I've know Janelle for a few years now. First time I interacted with her was a house party... God I miss those! Damn pandemic!
Anyway, we didn't really chop it up. But then we joined a group called the Social Bandits and in that group, I came to find out that she had her own modeling agency. And since I found that out... She has become my go to person when needing a model for a book cover or for a movie.
But her work ethic and serious attitude is the reason why her business is still going strong.
During this interview, you will see sides of her that she does not reveal too often, so it will definitely be a treat.
And for those who want to get in the fashion industry... Please read! There's gems in there from someone who knows the game as a model and as a boss!
We're gonna start the beginning. So how would you describe your upbringing?
Middle class trick Christian home. Living a little, dabbling in three different worlds, I would say. I had my, you could say, school life, then your church life, then also having, you know, the basement party life (laughter). So yeah, that was a pretty well rounded, kind of strict family upbringing.
What were your aspirations growing up?
I think I was kind of open. And then acting was one avenue that I kind of was pursuing. Didn't really have a mind frame of like, being specific in some sort of field. And then eventually, after I got into modeling, I kind of realized, like, this is what I would want to do. Not as a model, but as an agent. I kind of enjoyed watching how the bookers and my agent at the time would kind of... How they would interact with each other. And so that kind of was fascinating for me.
So you brought up modeling. How did that begin?
So I have a brother, and I would.... We’re very close in age. So we're only a year and a couple of months apart. So everything he did, I would have to go and do because it's like, take your sister with you. So I was pretty much doing a lot of sports and doing a lot of things that was kind of, I guess, you can say, shielding me in terms of like not doing girls stuff at that time. Um, so eventually, there was one teacher who just kept hounding my mom. And just hounding me and cornered me in school and stuff like that and be like, you should model you're really tall. And at that time I was in grade six. So eventually, I would come home telling my mom that this teacher just kept stopping me and telling me and then eventually, she signed me up with modeling. And I started at 13. So that's how that started. To get me out of being shy. And actually just try to, you know, the whole walking a runway and doing fashion shows and malls and stuff. That kind of would get me out of my shell. So that's how that started.
So before that you were considered to be a shy kid?
Oh, I was super shy. If I didn't know you, I was mute. If you were a friend of mines, where obviously we walk home together, or like, I'm at church, and I sit beside you, then, you know, I'd be like, very goofy and loud and talk, but if I didn't know who you are, I would be super shy.
All right. All right. So it seems, while I look at the Cynthia Baileys or even Naomi Campbells of the world, it seems to be the natural progression to go from modeling to having a modeling agency. How were those beginning support?
Um, a lot of times, yes, you can say that some models do end up becoming agents. A lot of models don't really like that avenue. It's a lot of... I don't want to use the term babysitting, but it's a lot of tending to people and their needs. And sometimes if you start out as a model, and you've been in front of the camera for a very long time. A lot of times, maybe the whole organization of making sure things are in detail, may not sometimes some people don't have that capability. So, um, you know, some models are models. And that's what they're known for. And they're just, that's what they do. And that's their entertainment, they could be very great business people. But the transition for some managing models, it's a people business. So, being able to manage people, that transition rolls over, just kind of like you already have been walking that walk. So, now that you've been walking that walk, and then being able to now understand it, so you're coming from an understanding type of point of view. And then being able now to kind of guide people with their career, and then having the contacts as well, that helps. Because if you're a model, and you've been modeling for many years, you know a lot of people so it's easy to turn around, and then use your contacts to your ability for business.
So how was it for you when you started?
I actually was out of the business for a while. So I had to reintroduce myself coming back in. And that part, because this industry is all about contacts and who you know. So it was a slow process, the very beginning because it was like, Who are you again? It's like, Oh, right. And then it's gaining the trust, and then making sure you're not just an overnight. So it was interesting.
So you quit the business? When did you quit the business?
So, my career started to slow down just after college. And I was more intrigued with learning the industry itself being in an agent role. So I started trying to get into... Well, my internship in college was at a really big agency. So I did that. And then after that, I tried seeking employment through agencies. So that's where it started kind of drifting, where I didn't have an interest to be in front of the camera anymore and wanted to be in the office. And then I ended up working in corporate. So that's where it was like, Okay, I have a job, I have bills, I have things I have to pay for. So this is a new direction. And I'm just going to take the skills that I have and just work in corporate and that's what I did.
I kind of understand the whole thing about having the job, the bills and working in corporate, but then also, I understand also the idea of not wanting to work for someone else. Would you say that's what got you back there?
Um, it was one of those blessings in disguise, because I had gotten laid off. I was at a company for five years. Yeah. And I had gotten laid off. It was abrupt. We didn't see it coming. And so that was the beginning of a year. And then I ended up at another job. And then I got laid off near to the end of that year. So I had an opportunity fall in my lap, because I was producing fashion shows at that time. So a really close friend of mine connected me to some club owners that owned a lot of businesses in Toronto. But they already knew who I was. So she just kind of did like a soft intro. So that kind of just landed in my lap. And I was working as an event planner. And I kind of had that whole mind frame that I'm not going to personalize my desk, because I did that at my other jobs thinking I'm going to be here for the next like 10-15 years. And so I had the mental every single day going into work that it's just either I bring a lunch, my handbag, or it's just my handbag. And if I have to leave tomorrow, it’s just my handbag. There's no picture of that to take down for my desk. There's no personalized nothing. So that's when I started to formulate with me like this is just a job. And if anything happens tomorrow, I'm going to end up getting another job. So once the wheel starts to turn and I realize okay, I'm going to be in another cycled pattern, whether it's 10 years from now, five years from now, let me just start getting the process together so that when I do eventually leave or if something happens, I've already kind of started the back end. So I reapplied as a model coach and teacher at another big agency. So doing that part time on the weekends, and just kind of like learning their ins and outs, while building my brand, and then eventually just left.
So currently, right now, you are the owner of the modeling agency, Morgan Management Modeling. So based on how we work, you have female models as well as male models. I think the male models is a new...
The kids division is new.
You have children as well?
And family. This is pretty dope. So with every serious entrepreneur, no one gets complacent. What is next for you?
Growth. Um, for me, it would be growth, and not just the agency internally. It could be internal, it could be different branches. It could be different divisions. Like that's for me, it's just growth. It could be like getting the name out there much more. You know, maybe having a division in other parts of the world. It’s just growth. Always achieving, I think that's the thing, the beauty with being an entrepreneur, it's like, once you hit certain targets, you're just like, man, I could keep going. And like now everything is just much more bigger because like there's no limit. You just kind of keep going, so yeah.
Cool. Um, anyone that you consider to be a role model or hero?
um, I think the queen of all agents and she has the black models coalition, Bethan Hardison. And you know, from... I think there was like back in the day when you know, used to get magazines and so I'm not gonna age myself.
Used to have certain magazines and read up. But you know, Tyson Beckford, he was so big at one point when he was in certain campaigns, but to me my direction went to the agent. I was fascinated with his agent and his agent being able to get him. And so when you're in the industry, to know that, that is and is able to score that person certain things, or even to find him in a hip hop magazine, and then get him from that level to all types of different levels. That was really fascinating for me. That's like somebody who I look up to.
Nice. What was a memorable victory that confirmed to you that you are on the right track?
Memorable victory… Oh, man. I think anything iconic, like a model being on the cover of Vogue. I think that's like, how much more memory can you get with that?
What was is it like the first time? When was the first time that it happened?
It hasn't. I'm just saying that it would be a memorable victory. Oh, right now?
I think... A memorable victory for personally me or like the business?
For you and the business.
I think it’s just being able to hit financial goals that I just never thought I would actually, you know, sit in corporate and ever see. And so to hit those financial goals, you're like, Damn, I am a six figure chick. But you know, like, it's kind of okay. But, you know, it's for the business. But yeah, those things, when you realize that then you realize you can't get more. And so that hunger for more just kind of like pushes. So yes, that's kind of memorable for me. Yeah.
So I would like to ask, what was a hurdle that you had to deal with? With regards to business?
Hurdle, so many hurdles. Um, I think financially, in the very beginning... I think if there were more avenues for grants and just being able to not have to go through this channel, find this person who can write it for you, and this and that. I think, if there was more visibility of grants being presented, so that people can go to seminars, people can inquire how I'm able to apply for these. I think that would help a lot with you know, in the very beginning, because I literally took my life savings and started my business. So doing that, like, I mean, I invested in myself. And I tell people that you should be able to do that. Because no investor wants to know that you didn't take a chance on yourself before they're going to take a chance on you. So you know, after being able to do that, and you start to see the well is running dry, and it's like, Okay, what am I gonna do? I think if those opportunities were available, I think it would really advance people a little bit more. But everything happens for a reason. So...
I mean, personally, I did the same thing with my movie. I mean, you see the pandemic. I was saving so much money, right? And then I just had to do it.
Good for you. And now look at it.
Thank you. I just thought of a question here. Could you name a time where you had to deal with a very difficult model?
Um, I think with the growing mental health, that is a category that I don't think many people are mentally ready for. And so I don't want to say that it's difficult but it is different. And so when you're used to how we interact and everyday and chatting. And then having something that's a bit different. Then it becomes, this person is difficult. This person is not understanding. They're weird. They're, you know, all the name calls. But really it is, it's trying. And that was where I was just kind of like, this is different for me. And I'm not sure if other people are going to understand it. There’s a saying. Someone said it to me a friend of mine in the industry. You are your best last model. So if you are your best last model, and this person is going to having certain mental issues and things like that, and then other people photographers, they're using more energy, you know, people are calling out of the blue and saying this person out of that, you know, is just calling random and just screaming at me on the other end, and you're just like, oh, wow, okay, I'm gonna try and deal with this. And then, you know, they're like, is this person a unicorn? What's going on? Like, I fully gave instructions, and they're yelling at me. That's when it's kind of like, I know people's perception, you can start to look at your brand and be like, don't use that brand. Because the models don't understand and stuff, but it's not because of that. It's just because we all look at things differently. So I wouldn't say difficult. I would say it was trying. It was super trying.
Let me switch my question. Have you ever had to deal with a diva?
I've had divas., I've had divas. People forget, we're in Toronto, and we're not in LA or New York.
And so I think because, you know, in England, they have a lot of plentiful TV commercials, shows... Things that are just European, English base. Here in Canada, a lot of our visuals are American. And so when you have magazines, blogs, you know, TV commercials, NBC, Universal, you know, all kinds of large companies and it filters to Toronto, you get a lot of the mentality that like, I'm a diva, and I'm supposed to be doing so much more. But then you have to look at them and be like, do malls even do fashion shows? You know what I mean? Like you're lucky if a hospital is even doing a gala fashion show, you know. So it's just kind of like fashion shows where? Like, they will come with the demands. Like I want to do so much more shows. And it's like, where do you see shows? Like, you know, we barely have a four day Toronto Fashion Week. So where do you see shows? But um, yeah, yeah, I have dealt with divas before. And you kind of have to reel them in, kind of show them like Toronto is a very commercial city, which means that you're going to be doing, you know, fun ads. And yes, you are going to do look books and stuff. But we don't have a plethora of designers like in the States. And obviously in the States, you have way more people than here. You know, there's more people in California than all of Canada. So if you have California and you have numbers in Canada, just imagine, you know, California, Texas, you know, New York, there’s way more people, right. So, yeah, you kind of have to reel them in and just be like we're doing the best that we can in our industry and market.
I know. It does take a lot of patience. It does take a lot of peopling, patience.
I know what you mean. Just can’t talk about it (laughter).
(laughter)You dealt with them. Oh, I know. You are a photographer. You have dealt with divas.
Let's try this. If you could give a piece of advice to someone following in your footsteps, what would it be?
I would say to pay attention to everything, take notes. Build your connections, make them very strong. And try to always find the most important person, whatever it is that you're doing so that you can use them as either a mentor, mentee, or, you know, to pick their brain.
What's the misconception about you that people have?
Um, I don't know. That's a good question. I don't know. What is a misconception? I don't know. Um, I don't know. Like, maybe they think like, I have a big personality. But actually, I have a big personality with friends. Yeah, like when I'm comfortable around certain friends. Like, you guys have seen me, you know, being quirky. But that's after like, a few, you know, social bandits stuff and we’re out, you know, so I'm pretty reserved if I'm first meeting people. So I think people think I have a big personality, but I'm like, I have that one with comfortable people that I know, not just random. I don't know. But yeah, like, I can be an introvert. I guess.
Are you an introvert or they think you are?
If they think? I mean, just look at my Instagram. It's on private, like, I post like once a year. (laughter). But I have a whole, you know, life with friends behind the scenes where like... I think the perception is that people think I have this like lavishly big extroverted lifestyle and it's just like, I'm really not, like...
I think that's interesting. Because your Instagram is on private and you don't try to get this lavish look to yourself. A lot of people in this industry otherwise, they would like to just give out this look.
I don't know, I know it's super fun that you can flip it to it being so super fun and, and all that stuff. But I think for me, I think that it was just... I was a nervous wreck when it came to Insta because at the time when it started, I was just starting my business. And so I think because like people are like she's in the fashion. And she works with models. I think maybe, I don't know, I'm just putting it out there. Maybe in their mind, they're thinking like, okay, we're gonna see lots of different styles and things. But then in that very beginning stage, when you're working a part time job, and you are literally pushing your business and living off of your savings, you don't have much to show when it comes to fashion, because your money is going towards bills. So it's like, I don't really have things to push. This is why I adapted the whole, like, just wear black. And I did that, because I made a goal for myself that like I would stop wearing black if I made a certain amount. And like, I reached that. So I was just like, I like black, so I'm just gonna keep wearing it. But it was also because like, I just didn't have that much things to show off. And so it was like, it's easier just to wear black all the time, because then people won't be able to decipher, you know, Oh, she wore that again. So I kind of just adapted, I'm just gonna wear black all the time. So my Instagram feed is that because I literally was living off my savings. It was trying. (laughter). It was trying so yeah, but I don't know. If people... Why they do it. I know people have fun with their social media. And I love it. Like, some of my models are amazing at it. I can sit there and you know, lay down in my bed and just like sift through their page and just like die of laughter. They’re so good at it. Some of them that travel places, and they do the behind the scenes, like they're fantastic. But um, it could be also the introvert part of me as well. Where I just kind of like, I overthink things. And I'm just like, I'll just save this for myself. You know, send it to my friends and WhatsApp.
Yeah send the pictures to the group chats.
Yeah. Keep this in the group chat.(laughter)
So yeah. You were a fashion model. I mean, like, a professional fashion model. Nowadays, we have the rise of the IG models and even the strippers are getting the same shine and popularity that the fashion models of old used to have. Right. What do you think of this rise in the profession, but also sort of...
