Like every mother, I think my baby girl is beautiful. But I’ve never considered baby modeling until a friend forwards me an email; Pampers are looking for a brunette mother and newborn baby of Caucasian persuasion. Tick, tick and tick. I am suddenly intrigued.
I email over a quick note plus some photos to the agent and am invited to a casting at a studio in Chelsea the very next day. Delphine is just 12-weeks-old so I’m still pretty neighborhood-bound. But baby stardom beckons so we Ergo-up and catch the subway from Park Slope to the city.
In the waiting room there are a dozen other brunette mothers with their babes in tow. They all look pensive in a just-about-to-have-a-job-interview type of way. But I probably do too; any wait with a newborn feels like an age so I fret that Delphine’s window of delightfulness (normally a tight 30 minute time slot before a feed) might pass.
I’m asked to strip Delphi down to her diaper and hold her in various positions in front of a white screen as the photographer snaps away. Then I’m asked to – cringe! – pose solo. Of the two of us, it’s Delphine who acts like a pro, I far outdo her in awkwardness. The whole thing takes under five minutes and we are sent on our way without any hint of how it’s gone or what might happen next.
After a few days of waiting: success! An email arrives requesting us for a second casting. Same place, same process, only the wait was even longer and this time they shot some video.
I was sure a casting in New York would go some top model who’d just given birth to her photogenic offspring but to my amazement we are booked for a two-day shoot the following week. Delphine will get $100 each day, and I’ll scoop $250 for the second day. Ahhhaa! That was why the supermodel moms were notably absent from the line-up; for them $450 is definitely not worth getting out of bed for, for me and Delphi – well that’s well over 4000 diapers, or in Dephi’s case a nice kickstart to her first bank account.
Monday’s shoot is horrifyingly early; 7:30am which means getting up and leaving our toasty apartment in the December chills by 6:30am. Ouch. But when we arrive at the West Village studios we are welcomed with big smiles and warm hellos. A quick glance over my shoulder confirms they were actually talking to us. It seemed now we were ‘talent’ we get the VIP treatment.
I’m introduced to Sally, the baby wrangler, Laura, the on-set nurse and most importantly the free-for-all breakfast buffet that runs along the corridor. We cozy-up in the baby room where I down coffee and 20 minutes later Delphine is dressed in a perfectly shaped – thanks to having been artfully stretched around a small balloon – Pampers diaper and taken onto the nursery set.
The time limit for shooting babies is just 20 minutes and Sally makes sure this is timed to precision. She insists on a break midway through for me to feed Delphine, explaining that babies get quickly dehydrated, not because of the studio lights but because being surrounded by so many new faces is more exhausting. I try to channel Gisele nonchalantly feeding her babe on-shoot but fail, and just hide away for some privacy. By 8:45am we were on our way home – these are hours I could get used to!
Despite a 10:45am call time, day two’s shoot is not as fun, partly because this time it involves me. And there is a more of a conveyor belt feel to proceedings (the photographer Gus who was oh-so engaged and attentive to Delphi on Day one, keeps referring to her as a boy.) I realize our experience had been so good because we were the very first of the first day. Most upsetting of all, the breakfast buffet is semi-derelict and they’ve run out of pain au chocolat.
We receive checks through the mail for the shoot shortly afterwards but have yet to hear about the campaign, should she be picked, Delphine will get another $1000.
Would I do it again? I’m not entirely sure. While it was wildly flattering that Delphine was picked for the shoot and I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about children being judged on their looks. I was certainly glad she was too young to fully comprehend what was going on. We were very well looked after and at no point did she get distressed. If she had, we’d have been out of there in a flash. It was a four day commitment which is a lot for a young baby. Never say never, but I think I’ll look back on this as a unique experience. And my daughter will forevermore be able to say she modeled in New York.
Some do’s and don’ts:
Don’t expect baby modeling to be a big money-maker. The pay isn’t as much as you might think and you have to be available as and when, so if that means taking off work many times it may not be worth it.
Don’t expect to get the star treatment. Yes, you get treated a bit better once you’re booked but the castings are not glamorous.
Do leave at any point if you think you’ve been waiting too long or you’re not happy with how you’re being treated. It’s not worth it if your baby’s not happy.
Do take another relative with you to help with an extra pair of hands. Having my mum there was a lifesaver.
Do expect your baby to pay tax on their earnings.
Do give yourself plenty of time to get to where you need to be but also be prepared for a bit of a wait. Take some toys and distractions.
Do have a bottle or a boob ready to go.
Don’t forget your permit. New York law stipulates your child must have a work permit and that you prove they’ll receive 15% of what they earn. The temporary 15-day work permit is easily obtained by filling in this online form. This is a one time deal, if you want another permit you’ll have to jump through a few more hoops, including a check up with a doctor to give the okay.
Do keep an eye on the clock: 20 mins is the max a baby can work a day.
Sara Morgan-Beckett is a Brit journalist living in Brooklyn. Find more of her work in Grazia Magazine and follow her on Twitter @smorgsb. All images: Sara Morgan-Beckett