Roman Young has such a wandering eye, "my friends always have me face the wall whenever we go out to eat," he said. "Anywhere I can see people, I’m good."
That’s not a bad thing in his line of work.
Young, the Hawaii-born director of scouting for modeling agency Wilhelmina’s New York office, was in town over the weekend to help launch the opening of the Hawaii affiliate office run by Ryan Brown, who also owns the ADR agency. Along with Wilhelmina’s director of licensing, Tara Intoci, and director of models, Luc Brinker, both from Los Angeles, Young looked at hundreds of model hopefuls for the handful who might be the next Gisele Bundchen or Agyness Deyn or, maybe, the next Keke Lindgard, a Kaaawa teenager whom Young discovered at a model search in Los Angeles.
"Nobody in Hawaii knows her, but she’s in the new D&G Spring 2011 campaign. She just confirmed with Gucci," Young said. That is in addition to her Spring/Summer 2010 campaign for Gucci Eyewear.
Since signing with Wilhelmina in 2009, Lindgard has become a favorite on runways for Vuitton, Dior and Lanvin, with casting directors falling in love with her sun-kissed, all-American look.
Young, an ‘Iolani graduate, has been circling the globe looking for all kinds of faces for 15 years. It’s important to go out into the field, he said, because typically, the kind of people who want to be models are not always the best candidates.
Basically, the best models have a life.
"They have to have something more than a pretty face. A lot of the best models surf, dance or have other things going on that make them interesting," Young said. "Looks will get you in the door, but it’s your personality that will keep you there because when you’re on a photo shoot, you’re with those people for up to 10 hours, so you’d better be interesting. The people who are doing your hair, makeup, photography are in their 30s and 40s, and they want someone they can talk with."
Out of the more than 1,400 hopefuls who showed up at Wilhelmina’s casting call at Windward Mall on Saturday, Young saw "six or seven real prospects," he said. "For such a small market, that’s a good number."
There is interest in about five to six more each for Asia and Los Angeles markets, and Brown said he will likely follow up with 60 to 70 more, whether for Wilhelmina or ADR.
YOUNG BECAME interested in agency work through a model friend, Jamie Kealoha. He enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and sought an internship at the Elite agency run by John Casablancas, at the time one of the top in the business, with a client roster that included Bundchen and Heidi Klum. His internship was unpaid, but he made it work by taking on three jobs. Based on the success of his finds, he was offered a full-time job after a year at Elite.
Although he learned a lot at the agency, he worked briefly at the Kathy Muller Modeling & Talent Agency while in Honolulu and said growing up here helped train him to look at faces.
"We’re so much more attuned to ethnic blending, spotting a face and being able to figure out what the mix is."
His eye for mixed-race and ethnic beauty coincided with the rise of the Brazilians in New York, and as China becomes more dominant in global fashion and culture, Young said, that will also change beauty ideals, possibly in Hawaii models’ favor, as "people from Hawaii have read more Asian to the Western world."
He will continue to scour shopping malls, movie theaters and clubs looking for faces, "anywhere young people hang out," and it’s clear he loves his job.
"I get to travel as much as the models, except nobody’s taking my picture and I don’t have to stay thin."
Wilhelmina Hawaii is at 45-1123 Kamehameha Highway, Suite D. Call 447-9434.