Cincinnati's Seven Models Agency Brings International Fashion and Style to the Tri-State

           When Chantell Brookins left her job as a model and modeling instructor, she made it perfectly clear that she wanted to start her own agency. But colleagues in the Cincinnati market, which already has about a dozen agencies, did not think there was room for another.

"I told them I was starting my own agency," Brookins said, "and they said, 'Well, are you moving out of town?'"

Instead of moving out, she moved in, setting up her own agency May 1 in Springdale. Seven Models LLC was founded solely by Brookins. No backers, no investors, no loans and no partners. At least, no earthly partners.

Her partnership is with God.

"I would get a bill and think, 'If I had just taken that $50,000,'" Brookins said. "And He would say, 'Watch what I can do.'"

Brookins has modeled since she was 12, and has come to know and love the business, even though it has been described as "the most insecure industry in the world," by Peter Condopoulos, the on-camera director of Cincinnati-based Ashley Talent Agency.

The modeling industry can be competitive, catty and emotionally crippling. But Brookins has relied on her strength and her faith in God to keep her chin up and her nose clean.

With this partnership, she is looking to create a successful, worldwide business.

Cincinnati isn't a fashion capital like New York City or Chicago, but it is home to several Fortune 500 companies, such as Procter & Gamble and Federated. Lynn Heyman, a representative of Heyman Talent, with offices in Cincinnati and Columbus, said there is more business than people know, especially for commercial modeling.

Brookins' success so far is a testament to what the Cincinnati market has to offer.

She wanted the name of the company to reflect her faith. It came to her late one night, and at first she wasn't sure it fit.

But after seeing an award-winning photo of herself for the first time, she knew Seven was right. In it, her oversized eyelash elegantly formed the shape of the number seven.

"Seven is the biblical number of completion and perfection," she said.

Since opening this year, Brookins, 34, has had a multitude of clients calling.

"Things are hectic," she said in between sending text messages, "but exciting."

An office phone sits on her desk, with a cell phone next to it for calls and another close at hand for calls and text messages.

Seven Models has booked talent for iPod, Kiss 107-FM, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Fabulous Furs, to name a few.

The iPod shoot was in Miami. Brookins sent models to New York and Chicago, too. In August, one of her models will fly to Germany.

Seven contracts with 15 working models, and is training another 13 in Brookins' modeling academy. Four of her students already have been booked. And Brookins herself still does the occasional photo shoot, but is hardly focused on herself.

"It's time for me to take a step back," she said. "I'm getting old."

The agency employs five people, including Brookins. She wants to keep Seven small, both in employees and models, with less than 100 models at any given time.

Keeping the agency small gives Seven's clients the best talent and allows all the models to get work.

"We aren't going to sugarcoat," Brookins said. "We don't want people to take classes and then never get a job."

Being a longtime model as well as an instructor -- Brookins taught at Barbizon Modeling and Acting Centers and New View Modeling Agency -- she has a lot to offer her up-and-coming models. By limiting her numbers, she can give her students individual attention and a look at her knowledge of the business.

But booking talent is the real focus of Seven. Bookings generate 80 percent of the revenue, with the rest of the money coming from tuition and a deal with E'lon Cosmetics to sell products. Brookins declined to comment on her sales.

Condopoulos said getting and keeping clients is "all based on reputation."

Brookins is known for being punctual, kind and a pleasure to work with. She expects the same from her models.

Donna Salyers, president of Fabulous Furs, said it is great to work with Brookins' agency. Brookins modeled with Fabulous Furs before starting her own agency.

"I'm sure she treats all of her clients like she treated us," Salyers said.

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