It is amazing what appearing on the cover of Pageantry magazine can do to raise a career profile, and when that cover girl is Miss America 2010 the sky is the limit. My inbox was filled with questions about beautiful titleholder Caressa Cameron when the summer edition hit the stands. The story behind the story illustrates the importance of the total commitment, focus, training and passion required to eventually realize a dream.
At the International Model and Talent Convention (IMTA) in New York in July, I chatted with Caressa’s talent manager Stevi Meredith of Meredith Management in Los Angeles, and she is half of a dynamic career-making team. Michael Jay a songwriter and record producer who owns Jambo Studios in Los Angeles is the other half. Stevi told me:
“From time-to-time Michael and I get together to scout singers. When we find someone I groom them and get them ready and Michael picks the songs for them to record. He makes a demo and then we shop them as a package. A few years ago we were here in New York at an IMTA event and we heard a beautiful African-American girl, Caressa Cameron, sing. We were mesmerized. She had an incredible voice. She had poise. She had it all. We knew she was ready right then.
“At the time she was preparing to be a senior in high school. We talked to her parents who were from Virginia and they came out to Los Angeles. We recorded two songs with Caressa and did a big photo shoot to complete the package to present to the record companies.”
However, being a true manager, Stevi sensed that Caressa was often distracted. Something was bothering her. She asked her what was wrong. Caressa told her: “Well there is a pageant coming up and I would really like to be in it. I love doing pageants. I like what I am doing now but I really think I want to be Miss America.”
So Stevi said, “Okay. Call us if you ever want to sing. Over the years we kept up with her progress and talked to her mom. A couple of times we did a sponsorship for her. Then one night I turned on the television and the Miss America pageant was on. Suddenly I was rooted to the spot. Miss Virginia introduced herself. There was Caressa Cameron!
“I was in Ohio so I called Michael in Los Angeles because with the time difference I knew he would not have seen it. He was so excited! His sister was a stage manager on the pageant so he texted her and asked her if she had the chance, to tell Miss Virginia—Caressa Cameron—that Stevi and Michael said, ‘Hi.’
“Caressa did the talent and her voice was amazing. She looked stunning. The count down went on from fourth to third to second and then first runner-up. Caressa was Miss America. I just started bawling. All I could hear was her quiet little voice saying “I want to be Miss America’ and now she was.
“I texted her mom congratulations, because it was such a testament to her parents, as well as Caressa. She did all the work but they believed in her and made the sacrifices to pay the expenses. The next day my inbox was full with everyone wanting information. Perhaps when she has fulfilled her title obligations she may want to record. If so, Michael and I will be right there for her.”
There are valuable lessons in this story on what it takes to succeed in any area of the entertainment business. Caressa became Miss Virginia on her fourth attempt. She had to handle immeasurable rejection and patiently and persistently focus on her goal. Her parents provided constant support, which is a vital ingredient to success. Michael and Stevi, consummate professionals, were willing to accept that at that point Caressa’s passion was to become Miss America. Aware of her immense talent and potential as a singer, it must have been hard to encourage her to pursue a different dream. But they did. The pageantry, modeling, commercial and acting worlds intertwine. One door leads to another. Although Caressa is 5-foot-4, which is considered too short for a runway model, her celebrity status overshadows this. From a commercial standpoint, Caressa will be in demand for commercials and advertising campaigns.
Lasting success is the result of dedicated collaboration on the part of many people, resilience, persistence and loving family support. Caressa is a shining example and an exemplary role model for all of us in the industry.
Many models are interested in modeling in Asia. The following question comes from a working model who is specifically interested in Hong Kong.