But like a new age, kind of, um... Everything goes through different transitions. And so if you look back at... Okay, let's look back with radio. Back then... We don't know, because we weren't around. But back then, there must have been popular radio hosts. People can listen to them, they reach home from school, they would turn on the radio, and they would listen to the radio, and they would have their popular person. Then when TV came around, you had the different after school dance. And, you know, those shows where they were dancing and just like Soul Train, as well as the American Bandstand, and just different stuff, right. And you had hosts now on TV and their visual. Then you had magazines where they were putting models on the magazine, then you ended up having these models become host of shows. And then you ended up having artists that were musicians and stuff, transitioning to interviewing people and being on movies, and taking the actors. Making the actors now have to do a little bit more and be triple threats. So once you started getting actors now being on the covers, because their numbers followed more than a model, and then the model now having to transition to being in movies or doing a little bit more. Now you ended up getting Okay, well, the numbers start counting. And so now with the rise of, you know, the virtual world and the social media, you have strippers, IG people. The numbers are counting. So now when the numbers are counting, you now are getting brands that are saying, well, we can use this type of logo, but it probably would benefit us if we got that person who has the numbers. And so now there's avenues of ways where people can gain numbers. Because of the open door of social media. Even music, you know, we know Chance the Rapper, Drake, you know, they all there's a whole bunch more, where even to this day they created their audience base without even having to have the record companies do that for them. So having that ability is the same thing when you translate it into that world, where people are literally... They're gamers that have numbers. It's a whole different world moving really, really quickly. And it's just a matter of like, how do you level up?
Yeah, I'm actually mad at my parents because the skills I could have gotten for playing games...
I know. You won’t get anywhere playing games, and it's like, now kids are raking in millions and millions. In tournaments and everything.
I know. Like look at what you did. I could have had a whole career.
There’s a whole industry for gamers, you know, like, sometimes my son will sit there and I'm like, What are you doing? And he’d tell me, Oh I'm watching this guy play. I'm like, you're watching somebody else play? Why?
I wanted to ask, for your son, right? Looking at the great moments you had and looking at the bad moments you had, what would you like for him to experience among your great moments and what would you like for him to avoid amongst the bad ones?
Looking at the great moments for him, I was able to transition into a work but stay at home mom. And I actually enjoyed that even though he's at school for hours of the day. But I was accessible. Yeah, so if he hurt himself on the playground or anything like that, even though, yes, I could leave work and go, but I didn't have to talk to a boss and this and that. But let me just tell my bookers and my colleagues like, hey, I've got to go. And I could just go, you know, taking my time in the morning. Not having to have to drag him and make cereal and just go. Like, no, none of that anymore. So it was much more of a freedom. Much more calm in the morning time. As well as just lifestyle, so calm. And I think for him, I don't want to push entrepreneur on him. There is that freedom. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. Like my dad and my brother worked together doing drywall and taping. My mom runs our Family Dollar Store. And then I have a business. So he's never really been seeing anybody say like, I have to go to work. So I don't want to push it on him. Because obviously a lot of people, they don't see the groundwork, they just see all the achievements. And the groundwork takes years before the achievements come along. And so because of that, I wouldn't push that pressure on him. But the capability of seeing all of that it's around him. So that's one good thing,
Any bad things you want him to avoid?
Bad… I think just, you know, working is not a bad thing. Having a nine to five, it's not a bad thing. Because you can use that to your advantage to see how the managers work, the mentality of them. You know, if you want to be there, if you don't want to be there, I think that's not a bad thing. If you're using it for some sort of stepping stone, right? So whether it's playing chess so that you have to get into a different department or, you know, or maybe this person, yeah, what's the whole 48 Laws of Power? I feel like workplaces, like literally 48 Laws of Power is your manual, like, study that book, go to work and sit back and you will see everything that is inside of that book. Because then you can be like, okay, I'll just be the Joker today. You know, because in the book, it talks about you know, the juggler, the Joker, and I'll just be the Joker. But in the end, you know that your supervisor will never fire the Joker. Because it's all the other people who want to be so serious and studious. And then they fuck up. And then the minute they fuck up, it's like, supervisors says come in my office, whereas the Joker is just like
he's been there for two years, three years and it's just like, yo, how are you still here? And everybody's like, you know, gets in trouble they get write ups just like you.
This has been quite interesting. All right. What is the legacy you want to leave?
The legacy that I want to leave? I would love to have Morgan Models as like a name. Like a global. Like you hear some of the other agencies, the names, you just know it right away. It would be amazing if it was just a global name. Yeah, that would be the legacy. Yeah, that would be the legacy. Franchise it and just have the name globally. And I’ll be like my work is done!