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What’s it like to manage male models for a living?

By Ross Semple

Male models are a handful, we have first and experience with that on photo shoots.

We sat down with David Todd, president and founder of DT Model Management in Los Angeles to talk about how he keeps his male models in check. David has 25 years in the industry, and let us know about how L.A  has become a fashion hub, how models are scouted, the changes he has seen with regards to body image, diversity and attitudes to LGBT publications and gay models.

The agency boasts the likes of Silvester Ruck, who starred in a DSquared2 campaign, supermodel Malaika Firth, as well as Nick Youngquest, Paris Hilton, Brooke Candy and Ireland Baldwin on the books.

This man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to male models.

How long have you been doing DT for now?

It’s going to be 5 years in June  that I’ve had my own (agency) I started when I was 19 at Wilhelmina where I worked for 10 years and then went to New Models over her in LA for almost another 10 years.  So I’m 41 and I’ve been doing this since I was 17 (I started as an intern) it’s been long time.

You must love it then?

I love it. I love working with young people, I love the creative aspect of it, dealing with the development, the photographers. Some of the photographers that I have known half my life started out as test photographers that are now major fashion photographers that I can pick up the phone and call and say ‘Hey I’ve got this great new guy or great new girl, can you meet them’ and it really helps elevate their career a lot faster if I can get them in front of a Doug Inglish or a Mariano Vivanco or someone of that level.

We love Doug! He’s shot a bit for Attitude, as Mariano!

Yeah he’s amazing! I was literally 18 when I met him, he was my first photographer friend. He’s so talented, but not only that, he’s stayed true to himself and he’s such a nice person and I find that endearing in this business. So many people change when they start being successful, but he is the same person.

How do you scout your models? As a lot of them aren’t from LA?

Well here at DT what we’re doing now is a lot of our own scouting, because we have a lot of models we bring in from Europe, but it’s become a bit more difficult with the Visas and you really have to be what’s called an ‘exceptional talent’ to bring in a model form Europe or Australia.  So someone like Malaika Firth who we represent that’s a huge supermodel, we can do her visa because she has done Vogue, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger campaigns, but if it’s someone new who doesn’t have a developed book and tear sheets you can’t bring the over, so we’re really doing a lot more street scouting-  The beach area is a really good place to scout surfers.

What kind of guys are here in LA?

It’s interesting because in the years that I have been doing this we have always been looking for  that classic looking boy, with a great smile, great body. But the business has changed now and clients want more editorial and diversity. They want someone tattoos, someone with a bit of scruff, someone that isn’t so muscular,  so we’ve changed our scouting to be much more open to taking guys that are more editorial looking.  They might not work here in LA so much but then we’ll route  them and send them to Milan, or Paris or London. It’s changed here too, so even if you look here in LA. Brands like Forever 21 are using guys who are more cool looking and not just all American stereotypes.

There’s a lot more diversity

There is definitely a lot more diversity with body type and ethnicity- just the look overall. It’s made it much more interesting because for a while it was cookie cutter, the models all looked the same, and I think it’s much better now. Our business is more open to diversity and change and all different types of model, especially in the LA marketplace.

LA seems to be changing and becoming more fashion forward?

I think the last few years have been really cool because we had Tom Ford showing here; Moschino too and they’re coming back this season, and it’s great that they’re booking the models from LA agencies. We’ve had Tommy Hilfiger and a lot of major designers are coming here and it’s opening it up to other big fashion houses making them look at us in a different way.

How come you think they’re picking here?

It’s just different now. We used to just be known as this commercial town, where people would just come here to do e-com. But now a lot of big models are coming from here now. Take it or leave it, say what you would say about them but Gigi and Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, but they’re are all from LA and they’re all top models. They’re on every campaign and they’ve got higher social media numbers than any other girls in the industry.

You can tell the difference now. More and more models are going to LA first over NYC

I think NYC is really competitive and there are so many amazing models there that have travelled all around the world and then come back to New York with a book full of tear sheets  to work during campaign season or fashion week. It takes a certain kind of guy to stay there and keep busy and work and make money. In LA, I’m not saying it’s easier but it’s a bit more relaxed, the environment, and  I think the models feel less pressured. The weather here is amazing and the people are a bit more chilled. I think models want to come here and be in the LA environment.

Have you noticed changes in attitudes to LGBT publications?

Well, I’ve been an agent for over 20 years now and when I first started,  it was very difficult to not only get models to shoot, but also if you had a top model or a celerity, there were a lot of no’s, and there wasn’t an explanation for it. There was a level of the models being uncomfortable doing it, and now it’s just really changed dramatically, where models are so interested in doing it because they know the level of the magazine now, and they also know the level of photographers that are shooting for gay magazines and I think different movie companies and  record companies are hiring press separately just for the LGBT community because they know that we buy records, we got to movies. I think it’s amazing and it’s changed so much.

A while ago we did a feature on out gay models and it was actually quite hard to get agencies to give us models. We ended up finding them on social media where it was more evident on their profile. It was a few years ago. Why do you think it’s harder to find out gay models?

There are definitely more open models now. It’s up to the individual model whether they want to disclose their sexuality or anything about their personal life, so we would never push them to give that information unless they wanted to. We have a few guys that have their Instagram with pictures of their boyfriends, and that’s their page, so as an agent I don’t control that. Separate from sexuality,  if I ever see anything on their page that’s offensive I bring it to their attention, as clients are looking, and we want to keep a level of professionalism and they are models so their profile and their image is important, but at the end of the day, their sexuality shouldn’t define who they are to the brands.

Brands are more open to using gay models now too. We have emails from clients where they are actually requesting gay models.. There are also models who aren’t gay but they’re portraying gay men in some photos in the shoots. And they are totally open to doing those shoots these days. I think it’s totally up to the model , and if they are not comfortable in their own skin yet, they may not come forward with it, on the same note, there are a lot of gay successful models too.

People can often say models are playing up to being gay when they’re not. It’s a difficult balance to get right.

What I have seen is a big change in straight models. When I first started, how uncomfortable some come be with people thinking they were gay, or being portrayed as  gay in a photo, or doing sexy things in a photoshoot and they were concerned the images would go online and now it’s changed so much that it’s the other way around! Some are almost like ‘what can I do to get these photos online’ and they’re so comfortable that they’re posting risqué photos on their Instagram. I’ve never seen it this out there.  They’re putting it all out there now, regardless of sexuality.

The boys usually end up having more followers than the girls, unless you’re a Kendall or a Gigi. If you look at a female model on the same level, they amass more followers. It must be improving for the boys?

Obviously we know male models love to get attention (laughs) and it’s just a way of  what picture  can I post that will get me more followers, or talk about me more. I think it’s smart. As long as you’re not doing it constantly and thinking ‘what am  I going to post now?’ It becomes very contrived and I think you can tell. They shouldn’t be concentrating on what gets them attention and what’s next, it should be natural like if you get a cool picture from Testino, or Bruce (Weber) and Vivanco. Post it, tag the photographer, stylist, the brand and from that it will grow naturally. When we look and see who’s following us (DT Models) on Instagram there are some really big designers, brands, stylists and photographers that are liking the photos, and then they email asking for digitals and more photos, so it really works

Follow @dtmodelmgmt and @iamdavidtodd for more images like this lovely one below: