Not Just A Pretty Face

Name: Christie Dinham
Age: 37
Occupation: Modeling agent
Location: New York, New York
Duties: Scouts out new faces; develops images for models; negotiates contracts

At 5 foot 9 inches, Christie Dinham is striking. It’s a look that launched a successful modeling career during her early 20s. Signed with prestigious agencies that included Elite in her native London, England, to Bethann Hardison’s agency, Bethann Management in New York City, Dinham handsomely toured the runways of Italy and Paris. Her statuesque figure graced the cover of England’s ID magazine and appeared within the pages of British Vogue, Essence, Vibe, and Interview magazines among others. But she was determined to become more than just a fashion mannequin.

“I started as a model to get into the business. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to be a part of fashion,” she says. “But I was always the model looking at the entire picture, not just sitting in front of a camera. I wondered how the camera worked and how the stylist put the clothes together. I wanted to know why the makeup artist chose one color of lipstick as opposed to another color. I was so interested in how the production was put together, that I knew I was going to end up on the business side.”

Not quite 10 years into her high-profile career, she decided to leave the glamour of the catwalk to pursue a position behind the scenes. Bethann Hardison and Tyrone Barrington, then an agent for Bethann Management, served as mentors and facilitated her transition from model to becoming an agent for New York Models where she ran the New Faces division. “Even though I came in with a modeling background, there were still a lot of things I needed to learn, like negotiating contracts, and developing the model’s image, as well as their portfolios.” Those were the fundamentals she learned from her mentors. There were other skills she had to develop, like learning how to negotiate through an assortment of personal idiosyncrasies: pushy “stage” moms and finicky teenage girls, some of whom suffered with eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa. It’s been an adjustment but Dinham acknowledges it’s part of the terrain. “You have to be everybody’s mother, nurse, social worker, and best friend,” she says. “When it came to anorexic or bulimic girls, I wouldn’t book them until they got better.”

Salary: An agent can get paid between $40,000 and $300,000 annually depending on their experience and the agency. Commissions are also a possibility. “Mother,” or head agents with a casting agency, can usually receive up to 7% of the company’s 20% commission for a client’s work.

Getting Started: Although Dinham’s career path from model to agent seemed like an easy progression, she offers suggestions for those interested in becoming agents but who have never worked in the industry:

Call the agencies. Try to get placed as an assistant agent or even an intern. Eventually, if you have what it takes: good follow through, good management skills, negotiating

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