Join us today as Savannah Vinson, model and casting director of Queen Castings, tells us how she navigated the New York modeling scene after moving from Ohio. Sam and Savannah the impact coaching made on her journey and how this inspired her to start Queen Castings, which is more than an average casting agency. Listen in for Savannah’s inspirational journey and som advice she picked up along the way, and check her out on Instagram at @_queen.sav_ !
Savannah Vinson [00:00:00] So I graduate high school, a year early at 17, and all I had in my head was, I want to become a model, didn’t know anyone here. My family is like country people. So I graduated high school a year early, moved here to the Big Apple, and for the first five months, it was horrible.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:16] Welcome to Ideamix radio. I’m Sam Jayanti. I chat with entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, career changers, experts and enthusiasts for insider tips that you can apply to turn your idea into a business. So sit back and enjoy today’s show. Savannah, welcome to Ideamix radio, it’s wonderful to be doing this in person after a year and a half of remote recordings only. So it’s great to meet you. So you have a really interesting personal story where you came to New York quite young and sort of dove into a career right after high school. Tell us a little bit about that experience of coming here so young on your own and having to work it out on your own.
Savannah Vinson [00:01:06] Yeah. So I graduated high school a year early at 17, and all I had in my head was I want to become a model, didn’t know anyone here. My family is like country people. So I graduated high school a year early, moved here to the Big Apple and for the first five months it was horrible. I had to figure out the trains, the people because everyone was like, move, get all the way. And I was like, How are you? I had to learn how to be tough. I was very naive. So about five months in officially, I felt like a true New Yorker, like I was able to go where I wanted to. I know how to speak as a New Yorker language. And then I got signed to all my agencies. And then fast forward to now I do what I love every day. So
Sam Jayanti [00:01:46] Now you’re very far away from where you started. When you started, you had to find an agency to represent you as a model. It was your first time really becoming a model. You were so young, you were figuring out social media. You realized you needed to have a presence there. And today you are not only continuing to model, but you have your own casting agency. Yeah. So tell us a little bit about that transition in going from crafting a career as a model, but then deciding to basically become a business owner and start your own business and your own casting agency.
Savannah Vinson [00:02:26] Yeah. So throughout it’s been officially three years since I lived in New York, and when I first moved here, I went to different agencies to see which one was the right one for me. There’s a lot of scams out there, so I want to be careful. So officially, when I first got signed, I found out like, Oh my gosh, it takes 90 days for a model to get paid. Oh my gosh, like, there’s all these different fees. Like oh you have to be five nine and meet these requirements. What about all these amazing talent that’s not, you know, getting that like you have such a good look, you have a great personality. Why is height like an issue or size? So I decided to start my own to give other talent like opportunities, and I knew everything in New York is about connections, connection, connection. Everywhere you go. Business card, business card. What do you do? So, yeah, so this way I was able to help other talent and along grow myself as well.
Sam Jayanti [00:03:15] So I love that because and sometimes we all forget the starting points, but the starting points are very tough for sure. Your first set of contacts that you made. How did you do that? So many people coming to New York, it’s so hard to meet the right people, right? A lot of the wrong people in a way. And how did you identify the few right people that could really enable your career?
Savannah Vinson [00:03:43] It definitely took time. And what I would do is when I was at a photo shoot, I would, you know, network and get everyone’s Instagram, the photographer, the nail tag, the makeup artist. And you know, if you really show your personality and you, you stay true to who you are, they’re going to refer you to other people. And that’s exactly what happened. So that’s why I say everywhere you go, make sure you introduce yourself to people. Don’t be scared in the corner and then take some after, Hey, I saw you at the shoot. I hate when people do that, like, come talk to me. Like, I want to know what you do. How can I help you? How can you help me? So that’s always how I think I’m like, Let’s do this.
Savannah Vinson [00:04:14] And that’s so rare nowadays with Instagram and TikTok. Everything’s online, so it’s rare to have communication like when people, especially since COVID, that made it even worse. I want to stay home.
Sam Jayanti [00:04:29] So true. You brought up another really interesting point, which is the importance of social media. Many brands today don’t want to hire model or an influencer who doesn’t have a significant following. At the same time, you have to start somewhere. Yeah, right. And so tell us how you thought about that. How did you build your following?
Savannah Vinson [00:04:50] So when I moved here from Ohio, I did not think Instagram or anything was big. I went to my first agency casting and they were like, What’s your answer? And I was like, OK. And I had like, I think, five thousand followers when I moved to New York three years ago.
Sam Jayanti [00:05:03] That’s already quite a lot.
Savannah Vinson [00:05:05] To me it was like, Oh, whatever, it’s nothing. It’s nothing. And they looked at me like, You need 10k to be with us. And I was like, interesting. I was like, What do I do? So that’s when I started networking everywhere I went, like, events, like, Hey, let’s get your Instagram. Like, Hey, and then I started growing my Instagram plus connections that way. Yeah. But as far as modeling, I honestly think modeling is dying and influencing is becoming the new thing. Because why hire a whole team when an influencer has their own team and they can do it all? So that’s where it came from me. But personally growing my Instagram, what I would do is engage with my followers, I would use hashtags, so for example, I’m based in New York hashtag NYC model, NYC models just wear it different every night. Go down and like posts and comment. Those people would see, Oh, this person likes, comments, I’m going to return. Then there’s like other like tactics like engagement pods and all that stuff really works. You have to treat it as a job, though you cannot just, you know, literally at night, I’ll lay in my bed for like two hours and just engage hashtagged post every two to three days, 15 stories minimum each day like it’s a job. If you want to make money out of it, you know, treat it as like a nine to five.
Sam Jayanti [00:06:10] Yeah, so what’s an engagement pod?
Savannah Vinson [00:06:12] Actually a lot of people don’t know about this.
Sam Jayanti [00:06:18] I don’t!
Savannah Vinson [00:06:19] Well hack for everyone. So pretty much it’s a group like a D.M. group. Yeah. And every time you post, you let the group know and you do the same. So everyone has to like and comment on each other’s posts this way and boost it to the like the Explore page. The more people see your posts, OK, but if you comment emojis on Instagram, it doesn’t work. You have to comment at least four words for it to boost to the Explore page.
Sam Jayanti [00:06:42] Yeah, so it’s like forming your own sort of posse.
Savannah Vinson [00:06:47] Exactly. And you guys wanna help each other
Sam Jayanti [00:06:49] and everyone’s helping each other?
Savannah Vinson [00:06:50] Exactly. And it helps a ton, especially when brands do you like all these people, especially if they’re verified and they’re commenting on this, they’re like, Oh, like, who’s here? You know, what’s this person on? Yeah, so it definitely helps.
Sam Jayanti [00:07:02] So today you are managing your own career. You’re casting other models in other projects, right? Projects that come to you. Are you managing your own social media still?
Savannah Vinson [00:07:17] I am. So if anyone’s watching this, I am still on the lookout to find someone. You know, I haven’t been able to find someone that I personally like trust that can really do what I’m doing. Because I really invest my time in it. It’s really hard. Like we were talking about earlier time. Hard to find people that are really consistent, true to their word. So, yeah, so on the lookout.
Sam Jayanti [00:07:41] That is definitely true. It’s I think we live in a time where the importance of human relationships and personal relationships, the time it takes to invest in them and build them has been so de-emphasized and made much worse by COVID, right? We just haven’t been allowed to interact pretty much for a year and a half, and I feel like there’s an almost an entire generation growing up, and you may encounter this in some of the younger models that come to you for mentorship advice that you cast on projects who need to learn that and make that a part of their muscle memory. The importance of how to cultivate and grow relationships. Do you find yourself talking to them about this? A fair amount?
Savannah Vinson [00:08:29] Yeah, so I actually teach like model classes as well to help aspiring talent kind of understand the industry and where to start. Yeah, because like I said earlier, a lot of scams out there and everyone wants to be a model. Everyone wants to be a photographer. Where do you start? Not all the information is on Google, so I kind of tell them the nitty gritty and kind of like, fast forward from all the pain and struggles I went through and get it straight there. So when I teach them, it’s not about just, you know, glitz and glam, it’s about confidence, public speaking, all that stuff. Because modeling is not just going to, you know, you’re not just a pretty face, you’re a leader, you’re a public speaker. You need to know how to hold yourself. So I think it’s so important to teach everything you just spoke about.
Sam Jayanti [00:09:06] Do you feel still, of the generation of emerging models, do you feel like you, I mean, you’re so much more experienced now than when you first came to New York. Where do you feel you fit in generationally? You know you’re so young, still, but you still have so much experience.
Savannah Vinson [00:09:27] That’s a good question, because my whole life I’ve been so like, mature. Like, even though I’m 20, I feel like I’m 40 because I’ve been through so much. But I always hang out with older people, too. So when I hang out with people actually my age or younger, I feel like I do not fit like at all. So I don’t know what that word would be. What’s like.
Sam Jayanti [00:09:44] Mature?
Savannah Vinson [00:09:45] I guess just mature. Yeah, that’s why I don’t get it when I do Gen Z or yeah, that’s that’s the slang, let’s say like, I don’t go buy the stuff like. So, yeah, I definitely feel like I fit with like an older crowd.
Sam Jayanti [00:09:58] Maybe you’re an old soul in the young body part.
Savannah Vinson [00:10:00] That’s what I feel. I feel that.
Sam Jayanti [00:10:03] Let’s talk a little bit about the role of mentorship and coaching in your life, both in terms of how you’ve received it and used it, but equally, how you’ve provided it to other people. How would you say it’s influenced you the most in your career and in your thinking about both yourself as well as your business?
Savannah Vinson [00:10:30] Well, I would say it started out in high school when I told everyone I was the first person ever in my school to graduate a year early, so people did not like that, and it’s not a common thing, and I heard in New York, it is.
Sam Jayanti [00:10:42] Yes.
[00:10:42] Yeah, and I didn’t. Yeah. And a lot of people gave me a lot of crap for it and bullied the crowd. But again, I got a model you’re not going to do. So when I told my family, my family go like, you’re going to kidnap, there’s no way like you can do this. Like, it’s way more expensive here, everything. And I just had this feeling. I was like, I have to prove them wrong. I’m so tired of this now. So I didn’t have that. And my family is also very supportive, but they had the doubts you know what I mean? But my family was the only support system. I have literally no one else. I loved all of news online. I unfollowed everyone on from high school like I just couldn’t deal with them like it was so bad.
Sam Jayanti [00:11:18] Because of the lack of support that you felt?
Savannah Vinson [00:11:20] Exactly. And so much like the bullying of saying, like, you can’t do this like it was a lot like it was insane. So when I moved here, I just had this goal of just proving them wrong. No, I don’t know where to start. I didn’t know anyone. I had no mentor. So now that I know what I’m doing and I know how to book work and, you know, get paid to do it. Yes, no TFP trade for a photo or anything like that. I want to share that with people. So that’s why I do the model training and stuff because I want to be the person to help guide people. Yeah, because I went through the hard stuff. So now I want to make it easy for you. So that’s why I love doing it, because everyone needs that support.
Sam Jayanti [00:11:55] And if you had to point in that in those very early days when you first moved, you’re on your own for the one or two people that helped you during that time.
Savannah Vinson [00:12:04] I would just say my family,
Sam Jayanti [00:12:06] your family, that’s it. Because they were a source of support.
Savannah Vinson [00:12:08] Yeah.
Sam Jayanti [00:12:09] In the background?
Savannah Vinson [00:12:10] Exactly.
Sam Jayanti [00:12:10] And was there anyone that you felt acted as a guide or mentor for you here in New York?
Savannah Vinson [00:12:17] Nobody.
Sam Jayanti [00:12:17] No help at all?
Savannah Vinson [00:12:20] No. And my family couldn’t really help me as well, because they’re the yeah, they’re the country people. You know, yeehaw, cornfields. So it was nothing.
Sam Jayanti [00:12:30] So was it friends? What sold the gap? What filled the void?
Sam Jayanti [00:12:34] Like I said, over time being here, I made connections. And of course, I made friends. And I love about New York. It’s everyone is so real. Yeah. And you know, it’s no bull crap. It’s straight to the point, and I love that. So that way, I got really good connections with people who had goals who had the same intentions of me, of the hustle mindset that I didn’t have in Ohio. Everyone in Ohio is so like, slow pace, you know, they don’t have care in the world. So now I’d definitely say, like my friends, you know, my followers, everything like without them, I would definitely be so depressed. They’re so they’re so great. You need friends in your life.
Sam Jayanti [00:13:10] Who are your cheerleaders, would you say if you had to think of a couple of people?
Savannah Vinson [00:13:14] I would definitely say my fiancé.
Sam Jayanti [00:13:18] Congratulations!
Savannah Vinson [00:13:18] Thank you. Happened in January. He is a huge support. I actually met him the seventh day that I moved to New York three years ago. Wow. We dated like literally the second day together since then.
Sam Jayanti [00:13:32] All right. So that’s a huge source.
Savannah Vinson [00:13:34] Yeah. So he is amazing. And then, of course, like I have my friend Christina, who she was my very first roommate when I had roommates now. Now I like so she was so great. She’s from Moldova and she was just so real, so sweet, so supportive few times. You text them, you know, she’s that person who like answers right away. So them to for sure. Just that’s all you need. That’s all you need is really close. People like that with family.
Sam Jayanti [00:13:59] Yeah. And what has coaching other aspiring models taught you because you know you’re young. You didn’t have someone who really played that role in your life. How did you know what to do? In a sense.
Savannah Vinson [00:14:13] So I kind of just taught them the quicker way to learn something. Like I said before, how it took so long for me. So I have a whole notebook at home with a breakdown of each thing: posing what types of modeling, how to watch out for scam, what are the scam names? I listed all that, so we sit down, we really go through it and go one by one and literally, I’m there for you. So if you have a phone call, you like, Hey, like I can’t. I don’t know if this is real. I just got this check. I don’t know if it’s a scam check or real check. I hope with all of that because I want to make sure you’re OK. Like, That’s so important.
Sam Jayanti [00:14:47] Yeah. And how many people do you do this for?
Sam Jayanti [00:14:50] So it’s open to anyone, but it’s only us U.S. based, so it’s virtual or in-person if you’re in New York. So it really just depends. Like each week is different. Sometimes it’s like five people this week, but two people next week. So it really, really it depends.
Sam Jayanti [00:15:05] So it sounds like you’re coaching them in a session Like you have a plan of different elements that you want to take them through. They may coming in knowing some of those elements or not, you’re helping to fill in the gaps, but also to act as an ongoing ear, as an ongoing advisor and really talk to them about any of their questions as they come up. Have you ever thought of yourself as a coach?
Savannah Vinson [00:15:30] Yes, it’s more like model training model coach. OK, but yeah, it’s definitely a coaching environment, kind of like a boot camp. They just all train, especially when it comes to the runway and stuff like you have an intense training where you have like a book on your head balancing. And yeah, so
Sam Jayanti [00:15:48] They are just skills you need to know.
Savannah Vinson [00:15:49] Yeah, for sure. And they all help with posture. Everything.
Sam Jayanti [00:15:52] Sure. Let’s shift gears a little bit as you look out over the next five years. What are your two or three key goals?
