Having a Positive Influence
by Marilyn R. Wilson
Photo by Fred Fraser - www.fredfraser.com
A single step can set the course for the rest of your life. For Richard Hawley that step was onto a runway at the age of 17. What followed is a long career that has taken him around the world and landed him squarely in Vancouver as owner of one of the top local agencies - Richard's International Model Management. Each day holds new challenges and you will find Hawley working in the centre of the storm.
It was a family friend that introduced Hawley to modeling. She needed 12 men for a fashion show put on by the New Zealand Wool Board. It had an elaborate runway with several levels and incredible clothing. There was one camel hair suit in particular with a multi-peacock coloured lining. Some 17-year-olds might have balked, but when Hawley wore it on the runway he felt like a cross between Ricky Nelson and Elvis. In 1969 he immigrated to Canada and landed a job at the Hudson Bay Company in Edmonton. When an ad was being shot they would call him from his regular position to fill in as a model. His career took off with a move to Vancouver in the early 70's. A model in the 70's could make a living working just in Vancouver. They would go from The Bay, to Eatons, to Woodwards. "I did all the shows in town because there were only 1-1/2 guys modeling in Vancouver at the time." Europe also beckoned. He remembers arriving in Hamburg and being swept out of the agency into a limo by "the Marlena Dietrich of Hamburg," returning home at 4 a.m. to sleep on her floor. He managed to make it to his job at 9 a.m to only find they were using him just as a hand model. The thrill of travelling began to wane and he returned to Vancouver to head a new direction.
Hawley first worked as a booking agent for another agency. After a few years he felt the need to open an agency that better reflected his own ideals and in 1982, with longtime partner Gerry Brown, Richard's became a reality. One of the models built the business a circular desk. They drilled a hole in the middle and everyone sat around it with all the chords coming up through the opening. Several star models made the move over and the agency quickly added new talent to their roster. The business has changed immensely since those early years. Hawley remembers, "We used to put out a head sheet once a year of all the models we represented. We would then hustle to all the ad agencies with the head sheets and take creative directors out for lunch and schmooze. Now it is all done on the computer. A lot of the people you're dealing with on a daily basis you've actually never meet." Work can also be done from anywhere in the world with the aid of email and cell phone. What has not changed is the nature of the job. With models working in many different time zones, you have to be available 24/7 to deal with problems as they arise. "It's not 9 to 5 and I wouldn't want it if it was...The most exciting thing that brings me to the agency every day is that this business is never boring."
Important to every modeling agency is finding new talent. At Richard's that involves both "Wannabee Wednesdays" and on-line submissions. Over the years Hawley has developed a sixth sense about those he interviews. There are the industry requirements to fulfil, but what an agent has to learn to sense is the "X Factor". It can't be explained, but it is the mark of a potential super star. Occasionally a star walks in the door, but most models need time to develop their talent. For those rare few that are signed, the agent acts as booker, psychologist, friend, parent and confidante.
Hawley continues to look forward to heading into the agency each day. "The thing that I love most about my job, and the modeling industry, is being able to have a positive influence on the lives of the models and to watch them develop and grow into confident, productive human beings." Weekends find him indulging his other love, gardening, at a 1915 beach cottage in Point Roberts. The plants have come with him from penthouse gardens and other residences to find their final resting place here. Hawley's closing thought on modeling as a profession is said with his trademark honesty, "The modeling industry can be great for a few select people. They get to see the world, and they make very good money, because they're meant for the business."
For more information, submissions and bookings please visit the agency website at www.richardsmodels.com.