By Sarah Dion-Marquis
Photography by James Park
Photos of models courtesy of Angie Sakla-Seymour
Inside Ottawa’s largest modelling agency
Every five minutes, aspiring models show up at the door of Angie’s Models & Talent International on Clarence Street in Ottawa’s Byward Market. That’s why the owner of the agency, Angie Sakla-Seymour, put a huge sign on the door that specifies that she only meets with new talents during open calls. However, that doesn’t stop wannabe models from trying to sneak in.
During open calls, as many as 300 people line up in the agency, all the way down to the American embassy on Sussex Drive. But the line moves really fast. An experienced agent can spot a true talent quite quickly. All the aspiring models have to do is state their name and age, and do a quick walk around the room. After that, Sakla-Seymour thanks everybody for trying out, and doesn’t hesitate to tell some of them they don’t have the assets to model professionally.
“Some leave crying sometimes,” she says.
She adds that young people tend to think everybody has the potential to be a model.
“They come in with a lot of make-up, their hair all done up, and they are only 5’4”,” she says.
Sometimes when she turns somebody down, the aspiring models reply that their friend told them they could do it.
The reality, according to Sakla-Seymour, is that many people don’t understand that friends and modelling agents assess potential talents differently. At her last open call at the beginning of July, Sakla-Seymour picked 10 models out of 300. That’s almost a record. She usually picks one or two.
A Modest Beginning
When she was working for an unemployment agency in Cornwall, Ont., Sakla-Seymour started a modelling business on the side.
One day, she made a discovery – Courtney Miller, a talented girl who ended up on the cover of Canadian Bride magazine and travelled to Paris, Milan, Miami and South Africa.
Then, she discovered Ryan Gosling at a dance academy the one and only Ryan Gosling who had the first role in the 2004 movie The Notebook and helped him get established as an actor.
“After that, everybody knew about me,” Skala-Seymour remembers.
That’s when her hobby of helping young artists make their place in the show business became more than a full-time job: it was now a family affair.
Her husband, Lou Seymour, is in charge of the acting branch of the agency. Her photographer daughter, Helena Alexis, often takes pictures of the model to build up their portfolio, and her basketball-obsessed son Dimitrios has modeled for his Mom in the past.
Twenty-one years after her first discovery, Sakla-Seymour now owns a full agency of about 100 models.
Her latest discovery is Herieth Paul, who is on the cover of the July edition of Elle Canada. The 16-year-old has already booked major campaigns, such as CK1, Diesel, Vogue Italia, was recently shot for American Vogue, and had a stellar show season at New York Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week.
One day, Herieth showed up very early at the door of Angie’s Models for an open call.
Sakla-Seymour remembers she told Harieth “to come back in three hours.” As she closed the door behind the 5’11” Tanzanian beauty, she thought “what did I do?”
Fortunately, Harieth came back on time and was hired instantly.
At the time, the young teenager wanted to act. “I said, ‘What?'” remembers Sakla-Seymour, who convinced her that she should model first, and act after.
A year passed before Herieth caught the eyes of an international blogger. “All of a sudden, tons of people got interested in this girl,” says Sakla-Seymour.
A similar fairy tale happened to another of Angie’s models: the 17-year-old Mallory Richards, who was featured in Glamour, Vanity Fair, and took part in the New York Fashion Week.
Because she is only based in the National Capital, Sakla-Seymour signs up some of her models to bigger markets, such as Milan, Paris, New York and London. She has girls all over Europe, and she recently signed a three-month contract for a 13-year-old in Japan.
Even though her models leave Ottawa to model overseas, they remain with her agency.
Sakla-Seymour has been a player in the fashion industry for over 20 years. She still has the same passion and drive to find the next supermodel. That’s why recently, when she found that incredible 12-year-old face at Starbucks, she did not hesitate to talk to her mother.
“The younger, the better. They learn and grow, and she’s going to become our next international superstar!”