Trump Models, the NYC-based modeling agency that President Donald Trump founded in 1999, is closing. The company, formerly known as T Models, is a boutique modeling agency originally started and funded by Trump. While over the years the agency has cultivated few models of notable status, it has recently made headlines as models have begun to leave the agency, due to the perceived prejudice that casting agents and bookers might have toward the agency’s affiliation with the controversial president.
Mia Kang, one of the agency’s most profitable models, has chosen to leave. Kang, who recently booked a spread in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, has decided to sign on with a rival agency, Women/360, in an effort to distance her name from Trump’s. According to Vogue Magazine, Trump Models allegedly has had “reports of boycotts from behind the scenes, and many models were said to have questioned the ethics of working for an owner whose political views were at odds with their own.” In an industry that is highly competitive and cutthroat, it comes as no surprise that some models might consider the name of their agency a liability or an extension of how they represent themselves as a model. Whether or not the models themselves agree with Trump’s political opinions, it is understandable that the name Trump attached to one’s agency might make those in the industry uncomfortable or unwilling to book a model.
However, CAS sophomore and intern at Trump Models Olivia Giddens says otherwise.
“The company received a lot of discrimination due to the name, but actually had very little to do with Trump himself,” Giddens said. “I have nothing bad to say about the company or the people that work there, it operates just as any other modeling agency.”
In 2016, affiliation with Trump’s name created unrest at some of his former New York City properties, despite the fact that Equity International, a Chicago-based company, was the current landlord. Many tenants of the multi-building complex complained of vandalism and perceived judgment due to the sign on their apartment buildings, which read “Trump Place.” Residents managed to vote his name off the building, after creating a petition called “Dump The Trump name” which gathered over 800 names from various tenants. Eventually the three buildings were renamed after their street addresses — 140, 160 and 189 Riverside Boulevard — and the name “Trump” was removed from the face of the buildings.
While Trump’s name can be cause for contention, it is understandable that the closing of Trump Models is unfair to those who work for the agency. Founded long before Trump ran for office, the agency has had many years to grow, but for some reason has fallen flat, unable to surpass its status as a boutique agency rather than a top one. Now, with Trump’s dismal approval rating and his life in the White House in the public eye, it is not difficult to see why one might actively discriminate against his businesses. Less about the models as it is about his name, the closing of Trump Models is a completely unfortunate but totally unsurprising business move on Trump’s part. A Trump Organization spokesperson told the New York Post that the company would be turning its attention to real estate, the golf industry and hospitality services — a decided refocusing and editing of Trump’s brand.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 17 print edition. Email Thomas Chou at [email protected]