child modelling well paid?
In the world, remuneration is set differently because child modelling represents a professional commercial segment, it demands more experienced children and creates different working environment than in Slovakia. Sorry for a disappointment, all parents who have just strated to think about a possible modelling career of their child. Also, the word contract is pretty unknown here. In Slovakia, producers like working with “volunteers”, often you get some refreshment or you can keep some items from a photo shoot or video production. Sad, I know.
People miss some crucial aspects – as a mum, I need to prepare a child for a particula photo shoot, drive a car over there, take all things necessary when you have a three year old child, and the most importantly, to take care of her mood during the work. It is not an easy task, believe me. So exhausted. When you get a coffee and coke, you surely have some mixed feelings.
Children are vulnerable, any unpleasant experience can affect their future development or some consequences could appear. I am not a modelling manager, but a mother who perceives her child with heart and soul.
Has it ever happened to you that she had no mood, what did you do?
So far, it has been perceived by “modelling as a hobby”. We only solve typical childish things like small mood unbalances, fatigue, or loss of concentration. Anastasia is a child, these things are common. That’s why I always use verified “mum tricks” to get all back to an order. The role of mother is irreplaceable, no doubt.
A working and solid communication is the basis for success, what communication channels do you use to get a photo or filming opportunities for a daughter?
Social networks for their speed and simplicity. At the same time, I can learn a lot about the people who contact me, to get a first impression and assess the level of possible cooperation. I am using all senses I have to chose the best for Anastasia.
How does the child react during a photography session – what feelings, moods or impressions can you see as a mother?
She perceives everything as a game, a new adventure, and something new. I watch every moment and everything, I live with.
What is your dream in child modelling for a daughter?
I do not have big dreams, I am trying to fulfil the daily program of my daughter. I do things naturally and with ease. I set my daughter´s real goals to minimize disappointment and loss of interest. The main goal is a happy child.
I believe she will gain self-confidence in modelling, experience interesting projects and find her own happiness or interest. Time will show in which career path she gets into, modelling has more variables.
Do you think it is difficult to combine modelling and childhood in terms of having your daughter taking as a girl with a proper childhood touching commercial interests?
I think it’s often about setting goals for a child. Parents often exaggerate and think that their child will go into the world in a few months, become the best footballer, dancer or singer. I’m trying to get a golden middle way.
At the moment, my child learns to know the world, what is the daily regime and why things work this way and not differently. I want her childhood to be full of interesting activities, kindergarten, leisure time and family trips. I consider photography and modelling as some of these activities. It is not easy, but first of all, parents must be strict on themselves to preserve the difference between childhood and commercial career.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment with your daughter?
The success is that Anastasia enjoys life and we, parents are the co-workers of her success. We are not a celebrity family, we do not have contacts for prominent names in business, art or showbusiness. We are ordinary and honest people who, for a long-awaited daughter, want a good life with a happy look in her eyes.
Maybe that’s why the first achievements came; because producers saw some simplicity in Anastasia, she was not forced to be a model, actress or singer.
Since I like a proper work, I was delightful when I saw first outputs of her work. Later on, we progressed into more difficult projects, for example, to photo shoot some children fashion collection for a local brand. Whats more, Anastasia has been a part of a TV show.
You know, it’s also a magic moment that MZX Photography have noticed Anastasia willing to present not only her pictures, but also an opinion about modelling by a real interview with me, her mum. I feel honoured for such a professional approach during the interview and the opportunity of having a great street fashion photo session in Bratislava streets.
To see the honest picture and reveal some “backstage information” is the success of every conversation. With Maria, we were able to evaluate the often underestimated modelling segment – child modelling and talk about her daughter Anastasia. I am pleased I got to know her modelling life. A photo shoot was also great and I can only highly recommend her for modelling opportunities. Isnt it fascinated?
Finding the courage to step into the world of modelling is incredibly demanding for every girl. However, the responsibility of parents for the direction of child-raising is a completely different dimension of knowledge. I admire Anastasia and her mother Maria.
I was thinking what to wish Anastasia, and couldnt find right words. So, I found the inspiration in Dary Rolins song – I’m not afraid of it.
“You know so little and so fast you grow,
you barefoot hold your happiness,
until the heavens I hope it grows. “
The official FB link to Anastasia´s portfolio: https://www.facebook.com/maria.scherbenko
The article was authorized by Anastasia´s mum Maria on 25. 7. 2018