Savannah Vinson [00:16:00] I would definitely say I keep growing myself. Same with my following figuring out my exact niche. That’s something I struggle with right now. If you look at my social media, I work with skincare, fitness, food, which is a great thing because that keeps me open to all types of partnerships. At the same time, I need to narrow it down and be selective with who I work with and what I do. Yeah, so that’s something I want to work on.
Sam Jayanti [00:16:23] If you were to pick a niche, what would it be?
Savannah Vinson [00:16:26] I want to stick to the lifestyle. I personally know I need to be more relatable with my content, and that’s something I’m struggling with.
Sam Jayanti [00:16:33] I’ve struggled with it my whole life it feels like!
Savannah Vinson [00:16:36] I know, that’s something I’m really struggling with. And then I want to continue to grow my company. Of course, like I’m super excited to announce like, we recently have worked for us Essence Fashion Week and Forever 21 with a whole bunch of our models. And they’re not all 5’9″. So I love that that my little agency, you know, means breaking through that door is breaking that seal. So I just want to keep growing that in myself.
Sam Jayanti [00:16:58] Yeah. So when you say, grow yourself, I love that term, by the way, because I think across the board, you know, everybody I’ve ever talked to, every book I’ve ever read on what creates success. It’s this ability to keep learning, and it’s this ability to keep learning about yourself and the environment around you. And some of the most creative people will tell you that their best ideas come to them from kind of orthogonal things, right? So not things directly related to their industry or their work at that moment, but sort of other ideas, places they go, people they talk to, other topics they read about, What do you do for yourself to further your own learning? People is one big piece of it, you’re always looking for new people and networking with them and getting their help and advice. What are other things you do for your own learning?
Savannah Vinson [00:17:56] I love traveling and learning new cultures, and that is a huge thing. Especially like I said in Ohio, not like everyone’s the same, but it’s typically, you know, the same type of people, same ethnicity, everything.
Sam Jayanti [00:18:08] Sure.
Savannah Vinson [00:18:08] So when I moved to New York, it’s truly the melting pot like Jackson Heights of the World, Indian People, Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn and a lot of Russians. And so it was really cool to see how diverse it was and learn from everyone, especially like when you’re on set, it’s like you’re working with all these different types of models from around the world. Yeah, like it’s not like, Oh, I’m from New York. Like, that’s so rarely hear someone say, like, they’re actually from New York City. So I learn a lot from them. I learn what it’s like to model and stuff in other countries. Those sorts of things are just the people is the main thing, but especially when you go out to travel and experience it for yourself, it’s insane. It’s it’s the best, but it’s just no words for it. That’s the best way for me to like, learn and understand and try new things, foods, everything.
Sam Jayanti [00:18:53] Excellent. And how do you think about the growth and the goals that you have for your business over the next few years?
Savannah Vinson [00:19:02] What I do is I’m like a pen and paper type of person, so I physically write them down. And then when I write, I get it or I’m close to, I like mark it off, and then I add a new thing like, it’s never like, I’m done.
Sam Jayanti [00:19:13] So you’re very goal oriented. And you actually love writing things down. As you said, throughout your learning experience as a model. Yeah, right. Which created the framework for your coaching? If you had to pinpoint one or two things, like some people will say, I want to grow my revenues by 30 percent or I want to be able to place, you know, have a more diverse team or or put together more diverse teams for projects. What would those one or two things be for you?
Savannah Vinson [00:19:48] For my goals, this might sound stupid, but I would definitely say be verified on Instagram.
Sam Jayanti [00:19:53] OK.
Savannah Vinson [00:19:53] That’s very important to mean. One Yes, it looks good, but also it helps. Like within my career, whenever someone sees a checkmark, they’re like, I like that. So. And then, like you said, grow an actual team for my business because right now I’m a one man team where, you know, I’m modeling, I’m casting, I’m producing shoots. I’m also creating content like, that’s a lot.
Sam Jayanti [00:20:16] You’re doing a lot.
