Contra is a new Los Angeles casting agency focused on confronting industry beauty standards and showcasing unique faces. We've asked the agency founders Marissa Baklayan and Nicholas Morillo for their thoughts on a fast and dramatically changing industry.
What compelled you to start a casting agency?
Nicholas and I were frustrated with the lack of inclusion and diversity in the LA modeling scene. The same skinny girls book everything, and we saw a need to disrupt that.
What do you look for in a model when casting, and where do you find them?
We really like unique and diverse people who are also creatives and artists themselves. We scout a lot on Instagram but also in person around Hollywood and Pasadena.
How do you see LA evolving as a style destination?
LA is becoming more editorial and more street by the minute. It's slowly moving away from profit-based commercial branding and big LA companies are starting to realize that they need to move past their out-dated and, quite frankly, racist standards for models. Independent fashion brands are starting to come to LA from New York and Europe and helping to shape the modeling industry to be more interesting, diverse, and inclusive as well.
Not that long ago a model was generally defined not just by their look but by the technicalities of their heights, measurements, etc. Why do you think this changed so suddenly?
I think that the average consumer is tired of being told to look up to people of a certain measurement or size. Peoiple want to see themselves represented in fashion and a lot of big movements, like the body-positive movement, are helping to spread the idea that all bodies are beautiful. We want people to feel empowered by a model's presence in our agency.
What's one thing that you think any aspiring model should do before making the first step? Ours would be: Take a dance class to learn how to move and engage your body's full range of motion.
A dance class is a great idea! I think that models need to make sure that they are confident and comfortable in their own skin as well, and we want to foster this as agents. No matter how much we support our models, people in this industry are harsh and mean. We need to build up our models and make sure they are ready to stand proud even when being told "no."
How can aspiring models submit themselves for your consideration?
They can submit via our website, www.contracasting.com
Images courtesy of Contra Agency.