her to perform at so many events that Monica came to be known as the “little girl who sings ‘The Greatest Love of All.’” Her increasing popularity resulted in several recording contracts from local record-label executives. But it wasn’t until producer Dallas Austin-whose Rowdy Records label is distributed through Arista-offered a deal that Monica, her mother and Dancil decided to sign.
“Dallas was the only one who approached Monica as a person and not a dollar sign, and with her being only 12, it was important that she [sign] with someone who acknowledged her age and innocence,” explains Dancil. She strongly advises parents not to jump at the first contract that comes along, and to make sure that label executives support your goals and concerns.
After securing Monica’s recording deal and working with the label to complete the singer’s debut album, Miss Thang, Dancil took a step that surprised some: she brought on rapper-actress Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Management company to act as Monica’s co-manager. “I was concerned about trying to direct her career in a trial-and-error fashion,” admits Dancil. As Monica’s pursuit began paying off, Dancil knew there were key career development concerns-imaging, promotional appearances and endorsement opportunities, for example-with which she would need help. Dancil, who is currently Monica’s sole manager, says parents need to be open-minded about bringing in help when necessary. “I don’t think that you should step out of the picture, but if someone can offer the artist a better situation, it should at least be considered.”
In the film and television industries, agents reign supreme. While you may be managing your child’s day-to-day activities, you’ll still need an agent. Why? Because an agent will be the only way your child can gain access to certain auditions. “While I try to give everyone who I think is right for the part a chance, there are a lot of casting directors who will only cast with top agencies,” says Hardin.
Getting your child an agent is essential, but it can be difficult. Tracy Stewart-Kaplan, an agent with Aria Model & Talent Management, says that parents should first identify the agencies and, if possible, draft a wish list of agents whom they would like to have represent their child. She notes that some agencies (visit www.black enterprise.com for a list) have children’s divisions. Send your child’s photos and résumé to those agencies and give them a couple of weeks to contact you. “With a little kid under 10, there’s not a whole lot you can do beyond sending pictures. When they get a little older-around 12-that’s when experience becomes important,” notes Stewart Kaplan.
There are a few other steps that you can take. Ask a friend whose child has an agent if she can recommend your child. Be prepared for her to say no, however. Agents take client referrals very seriously, and no client wants to jeopardize her relationship by recommending a child who may not be ready for representation.
If your child is going to be in a substantial community theater