Savannah Vinson [00:20:16] So yeah, my goal is to really find a strong team where we all benefit each other, right? So it’s like the photographer does this, you know, over this because right now I just like book people for that day. Yeah. So it would be really nice to focus on that. So that’s my ultimate goal is verified. Find a strong team. And I would say, like I recently hit almost two hundred k on my TikTok, which is like a huge like, that’s huge. I started it like less than a year ago. Wow. So I would love to hit the same amount on my Instagram as well and just grow that platform and really help people with post with confidence. I think that’s so important because social media is horrible nowadays, everything’s photoshopped. You know, you look at a picture, then you’re depressed and you’re like, Screw it, I’m not going out tonight.
Sam Jayanti [00:20:59] Well it has really compromised authenticity, right?
Savannah Vinson [00:21:01] Yeah.
Sam Jayanti [00:21:02] How do you feel authenticity has played a role in what you’re doing and with your choices and the people you’re casting, where you’re really trying to change the paradigm a little bit?
Savannah Vinson [00:21:13] Oh yeah. If you look at my casting page on Instagram, we have tons of different looks. You know, it’s not just, you know, male or female. We are transgender. We have little kids. We have all colors, sizes like everything. Yeah, like that’s so important, like a brand. And even if you’re a brand and if you’re just selling clothes for five nine, you know, really skinny.
Sam Jayanti [00:21:37] I mean, you’re just out of touch with reality.
Savannah Vinson [00:21:39] Like, what public are you selling to? You know what I mean? Half the world isn’t like that. So you want to buy clothes that’s for you. So similar body types? Absolutely. So that’s what I really want to focus on, because it’s just so unrealistic.
Sam Jayanti [00:21:49] Totally, totally. Get that. One last question, Savannah, if you had two pieces of advice that you wanted to give our audience, and I will say that I was very struck by this statistic, but the number one career aspiration for women coming out of college right now is to become an influencer, which is fascinating, right? Because I mean, it’s the law of numbers. It’s, you know, so many people will try it and then a few will kind of get there and know how to do it. What would be your advice 1.) to people who want that as a career? And 2.) to people who are thinking about their careers and who are really confused actually about what they want to do, how should they start to look for a mentor, a network, people to sort of help them start to learn about themselves and answer these questions?
Savannah Vinson [00:22:46] It honestly makes me so mad when people graduate high school, it’s either two options college or the army. Like modeling, influencing the entertainment industry is never an option. You can’t make it there like you can’t make money from that. In reality, you’re going to be make more money than like your parents, you know, whatever it is. so even real quick to touch back on, like when I teach modeling classes half the time, I’m going to be honest, I’ll teach all this information. Then it’s up to you really to take that information to do something, and a lot of people don’t. They’ll think like “oh after this class I’m going to be good.” You have to take all this information and do it literally. I would say maybe like two to three people out of all my classes that took, they never actually further the information. And that is something I tell them. I tell. I’m straight up. I’m like, You know, you’re going to do this or you’re not. Yeah. So if you are wanting to be an influencer or a model, I definitely recommend you do your research, research, research, research what a media kit is, how to reach out to brands, how to sell yourself, what is your niche? And then also, once you get that information, apply it. Start working with local photographers. Start taking photos. Be consistent. That’s the number one key. Consistency is key.
Sam Jayanti [00:23:55] And if you need a coach or a mentor, Savannah’s here.
Savannah Vinson [00:23:57] Of course.
Sam Jayanti [00:24:00] Thank you so much for joining us on the show today.
Savannah Vinson [00:24:02] Thank you for having me. Cheers with the water.
Sam Jayanti [00:24:05] Thanks for listening today. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, please do review the show. We love hearing from you, so e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Instagram DM us. Our episode this week was produced by the incomparable Martin Milewski, with music by the awesome Nashville based singer-songwriter Doug Allen. You can learn more about Doug at dougallenmusic.com.
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