Dede Akinmurele, a self-described indecisive Libra, left her hometown of Maryland to pursue her dream of being a model in New York City. But when all she heard was no’s from modeling agencies, she decided to stick it out in the big city and take a different path into the industry.
Name: Yetunde “Dede” Akinmurele
Location: Originally from Bowie, Maryland, currently living in Harlem, New York
Profession: Model Agent at APM Models, New York.
How did you get started? What were three of the key steps you took?
In 2012 my job at the time, TGI Fridays Time Square, was closing down to relocate. Working at Fridays wasn’t my dream job but the money was so addicting; I couldn’t seem to get out of it.
Step 1: Since I had already been there for five years, I saw [the restaurant closing] as my opportunity to run! I took it as my chance to leave the restaurant industry to pursue what I moved to New York for–modeling. So during the time that I was unemployed, I took that as my chance to research and push myself as a model. After a while I began to realized that maybe modeling was not for me because I wasn’t getting the response I was hoping for, and being a realist, I decided that I needed to move on from this dream and start working on plan B.
Step 2: Plan B was to still be in the industry working with models behind the scenes. I didn’t know how I would do it but I knew that that was my only and last option. So I began my job search. I revamped my resume and cover letter to focus on the fashion industry and began updating, posting, and submitting on every job posting site. I finally came across a posting on Craigslist that APM was looking for interns!
Step 3: I took a leap of faith. Knowing the internship was for three months and unpaid, I knew that if I took the job, it would be my best way in. For those three months, I lived off of my savings and unemployment, ha! But the internship was great. I was introduced to a variety of things that I would never expect to happen behind the scenes of a modeling agency. After about two months of being at the agency, the Director and President were interested in hiring me! BOOM! The rest is history ;).
What’s an average day like?
Honestly, there isn’t really an average day. Each day is unpredictable. Most days we are mainly focusing on promoting girls. Figuring out different ways to bring in money for each individual girl. We make calls to clients, create promotional pieces/packages, and even personally meet with clients to spread the word about APM and our models. Some days, we are negotiating back in forth with clients on jobs, campaigns, commercials, etc. hoping each confirmed job [big step in] the model’s career. Then there are busy days (during fashion week for instance) where we are chasing after girls to make sure they are at different places at the same time, literally!
Why do you do it?
I think it almost fills a void for me. I know how much I wanted to model and because I wasn’t able to do so myself, I still wanted to have my hands on it. I couldn’t see myself doing anything different. I only had a plan A and plan B, nothing more. So to see girls who are younger than me push for the same dream, knowing how hard this industry is, I’m happy to be the force behind them.
Because there are so many girls who come in from all across the world to model, there is PLENTY of competition.
Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job:
The “ups” of the job is of course confirming jobs. Sometimes its just the fulfillment of knowing that you just booked a girl on a big TV commercial and can turn on your TV and watch it over and over again, or knowing they will be walking during fashion week for one of the biggest designers, or even going online shopping and seeing the dress you want on the model you just booked. There’s satisfaction in knowing that I succeeded in all the promotion and negotiating I’ve have been working on for the past week or so.
One of the “downs” of the job is hearing or seeing the words, “you can release,” which means a client will not be booking a model on hold for a specific job. Because there are so many girls who come in from all across the world to model, there is PLENTY of competition. APM is considered a boutique agency compared to the big name agencies in New York. So we are not always at the top of the list when they want to book models, which means we have to fight so much more to get our name out and prove ourselves worthy, no matter the size of the agency.
Biggest challenge so far?
So far, I think my biggest challenge is myself. Because there are so many other agencies and models from all around the world, I have to be very aggressive. I have to continuously call, and email to make sure my girls are being seen and to make sure clients can trust my judgement, believing we have the right girl for their brand. I’ve never had to be so persistent before, having to figure out new ways to reach people and contact them individually to hopefully earn their trust. I’ve also never had to put my personal feelings aside and focus more on someone else and their career versus my own. My motto has always been communication and to speak what’s on my mind, respectfully of course. But I ca’nt always take that approach because I have to put on my “business” hat and do what’s right for my company and model. I’m learning that if I don’t put myself out there and take the extra steps needed, I will never get to the next level. I have to step out of my comfort zone and make that extra call or have those personal meetings to make myself known.
Even though I had a different plan for myself in the beginning, I didn’t let all the “No’s” I received crush me and end my journey in New York.
Your greatest achievement so far?
My greatest achievement so far is actually having a plan, sticking to it, and getting it done. I am normally a person who is very indecisive and can have some many ‘buts’ and ‘what ifs’ (I’m a Libra), but this time I took a chance. I jumped out on faith and moved from Maryland by myself with a plan in mind, knowing I couldn’t turn back. Even though I had a different plan for myself in the beginning, I didn’t let all the “no’s” I received crush me and end my journey in New York.
What is one thing an aspiring agent can do today to get started?
I recommend starting as an intern to see how the industry works. Of course every agency works in different ways, but I believe it’s not what most people imagine. Because you are managing people’s lives and careers, it’s not something you can just jump into without any type of experience. You must have persistence, great communication skills, and PATIENCE. I’m sure everyone feels like they already have those traits, but it’s a completely different ball game in the modeling industry. One you can only learn by experience.
What might be next for you?
As of now, I am still working on what’s next for me. Within these past four years of being at this agency, I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned that there is also so much more that I haven’t even scratched the surface of. This is only the beginning. Who knows, I may be the manager of the next big supermodel :-).
Let’s Talk Hair
What are your top 5 go-to hair tips?
- If all else fails, hair must NOT.
- Invest in a good flat iron and curling iron to prevent heat damage and breakage.
- Don’t just let anyone do you hair, be loyal to one person.
- Keep a comb or brush with you at all times, you never know what will happen.
- Hold on to your edges as long as possible, treat them well, oil them, massage them, say nice things to them :-).
Fun Fact About You: Back in my younger days, I used to be a 100% tomboy. From middle school all the way to my senior year in high school. I only had four colors I would wear–red, black, white and army green–and my outfits would consist of a baggy t-shirt with my favorite character, Marvin the Martian, skinny jeans and jordans. My hair was always slicked straight back with not one curl and no make up, just lip gloss! The only times I ever wore a skirt or dress is when I graduated, went to prom, or when I was cheering for a game. I was also a cheerleader, so contradictory. Once I got into college and started to be amongst hundreds of people, I realized I needed to get in touch with my feminine side. I ditched the baggy shirt and moved onto fitted shirts, half tops, dresses and shorts. I started to get my hair done all the time. Makeup started coming into play, and HEELS. Thank God for College!