START ME UP: iPOP! attendees quickly fill up queues as agents, managers, and production company reps meet with the many talented students hoping for a chance to work in show business.
The 2006 iPOP! convention brings bright and promising John Robert Powers students up close to Hollywood’s legendary siren’s call.
When young Janice and her mother first visited a modeling school three decades ago, it wasn’t a comforting experience. The woman who ran the school, Janice would later write, “looked me up and down with obvious displeasure, like this was some kind of joke or something.” But then the woman’s attitude changed, and she said, “Yes. Hmmm. I think we can work with Janet.” “Janice,” Janice corrected her, and then stood a while longer, thinking she still would be rejected. After the school director finished sizing her up, though, she declared, “Well, we have our work cut out for us, but I see a lot of potential here.”
That young, insecure model turned out to be Janice Dickinson, who became one of John Robert Powers biggest success stories, with numerous modeling contest prizes, a decades-spanning career as one of the first supermodels and, in recent years, a TV reality show star.
The impressionable young modeling and talent students of John Robert Powers today have a big advantage compared to the one that Janice Dickinson had as a child. Today’s hopefuls can attend a brand-new convention called iPOP!, where potential stars of runways, stage, and screen have the chance to catch the eye of hundreds of modeling agencies, TV and movie casting agents, personal managers, and producers who decide on who becomes famous.
THE KID JAMS: Six-year-old JRP-Connecticut student Kai Rumcheran finds a fan in MTV’s Yo-Mamma star Sam Sarpong, who was so impressed with Kai that he invited him to a live taping session on the day they met.
Held at the beginning of January at the Century Plaza Hotel & Spa in Los Angeles, iPOP! certainly couldn’t guarantee anyone Janice Dickinson-type success, but at least the students from JRP and other modeling and acting schools at iPOP! knew they would be able to get a second, third, or fourth opinion about their potential for success from the numerous scouts, agents, and managers offering interview opportunities during the last days of the convention.
“It’s a great way to be seen and to get the personalized coaching one needs,” said Perren Page, a veteran Hollywood character actor and instructor at JRP-Norwalk, Connecticut. “It’s also very valuable to see what your competition is all about…. And what better way than to go to LA and meet some movers and shakers.”
Among the many recognizable names in attendance at iPOP! were Shaun Robinson, Access Hollywood correspondent and weekend host; Michael Maddox, producer and fashion designer; Tommy Fukuda, director of major fashion shows for Betsey Johnson, Donna Karen, and DKNY; Raymundo Baltazar, who appeared on Bravo’s hit series Project Runway 2; and Sam Sarpong, star of the MTV show Yo-Mamma.
For many who attended the iPOP! training workshops, success could be measured in a number of ways, including:
• Picking up some new skills to bring back home and perfect;
• Being chosen for the Talent Showcase and Fashion Show, where a number of overall awards for modeling and stage performance could be earned;
• Receiving call-backs from managers and agents who would interview hundreds of performers for client representation; and
• Being signed through actual contract offers for jobs in their areas of greatest performance potential.
TWO iPOP! 2006
TEEN MALE MODEL AWARD
Stephan, a JRP-Salt Lake City student, is a Brigham Young University scholarship recipient who has the whole package — looks and brains to go with skills as both a model and actor. His 45 total callbacks — 36 for modeling and nine for acting — were the most ever given to a JRP male model performer.
FEMALE MODEL AWARD
Valerie, a JRP-Salt Lake City student, is a University of Utah philosophy and art major who was a thespian in high school with aspirations to become an actor, and quickly moved into a leadership role. She received 15 callbacks at iPOP! — nine for modeling and six for acting, and was considering agency contract offers.
As the modern talent-development scene merges fashion and modeling with the music and entertainment industry, events such as iPOP! are providing students with far more options than ever in their quest for a foothold in performance careers. But a student still needs to have a degree of training and experience to impress the judges and agents, and that preparation is where the school directors and instructors at JRP earn their keep.
“Attending John Robert Powers before iPOP was so helpful,” said Crystal Smith, of JRP-Austin, Texas. “My director, Sarah Uglum, set up classes specifically for iPOP! students, and we had meetings to determine how everyone was doing and how much one-on one-time we needed before the convention. If a student needed more than the special classes for iPOP! preparation, the directors would then set up another one-on-one class for us.”
Kai Rumcheran, a 6-year-old acting student who attends JRP-Connecticut, could barely contain his enthusiasm on the day we met him in a talent seminar, in which he flubbed some of his lines but made up for it with a natural charisma with which he charmed everyone in the room. Later, we caught up with Kai and his family in a workshop given by Sam Sarpong, the rapper and MTV show host, who was so taken by Kai’s personality and wit that Sam invited Kai to one of Sarpong’s live taping sessions in an LA recording studio. “He’s quite a kid,” Sam told us afterward. “We’re going to keep in touch when we get back to New York.”
It is invaluable contacts such as Kai Rumcheran’s with Sam Sarpong that give hope to the hundreds of students who attended the 2006 iPOP! convention. But there’s also value in the hard lessons students learn as they come to realize experience often is the best teacher. “Going on to the runway in front of tons of agents was definitely one of the most nerve-racking things ever,” said JRP-Austin’s Crystal Smith. “You are in front of agents who have worked with A-list stars, and you have only been doing modeling for less than a year — that’s scary! But then again, after you compete, you are so proud of yourself and feel so great you want to do it again. I absolutely love that feeling of confidence after you finish an audition.”
Olga Pecanac, of JRP-Chicago, received Actress of the Year honors and also took the award in Monologues competition. Her comments are typical of those students whose training and support paid off at iPOP! “I am very proud of myself and very thankful that I received those rewards,” said Olga, “but I couldn’t have done any of it without the support of my family, friends, and the great training at John Robert Powers of Chicago.”
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