by Melissa Buonanno
The world of child modeling and acting has earned a pretty bad reputation in recent years because of shows like Toddlers and Tiaras which show a completely unrealistic side of child modeling. Surprisingly child show biz is a booming industry despite the bad reputation; agencies around the world are overloaded with new wanna-be models and actors daily.
As with anything there are critics. Putting young children in front of the camera is often controversial and as the mom of three models and actors, I have met my share of critics. Proponents take issue with children working and having income, dealing with rejection and being placed in the oversexed world of fashion.
As moms we all know our kids are cute and more and more moms want to get their cute little ones in front of the camera. You have an adorable child who lights up the room and loves to smile; they have a great look and a ham personality. So why not get a few shots and send them off to an agency so they can see just how cute your gorgeous baby really is?
There is a lot of draw these days from cute baby contests that will put your child in contact with “real agents” to radio ads for scouts in your area. Those are where you need to be careful, when introducing your child to show business if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
People often ask how we got into the show biz and why we do it. We got into it quite accidentally – we were in the right place at the right time and the right person was there. This wasn’t something we planned – it just happened but we are not the norm. Most people don’t get a one in a million opportunity based on chance, it takes work.
So why do we do it? We want to give our kids the chance at something most will never have. We live in Los Angeles, the heart of the film industry and if they are lucky enough to have staying power, they will have a chance few ever will.
What my kids do isn’t like it is on Toddlers and Tiaras and beauty pageants. In today’s modeling world, kids don’t spend hours and hours in a chair getting their faces done and their hair curled. Yes some work obviously goes into it but for the most part child modeling has been about letting kids be kids and getting the good shots while they do it (in my experience).
In a recent shoot, my daughter Serendipity dressed up for a day at the park. The photographs were taken while she was naturally playing except she just happened to do it on camera. She had fun and got paid to do it.
With acting, there are lines to learn and a script to follow but the people who work with our children are experienced and good at what they do. They know how to get the children to work with them without any misery.
The kids really have to enjoy what they do to make it in the entertainment world and mine love it. I have seen kids who don’t and it’s sad. This is a very grown up world and one that children should never be forced into. I would never let my children do this if it wasn’t something they enjoyed or let it take away from their childhood.
One poor teen at an audition the other day was late for her high school graduation because the audition took longer than expected. Those are the situations where I do agree with the critics.
The reality is, it’s a tough industry; there are thousands of kids and with the struggling economy lower budget jobs and few of them available. Every time your child gets picked up it really is a one in a million chance.
I saw an interview with a casting director that described it well; you have one spot and 6,000 pictures out of those you weed it down to maybe 100 who will audition and only five will get call backs out of those, just ONE gets the spot. Getting a gig is a miracle and rejection happens – it isn’t something to dwell on and it isn’t personal.
Most people don’t break into entertainment by entering a contest and getting their friends to vote or visiting a seminar with “real agents”. If you want to introduce your child to the entertainment industry be it modeling, acting or both my best advice is to look local first. Find a reputable agency who doesn’t make you use their photographer and take their classes. You shouldn’t have to pay for anything from an agent which is where a lot of people are misled.
As parents in this business, the protection of our children falls on us. My husband and I make sure that the kids always have a parent on set and as they get older we will make sure that the value and ground rules we have for their safety remain intact.
Child entertainment is competitive and brutal, it isn’t for everyone but we enjoy it. If you make a go at it the most important thing is to do what’s right for you and your child, remain true to yourself and your values.
Melissa Buonanno is a wife, mom and business owner trying to navigate mommy-hood in Hollywood, busy with three kids in the entertainment industry and loving every minute of it. Melissa is well known in the Beverly Hills social circles and active in the community. She enjoys shopping, cooking and traveling and is a self confessed coffee enthusiast. To find out more about life if Beverly Hills, visit Melissa on Twitter.