Head of New Faces is not your average job title, but it’s one that Kellydeene Skerritt has adjusted to over the last six years.
Since joining Next Model Management in 2011, Skerritt has been responsible for sourcing and monitoring young models for the company’s “New Faces: Women’s” board, made up of untapped talent working toward their larger industry debuts. After heading up the board in her hometown of London for a few years, she moved to New York two years ago to shift her focus to the Big Apple.
“Every single day is completely different,” Skerritt said of her job, which involves everything from scouting and talking to agents across the world about working with their talent to fielding nervous questions from young models’ families about their daughters’ new career paths.
We spoke to Skerritt about what else her day-to-day entails, what she looks for most in young models and how added press attention on models’ health has affected her job.
What does your day-to-day role entail?
At Next, we work with our global scouting team to bring in new girls — they’re very much part of the work we do at New Faces. Through them, we’ll communicate with mother agencies across the world about bringing girls to New York to start the conversation about them coming to model here. The scouts will monitor these new talents in a secondary market until they reach a point where they feel they are ready to travel. Once they’re here, we’ll help them make the transition to working and living in New York.
What does that process look like?
When we work with new models, we have a lot of conversations with their parents and families, introducing them all to the business and the market. We’ll start by taking the models’ digitals, doing a lot of walking practice with them and putting a strategy in place to develop their careers. We work with a great network of people in the industry who help us kick things off, especially photographers and clients who will set up test shoots with the models and help them build out their portfolios.
But, even if we sign a girl, they don’t always go onto the website right away. Since we’re often dealing with young women, we want them to be best prepared for and educated about the industry first. To do that, we set them up with trainers and nutritionists who can help them understand how to best take care of themselves. It’s not just about the body, but the mind. Many of these girls grew up in small towns and need help adjusting to the pace of the industry. In the run-up to our show season, we host a model symposium for this group that focuses on how to best look after yourself during fashion week, with everyone from trainers to dermatologists to casting directors advising them on best practices.
How long, on average, does it take to develop a model so that she’s ready to work?
There is no set timeline for how long it takes to develop a model, because there are so many different variables that come into play. We try to focus on the individual and what’s right for her. All the girls have different confidence levels and different overall goals for their careers. Some are trying to do this part-time while juggling schooling, which is very difficult. It really is a full-time business, and a quick business at that. When we have more time to work on the girls, it provides them with a stronger introduction to the industry.
What’s one misconception about your job or modeling at large?
Often, you will see these seemingly brand-new, breakout stars at fashion week that everyone talks about. However, the reality is that we’ve likely been working on the development of these models for years at a time. You have to put in the training before you run the race, as they say.
How many new models are you working with at any one time?
Although we’re a global agency, we’re very boutique in our management process and like to keep things very focused. In New York, we only have 12-15 girls on the New Faces board at one time. We work mainly with women ages of 16-18, though we will sometimes start developing and test-shooting a girl who’s a little younger.
What do you look for most in these new models?
We like girls who are very enthusiastic about this business. We’re not just looking for models, but for the whole package: What do they find exciting? What are their achievements so far? Perhaps that’s in sports or dance. We love to nurture a 360-degree career for the girls, one that has a larger picture. For example, one of our breakout girls from this season, Oumie, is a highly skilled dancer, which was particularly interesting to a lot of the designers who booked her. We look for girls who can be a muse and have more that’s inspiring about them than just their looks. We’re looking for something that’s really special, and when we find it, it’s like a supernova kind of explosion. But stars aren’t necessarily made every season. The timing has to be right.
What’s currently trending, as far as models go?
The natural evolution of the business has been toward diversity, which is something we’re very focused on. One way we do this is by having a really solid scouting team — we try to keep it very balanced, in terms of where our models come from globally.
Has the uptick in press surrounding models’ health put added pressure on you?
We’ve always been focused on our models’ well-being, not just now because it’s press-worthy. Next has always had a family atmosphere. If we see warning signs — like extreme weight loss or weight gain, which is usually a sign of something being off — we always speak to the talent. We teach them that, yes, it’s about living a healthy lifestyle, but one that is actually sustainable.