Mary Clarke, Founder, Mother Model Management
She calls Ashton Kutcher and Karlie Kloss friends-and spends much of her year on a Fashion Week world tour of NYC, Paris, Milan, and beyond. Such is the reality of STL-based international model manager/scout, Mary Clarke, who founded a highly successful biz with her husband, Jeff, in the unlikely Midwest. Call it a Heartland pipe dreams come true.
Mary Clarke, 50
Founder, Mother Model Management
How She Got Into the Biz. It began as a hobby back in Iowa—doing local fashion and hair shows—and eventually working at a local agency. From there, I began my own business and eventually held scouting events in Iowa, where agents flew in from around the world. We quickly became known for having an eye, which is an invaluable commodity in the fashion world.
Education/Training. I’m self-taught, a good listener, constant observer, lifelong learner, avid reader and bold dreamer.
Best Work Day Ever. I was just about to throw in the towel in February 1997, realizing the absurdity of what I was attempting to do and where I was doing it. By that July, I was in NYC with my new find, Chris “Ashton” Kutcher. I was bombarded with agents wanting to represent him, and we attended the Calvin Klein show. He was wearing what we affectionately called “Salvation Armani” (the entire look was under $25), and I was in a black department store dress and Payless shoes. We kept glancing at each other in disbelief of where we were and how two against-the-odds dreamers from Iowa ended up in that room.
Why Her Job Rocks. We make a living walking out into the world every day expecting to discover a star; we go up to strangers and open a new world to them, and ultimately, we help people make their dreams come true. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Typical Day. Every day is an adventure. During show season, we travel with the models and go to castings, fittings and shows. During the off-season, we scout at music festivals, fairs, concerts, malls, camps, sporting events, dance competitions and campuses, searching for a needle in a haystack, a diamond in the rough.
Proudest Moment. Every “first” we get to experience: the first time we saw Ashton Kutcher on TV and on the big screen; Karlie Kloss’ first Calvin Klein exclusive; her first walk in the Victoria’s Secret show; Ryan Mertz’ first Calvin Klein exclusive; Katie Fogarty’s first Prada exclusive; Lindsay Lullman’s first fashion week; every model’s first show, first editorial, first campaign, first cover…the joy we feel celebrating with them is immeasurable.
Goals for the Future. Helping our models achieve beyond their dreams, a bigger platform and voice for Mother, an annual benefit fashion show in St. Louis, a New York Times bestseller (or two), speaking and scouting tours where we can inspire young women and change their understanding of true beauty, and a highly regarded TV docu-series. (List to be continued…)
Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino