The swingsets and fields of Eastwood Park might be as far away as one can get from the glitzy runways of Manhattan where models strut their stuff and showcase the latest fashion designs.
But tonight on the E! channel’s Scouted, a reality series that tracks fashion industry scouts and aspiring models, Eastwood and its Tam Valley and Mill Valley surroundings take center stage. That’s because Kristen Kotik, a Tam Valley resident and longtime scouting director for Stars Model Management in San Francisco, is one of four scouts whose quest to find the next supermodel is being tracked by Scouted.
“People in my neighborhood were like, ‘What’s up with all this going on?’” Kotik says of the 10 days an E! film crew was parked at her house over a two-week period following her every move, including her work with Nicole, a 23-year-old Novato resident and aspiring model whose story airs tonight.
Kotik said the concept of wearing a mic and having a camera track her every move was a completely new and at time unnerving experience for her. She was eased into the show by her longtime working relationship with Scouted executive producer Michael Flutie, as well as the show’s connections to Stars, which was founded 25 years ago by Marin resident Scott Claxton.
The show follows the stories of five aspiring models scouted by Kotik in the Bay Area as they make their baby steps into the bold world of modeling, from makeovers and photo shoots to the bright lights of New York and the chance to be signed by New York's One Model Management.
“Some of these girls haven’t even been on planes, let alone being exposed to this business,” Kotik says.
The scouting process begin in all manner of venues, from the Village in Corte Madera to local sporting events, where Kotik first met Nicole. Kotik doesn’t always specifically go out to scout.
“It seems like whenever I go out to scout I don’t spot anyone, but it’s when I’m running around and I’m late at the bank, there’s a girl who catches my eye,” she says. “There are days when I have some free time but it’s not like I’m standing outside of waiting – that’s kind of stalkerish.”
The process is as simple – and potentially awkward - as it sounds: Kotik spots someone with a look potentially destined for the runway, she approaches them about the possibility, exchanges contact info and waits for a call.
That return call only comes about 20 percent of the time as families are rightfully nervous about the prospect of launching their teenage daughter into a modeling career. Kotik had lunch at with one family and the E! crew was there to film it.
“They were so awesome and accommodating of that,” Kotik says of the restaurant’s owners, the Petrone family.
Kotik says that not only were her initial reservations overcome, but she sees the show as a positive influence in two ways. First, it provides validation of the role that scouts like her and Stars play on markets outside of fashion hubs like New York and Paris and it might ease the concerns that parents might have about the fashion business.
“It’s not all about eating disorders and negativity,” she says.
But more than anything, Scouted has reignited Kotik’s love of her job.
“I love my job and do it well but I re-found that passion that sometimes can go away after 20 years of doing something,” she says. “I’m really excited to go out scout more.”