COVID-19 halted a lot of planned castings in 2020 for Rancho Bernardo-based Bensimon Models & Talent Agency LLC. But Ursula Bensimon, founder and owner, says brands that postponed productions last year are expected to flood the industry this year with model requests.
Based on its popularity and trajectory since being founded in 2013, Bensimon, a child model agency with a focus on European, Avant Garde aesthetics, expects to land a large chunk of that.
“Post-COVID, the expectation and belief is because a lot of brands held productions – a lot of them big productions – once we get back to normal, a lot of that will be made up for this year,” said Doron Malka, president and founder of Ameba Marketing, Inc.; the company represents Bensimon Models & Talent Agency. Malka is also Bensimon’s husband. “We want to be ready for this. We anticipate a huge demand as soon as we go back to somewhat normal.”
To prepare, Bensimon, who represents roughly 150 child models through the agency, said she’s continued scouting for new talent through the pandemic. She said while she goes to parks and stores and even the mall to find fresh faces, her favorite place to meet potential clients is on the California mountains while skiing.
“I find really amazing kids on the mountains,” said Bensimon. “Usually people from Southern California that have the background and upbringing of skiing in Europe, with a lot more diversity in terms of looks,” added Malka.
This has been the secret sauce of Bensimon Models & Talent Agency, said Bensimon: signing children with a very European look – or intense, sharply concentrated Caucasian facial features – through a very selective process.
Originally from France, Bensimon started photographing at the age of seven, following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, who were also photographers. As part of her career there, she shot a lot of top models in Paris, she said. When she moved to San Diego in the early 2000s, she continued to photograph adults. But because San Diego is not a leading city in high fashion, she decided to refocus her energy on kids.
Bensimon said she self-funded the company and used all of her existing professional contacts to launch the agency. She started with 50 child models and within a month, landed her first job with the German car company BMW, which casted four Bensimon kids. Bensimon Models & Talent Agency has also worked with Nike, Adidas, Dolce & Gabbana, Microsoft, Gap, Old Navy, OshKosh B’Gosh and Janie and Jack, to list a few.
“The agency grew much faster than I expected,” said Bensimon, “because I was giving them different kids than other agencies would give. I gave them very unique looks that were different than what they were used to getting. It kind of shocked them a little bit. They enjoyed looking at something different.”
Models usually get paid a day rate, between $500 to $5,000, said Bensimon. Bensimon Models & Talent Agency charges between 10% and 20% per model per job.
Expand the Agency
Aside from an expected influx of modeling jobs in 2021, Bensimon said she hopes to expand the agency into theater and television shows this year. Starting the year off on the right foot, one of her child models recently landed an acting job for an as-yet-announced film, she said.
Bensimon also hopes to begin signing senior models while following the same philosophy she implements when scouting for kids – finding unique faces, but this time grey-haired.