A model booker's job is no nine to five position. In the 10 months that I spent working at 62 Models and Talent back in 2007, I found that I was never actually not working. The phone rang 18-odd hours of the day, the texts and emails came in 24/seven and the majority of my time was spent chasing up infuriating yet particularly good looking teenagers who never seemed to show up to jobs on time; or self-important clients who never wanted to pay a proper day rate or sign a contract until the day after the shoot. When I left the industry for the world of publishing at the beginning of 2008, I heaved a giant sigh of relief and vowed to never, ever go back. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. To this day, I still have a ridiculously large amount of respect for any booker of models; and it never ceases to amaze me when a model wishes to get behind the desk. Top Kiwi model Ngahuia Williams is going one step further: she's opening up her own shop.
Ngahuia Williams is a modelling world veteran, with 10 years' work experience in front of the camera in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Asia and America. (Full disclosure: Williams was one of the models I booked while working at 62, and she was both likeable and a consummate professional – making her a particularly rare breed.)
She has shot some of our most enduring local advertisements as the recurring face of MAX, and appeared in and on countless print campaigns, TV commercials, music videos and magazine covers. During New Zealand's Next Top Model's first season she was credited as being the show's model mentor. She is undoubtedly our most successful Maori model. She also spent six months last year working on the booking desk at 62. According to Rhiyen Sharp at 62, "Ngahuia will continue to model with 62 Models and Talent, and Sara Tetro and the team wish her all the best with her new venture."
Understandably, Williams feels as if she knows the industry well enough to compete with the big guns (62, Clyne, Nova and Red 11). "I'm passionate about the industry that I have been a part of for over a decade now and I think it will be extremely rewarding to use my knowledge to push others in the right direction," she says. But she isn't rushing into anything. N.MODELMANAGEMENT will open its doors in two months with just 15 models: 10 girls, and five boys. The next eight weeks will be spent scouting and developing talent, preparing the website, drawing up contracts and securing a fixed location.
It won't be easy. New Zealand's fashion industry is small, incestuous, fuelled by drama and saturated with model agencies. model.net.nz lists 13. There are only so many jobs to go around, and clients are guarded jealously. Inter-agency rivalries are extreme, and passive aggressive attacks are commonplace. Rumour has it that when a now-successful agency first opened its doors some five years ago, it was only able to register a .net website address, because the owner of another top agency took it upon themself to purchase the .com and .co.nz domain names.
One morning while I was working at 62 I received a call from a client who was supposed to be shooting one of my models that day. He said that my model would not be doing the job, because he had received a call saying that she was suffering from anorexia. When asked who gave him the false information, he confessed that it was a head booker from another agency. She had of course supplied him with a whole raft of alternative girls.
These are just some of the trials that Williams will have to face, and that's not mentioning the sleazy photographers, clients who refuse to pay, over-zealous parents, model poachers or the darkness that comes when you have to turn down scores of hopeful young girls who apply to become models every day of the week.
But despite all that, Williams is confident. And so she should be. The best agencies in New Zealand are run by ex models – Kim Larking and Marama Nicholas at Clyne, Sara Tetro at 62, Amanda Betts at Red Eleven – and what better time to get into business than when you're young and filled with energy, drive, positivity and enthusiasm. I like Ngahuia Williams and I hope she succeeds.
Ngahuia Williams in the classic Levi's TV commercial Running With The Bulls.
Ngahuia Williams in David Dallas' video for I Get The Feelin'.
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