Donald Trump’s presidency has not been good for one of his favorite companies. The president’s modeling agency has lost models and senior executives in recent months amid a growing backlash against its toxic policies. And Trump Model Management’s problems seem to be getting worse. In interviews with Mother Jonesthree industry insiders have said they believe the agency may be forced to close.
The sources – two model bookers who worked with Trump Models and another person with close ties to the agency – attributed the company’s sudden downfall to the controversial president himself. The once glamorous Trump brand, they said, now appears to be tainted.
“Yeah, it’s closing,” said Virginie Deren, model booker at the largest Parisian firm Premium, which co-represents a handful of models with Trump Model Management. Deren said she got this information from a Trump booker. “It’s surprising that it has come to this,” she added. “It’s hard.”
Trump executives did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the story, but agency employees said this week that business is continuing as normal.
“We met a lot of [Trump Models staff] who have expressed dismay that this is happening, and their only goal is to find a new location,” said an agent from another company.
Deren said she doesn’t know the specific timing of the potential shutdown or what might happen next to the agency’s models. “So far they haven’t really told us anything,” she said. “Of course, it will take time.
“It’s definitely happening,” said a second modeling agent who has also worked with Trump models when asked about the potential closure. This source added that Trump staffers approached the source’s own company looking for work. “They’re all scrambling to get out,” said the source, who spoke anonymously to protect the company where the source works. “We have met several who have expressed dismay at what is happening, and their only goal is to find a new location.”
A third source – who has close ties to Trump Models – agreed that the situation at the agency was dire and that the shutdown was a real possibility. This source requested anonymity to protect against the possibility of future legal action by the agency.
Corinne Nicolas, president of Trump Model Management, did not respond to questions from Mother Jones. Ronald Lieberman, vice president of the Trump Organization who has previously answered questions from the press about Trump models, also did not respond to questions about the state of the modeling business. No one answered multiple calls to the company’s main phone line on Wednesday.
Asked about claims that the agency could close soon, Michael Wildes, a New York lawyer who has worked extensively with the agency, as well as with Melania Trump, said Mother Jones“I have been aware of the conversations, but I am not authorized to share anything.”
Still, Trump Models employees say their work is continuing as normal. Reached on her mobile phone on Tuesday, Hélène Marengo, who works in the agency’s accounting department, said she was not aware of any plans to close her business. “I’m still working. I’m in my office right now, working as usual,” she said. “I have no knowledge of anything going on. For now, it’s business as usual. »
A woman who answered the door to the firm’s Manhattan office on Wednesday said “of course” the agency remains open to new business.
Last summer, Mother Jones interviewed several foreign-born models who claimed to have worked illegally in the United States with Trump’s agency – a particularly stark report in light of Trump’s hawkish stance on illegal immigration. Four former Trump models have told Mother Jones they worked for the agency without a work visa; one said she had worked for the agency for four years without a visa. Records from a lawsuit filed against Trump Model Management by a fifth former model, Alexia Palmer, said she, too, worked for the company without work authorization. (The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.)
Deren, the Paris booker, said agencies had recently suffered from a general downturn in the modeling industry in Paris and New York. But, she added, Trump Model Management’s problems have more to do with “the political situation”, i.e. with Trump.
Since Trump’s campaign, models and their bookers have become increasingly uncomfortable working with the president’s agency, said Brandon Hall, creative director of Toronto-based agency Sutherland Models. He has co-represented about 10 models with the Trump agency over the years and said he currently has about four or five models in common with the company. (Successful models usually have multiple agents representing them in different markets around the world to book local gigs.) “I would probably be a little reluctant” to work with Trump’s agency, Hall said, adding that the models themselves might be even more reluctant to sign with Trump.
A model that Hall represented recently didn’t want to meet with Trump’s agents in New York, he said. “That’s sort of what happened because of the election and what resulted from it,” he said, attempting to explain Trump’s apparent dislike of the agency in the modeling world. “I’m sure he won in some ways and suffered in others. And I think in the entertainment industry and the fashion industry, [among] actresses, models, it is not very popular.
“As a wife, mother, American, and human being, I cannot wake up Wednesday morning connected in the least to the Trump brand,” model Maggie Rizer wrote.
According to his latest financial information, Trump owns an 85% stake in the agency. He earned nearly $2 million in commissions from it in 2015. But since the election, the modeling company he founded in 1999 has suffered from a series of staff defections, including the longtime agent of Trump, Duane Gazi-White, who traveled the world in search of new modeling talent. at Miss Teen USA pageants and contests. He recently went to work for Trump competitor New York Models as director of new faces and development. (Gazi-White did not respond to requests for comment.)
Another Trump agent, Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rocha, recently left Trump Models to start a new modeling company called Anti Management, which launched last month. “I didn’t start an agency with the intention of removing someone from the business,” Santos-Rocha told the Washington Post this week. “Other than that, I have no comments.” (Rocha would not comment on this story.)
Rocha said Refinery29, the fashion news site, that Trump models had trouble staying in the business because of Trump’s brand. “The people who struggled the most were the models; they would come on set and people would say, ‘Oohyou are from trump [Models]? How dare you’ or ‘Why are you still with them?’ Rocha said, according to the article. “They were constantly harassed by employees on set, including other models.” Refinery29 first reported that a possible boycott among industry stylists and photographers was being discussed in early February.
Then there are the models. Katie Moore, a star of New York Fashion Week in February 2016 and rising talent in the modeling world, is preparing to leave Trump’s firm in search of new representation, according to Tabitha Garcia, her Texas-based agent. Garcia said Mother Jones that too many Trump agents were leaving the agency for Moore to pursue his career there – the situation had become untenable. “Most of Katie’s agents have moved on to other agencies and we are exploring those options for her at this time,” Garcia wrote in an email. “An agent really sets the pattern… That’s why it’s sad that this is happening.”
“I will be flying to New York next week to meet with agencies with Katie to pursue her career at another agency,” Garcia added. “Trump’s staff have been nothing but kind and amazing throughout our journey and I’m sad we had to make this difficult decision.”
Katie Moore’s Texas-based agent has confirmed the star Trump model is seeking new representation.
Other top Trump models have also fled the agency. Shirley Mallmann has signed with Anti. Veteran model Maggie Rizer blamed Trump’s politics when she left the company on the eve of the November election. “As a wife, mother, American, and human being, I cannot wake up Wednesday morning connected in the least to the Trump brand,” Rizer wrote on Instagram.
Trump Model Management may be only a small part of the president’s business empire, but it was particularly close to his heart. It increased his brand as a playboy, and he enjoyed cross-pollinating his other businesses with Trump role models. He has personally signed talent straight from his Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. And Trump Models appeared on his reality show, The apprentice. Melania Trump was formerly represented by the agency.
At the agency’s 1998 launch party, Trump made a promise about the company, as described by New York magazine. Flanked by his business partner and model Daniela Pestova, Trump rose to offer a toast. “To the richest agency,” he said. Now, this agency could become the first piece of his business empire to fall victim to his polarizing presidency.