Of course Donald Trump has a modelling agency – it is the most obvious thing in the world – but it looks as if he may not have it for much longer. Trump Models, according to the US magazine Mother Jones which obtained an email from its president, Corinne Nicolas, is about to close as the Trump organisation is “choosing to focus on [its] core businesses in real estate, golf and hospitality”.
It has been a troubled time for the New York-based agency bearing the Trump name, which is not exactly a byword for style, joy and beauty. Last week, it was noted that the agency might be “running out of models” as defections grew, not only of their model clients, but of their agency bookers, too.
The highest-profile resignation came from one of the agency’s better-known models, Maggie Rizer, who took to Instagram a few days before the election, to say: “As a woman, a mother, an American and a human being, I cannot wake up Wednesday morning being the least bit related to the Trump brand.” In February, it emerged that the fashion world had mounted an unofficial boycott of models from the agency, with casting directors being told not to hire them.
Before the election, Trump Models came under scrutiny for allegations its models had worked without visas, and for housing them in cramped apartments, sleeping several to a room while charging them high rents.
Trump founded the agency in 1999 (last year, Michael Gross, who has long been writing about Trump – and about the modelling industry – described him as “just another rich guy buying a date farm, perhaps for his friends, perhaps for himself”). Although Trump, who reportedly owns an 85% stake in the company, does not have much to do with the day-to-day running of the agency, he is thought to have been directly involved with organising contracts for some models.
The agency had ties with Trump’s Miss Universe business, which he owned between 1996 and 2015, but it also looked as if it had serious ambitions – Annie Veltri, a respected agent who represented some of the biggest supermodels of the 90s, came on board as president of the agency, which at that time was called T Management.
But Trump Models never became a heavyweight, despite its own claims that it had “risen to the top of the fashion market”, and despite signing some big names to its “legends” division of older, more established women, including Jerry Hall and Beverly Johnson. It currently represents Carmen Dell’Orefice, Yasmin Le Bon and Isabella Rossellini. For a while, it represented Melania Knauss, Trump’s then girlfriend whom he later married.
The influential fashion casting director James Scully described it as an “inconsequential agency” to the authors of the 2016 book Trump Revealed. So there won’t be many people in the fashion industry mourning the loss of Trump Models. But spare a thought, though, for the shattered dreams of the model enthusiast who founded it.