Last summer a model scout hosted 12 young aspiring models in her Orleans home for a masterclass or boot camp for models. The girls’ experience in the camp is now an addictive 10-part docuseries on Snapchat.
“You’re coming in as my little chickadee babies and you’re going to leave as skilled models that can rule that runway,” scout Erin Scimeca tells the models in the first episode of “Camp Runway” produced by NBCUniversal and E! Entertainment. The docuseries launched on Nov. 1 with one new episode released daily. Each episode is five to six minutes long. The series follows just six of the 12 girls. Creating suspense and tension is the prize: One of the girls will win a modeling contract with a New York agency.
Remember those old stories about actresses of Hollywood’s golden age being discovered at soda fountains?
During her 24 years in the modeling industry Scimeca really has discovered models in improbable places like malls and crafts fairs. She discovered actress Krysten Ritter, star of “Jessica Jones,” in a mall in Pennsylvania. The then-unknown Ritter was wearing overalls and a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt when Scimeca first spotted her.
Scimeca talked about Camp Runway and her career in the modeling industry recently over breakfast at Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans.
After many years of working in New York City agencies, Scimeca, her husband and her step-daughters moved to the Cape full-time last March. Here, Scimeca has opened her own agency, Signed Management.
Last July, the 12 girls ranging in age from 13 to 21, descended on Scimeca’s house. Two were from the Cape—Jillian Gilmore, 13, was from Brewster and Emma Scales, 21, was from Centerville.
What does Scimeca look for in a potential model? “It’s something you either have or you don’t,” she says. She looks at body proportions, facial features such as the distance between eyes, and cheekbones. “I don’t care about hair and teeth—they can be fixed,” she says. She also looks at how a girl comports herself. Does she have confidence?
When she sees a girl who she thinks might be a potential model she generally approaches the girl’s parent first and introduces herself. She offers her card, and suggests the family Google her. It they’re interested, they call her.
At Scimeca’s house the TV production people set up luxurious tents so that the group was really “glamping”— glamorous camping. Scimeca’s stepdaughter Emily, who won a national award in photography when she was 15, acted as one of the three photographers. A friend catered the camp which was intended to last for four days but lasted for eight due to the filming.
What do models live on—lettuce and water? No. In fact, the caterer “could not believe how much they ate,” Scimeca says, adding that these particular girls had “the luck of metabolism.” They enjoyed burritos and tacos with shrimp and steak, seafood, pasta.
Scimeca would wake up the girls each day with “an annoying buzzer, like at camp.” After breakfast, each day was different. One day was devoted to photoshoots. Another day was devoted to runway lessons on Nauset Beach where the aspiring models walked a makeshift runway in bikinis and high heels in front of beachgoers.
The final day was devoted to runway shots at the windmill in Orleans. For this, the models wore designer clothes from New York City and were professionally made up by a makeup artist from Boston. Their families served as the audience, and the winner of the contract with Industry Model Management was announced.
“My job as a mother agent is to place these girls,” Scimeca says.
But more than modeling tips, Scimeca offered life lessons during the camp. For example, 90 percent of the business is rejection, she says. “Just because you get turned down and your buddy gets it” does not mean you should take the rejection personally. It may be that the agency was looking for a blond rather than a brunette.
“I know the dos and don’ts,” Scimeca says. Because she used to hire models for a big New York agency, “I’m able to give them a little more education than other mother agents would.” For example, you have to “look good to book good.” She points out that a fashion designer trying to sell a $5,000 outfit wants the model to “feel good or no one will buy it.”
You may be thinking that the camp was a kind of reality show, complete with girls vying for one modeling contract in an atmosphere of high drama. But it wasn’t like that, Scimeca says. “They really form a bond and become a family,” she says. This is not to say that the edited Snapchat series lacks drama. At one point one of the girls appears to be boasting about her own mother who was a model. Another of the girls is shown rolling her eyes.
Scimeca says she plans to offer her master class camp again next summer. “It’s an important part of this business to teach,” she says.
“Camp Runway” can be viewed on the Snapchat app.