Chit Chat Tuesday: interview with Brandis Debrandt, the owner and scout for the State Management children’s board and the owner of Model Mother.

This Tuesday, we had the opportunity to catch up and chat with Brandis Debrandt, the owner and scout for the State Management children’s board and the owner of Model Mother. With a background in modeling and a passion for the industry, she has navigated her way through various roles before finding her niche in casting and talent management. Encouraged by a producer friend, she ventured into starting a children’s agency. From an uncertain start, armed with just a laptop from Craigslist, she has built a thriving business.

brandis debrandt

Read her exciting story about kids modeling, fashion industry insights, personal journey, and big dreams.

JS: Brandis, tell us your story!

Brandis: The quick version! I was a model and decided I didn’t want to do that anymore, but I liked the industry. I tried a little bit of everything and found I really enjoyed casting. I interned and freelanced with a casting director in NYC, focusing on higher-end fashion. I also freelanced for an eco client booking children models. I like to think the two things sort of married, and this is where I developed my eye or style of the model I like. A producer friend of mine encouraged me to start a children’s agency and “do it right” (making sure parents behaved, kids’ sizes were current, and kids looked like models). I wanted to, but I had zero idea how to start an actual business. A few years later, I found myself unemployed and without any prospects. I bought a laptop off of Craigslist and just got started. The rest is history.

JS: Why did you decide to work with kids?

Brandis: I started the agency in the Chicago market, and there, kids’ boards tend to be an afterthought. All the agencies have them because clients will ask for kids from time to time, but no one really curated and tended to the kids. I knew if I could “do it right,” like my friend had suggested, we could be unstoppable in that market. Turns out, that was the case in New York and Los Angeles too.

State Management

JS: You are working with one of the biggest model agencies in the US; tell us about it.

Brandis: During Covid, I had a bit of a spiral. It was the first time in the 8 years at that point that I had been doing this that everything just STOPPED. My anxiety got the best of me, and I started thinking about selling the board. I am grateful that I was lucky enough to be put in touch with Bill Ivers, who owns State Management. He basically said to me, “Don’t sell it—let’s work together.” And ever since then, we have! State has been an incredible partner, and you could never convince me to go back to doing it on my own now. The team there is incredible, and more specifically, my team on kids, Carolyn and Alina, are two of the best in the business. I am very grateful for the partnership.

JS: Tell us about your Model Mother project.

Brandis: Model Mother is a bit of a living document. I know the direction I’d like to go with it, but it’s still growing and ever-changing. Model Mother came about because I was forever getting DMs and questions, mostly from mothers of kids who were modeling with other agencies. They’d heard I was honest with my talent, and they were yearning for a bit of that themselves. I have an open-door policy when it comes to families we represent who have questions, but personally and professionally, I have so much on my plate that I couldn’t possibly be holding everyone else’s hands too. That said, I wanted to, because I believe that if the parents feel educated and empowered, it makes this industry a happier and healthier place, most importantly for the kiddos, but for all of us, really. And thus, Model Mother was born.

Model Mother

JS: What is your biggest advice to parents who make their first steps in kids modeling/acting?

Manage your expectations. 

JS: How do you choose to accept or not new face? 

Usually it starts with an email. I’ll look at snapshots, sometimes ask for more/different kinds etc and if I like what I see from there I will schedule a meeting with the model and parent either in the office or via Zoom. I always start the Zoom with the child model- I ask them what’s going on with them, how’s school? What are their plans for the summer? Do they have any pets/favorite movies/best thing to play on the playground? I also always make a point to ask the model if they have any questions for me- this part is fun & I am amazed sometimes at how smart/silly/kind their questions can be. After I am sure I have answered all the questions they have for me I ask if they would mind if I talked to mom or dad for a few minutes & that’s where I will give mom and dad the quick rundown on how the business works. 

I usually know within 2 minutes of meeting with a model whether or not I am interested in signing them or not. 

JS: Kids modeling/acting: is it a job or a hobby for kids? 

Trick question! 

It is a job & should be treated as and respected as such. There are a lot of adults whose livelihoods depend upon parents and children acting in a professional manner on set. However, the kids should see it as a hobby. It’s the parent’s responsibility to never make the child feel like it’s a job, or that they’re depending on them to succeed. (Financially or otherwise) There are ways to maneuver so that your kiddo thinks they’re just having fun but you’re making sure they’re polite, showing up on time, and listening to the crew thus doing a good job. 

State Management Brandis Debrandt

JS: To what do you attribute your success?

In the early years delusion honestly. Even looking back I don’t know what I was thinking. Failing just wasn’t even a thought I ever considered. This was just what I was going to do. Over the years it’s been other things. For one I really honestly enjoy what I do. It’s fun for me. Not the daily emails and admin stuff necessarily but I truly have fun scouting, meeting beautiful kiddos, seeing out models in ads- I still geek out about it. I care about our families- sometimes to a fault because they don’t always care about you as much as you do them. I feel very passionate about wanting to be a vehicle for change in the industry- not only to fight to get the kids the rates and respect closer to what their adult counterparts receive, but via Model Mother for the safety and sanity of the kids and parents. 

JS: How do you see the kids’ fashion market in 5 years?

This is a hard hitting question- AI scares me a bit if I am being totally honest. I have spent some time starting to research and think about how we work with technology and not be completely rolled over by it if that’s the way clients start to go. (& hopefully they won’t!) I am just going to put this out there to manifest- I’d like to see the children’s modeling industry start to be treated a bit more like the adult side. Where clients pay the kids what they’re worth, that they’re willing to travel kids in and out if they’re the right kid for the brand.

JS: What are your favorite kids fashion/lifestyle brands?

I can’t be biased, I think they’re all great. 😉

JS: What advice would you give to anyone who would like to pursue a career in kids’ fashion?

Be willing to put in the time. Any position in the fashion industry really is all about who you know/who you’ve worked with in the past. Don’t expect to become an overnight success.

JS: Who is your fashion icon, past or present?

Jane Birken always. Also very into Jennifer Lawrence’s The Row vibe. 

JS: What inspires you?

My son & the desire to give us the kind of life we dream of. 

JS: What are your favorite cultural magazines/publications? How about podcasts?

Oh god do you remember magazines? Those were the good ole days! 

There are a few podcasts I like- I just started listening to I’m Not Dead by fashion stylist Sarah Clary- I don’t know her personally but she comes across as this cool, down to earth fashionista you want to be bffs with.

I like Smartless is I want to laugh. The Mel Robbins Podcast if I need to get myself together. Heavy Weight if I need something feel good. 

JS: What is your favorite place in the world?

In daily mode, New York City. In shut down mode, Mexico- the Yucatán Peninsula. 

Brandis Debrandt instagram here

Model Mother project here

State Management Kids instagram here

Read more interviews here

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