``Every child is cute. Every child is beautiful,'' says Mary Pat Sperry, head of Rascals Unlimited, a child modeling agency in Manhattan. But not every child can be a model. Being a model, and being a model's mother requires a specific combination of qualities, she explains. The child must be lively and animated, yet patient and able to take direction; spirited, yet able to take the rejection that will inevitably come up as modeling jobs are sought.
The mother must be willing to do a tremendous amount of driving and waiting, and be ready to drop everything to take her child out on a call, yet must not pressure the child, or interfere in any way - unless the welfare of the child calls for it.
Gail Lilly says she has never had an unpleasant experience as the mother of two models. She suggests finding an agency ``you're comfortable with.''
Ms. Sperry warns parents about organizations that offer to create a portfolio of pictures of their child and send them to agencies. ``I've seen $1000 portfolios for a 3- to 4-month-old baby.''
You can do the same job yourself for practically nothing, she says. Rascals Unlimited, for example, simply requests that parents send in a clear, in-focus, recent snapshot.
Agencies are listed in a small monthly publication called the Ross Reports Television (at theatrical bookstores, or send $3.96 to Television Index, Inc., 40-29 27th St., Long Island City, NY 11101).
Ms. Sperry also recommends working with an agency that is part of the Screen Actors Guild - necessary for TV commercials. ``If I'm late sending TV checks - I have 5 days - I'm fined,'' she says. ``It's a way [for a parent to] protect yourself.''
Chances of getting work are better if you live in an area where there is a lot of television work, such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Dallas, and Houston. Parents have been known to move to New York to further a child's career, but that is a very unusual case. Perry also recommends having a child do some modeling for free, for a local store perhaps, to see if the child likes it.
And she does not recommend hiring a manager, which means an additional commission, unless your child's specialty is a specific talent - breakdancing or singing, for instance.