By Natalia Zurowski
Drea Vujovic is a Serbian-Canadian model who grew up in Toronto, Canada. After working internationally, she developed a strong presence in the Toronto market, especially for her runway work. In 2007, Vujovic branched out and began working as a runway coach. She's since taught and mentored some of modelling's rising stars, including Sophie Touchet, Zoe Colivas, Emma Genier, and Jenna Earle. Furthermore, she added Agent to her resume when she started a Serbia-based Placement Agency in 2013.
Vujovic sat down with TBM to chat about her time in the industry, branching out, moving to Serbia, and her plans for the future as an agent and runway coach.
The Business Model: What inspired you to start teaching models how to catwalk?
Drea Vujovic: Being a runway and model coach happened by total accident! Runway was one of my favourite parts about modelling and after being a finalist on Project Runway, my own manager, Chantale Nadeau, asked me if I could teach some of her new faces how to walk. It started off as a hobby, but almost immediately the models I trained started booking the biggest shows at fashion week. Word got out that my students were walking like they had been on the runway for years! Then other agencies started calling and I was very, very busy. Runway is a big factor in launching a model’s career. A fashion show is like one big casting and can turn a new face into an overnight success if they land one of the coveted few slots in the most important shows. Being part of that journey is the most inspiring and one of the best feelings in the world. I still get grateful emails and high fives from girls I trained four or five years ago.
TBM: What is your number one tip for being runway ready?
DV: A good night’s sleep and to be organized. Map out all your castings the day before for a less stressful day. I tell all of my models to wear minimal or no makeup (casting directors want to see a fresh clean face and models may get asked to try clothes on at a casting - expensive clothes that can’t have makeup smears on them!), clean short nails, a simple body conscious outfit (black tight jeans and a tight simple top) and a hair elastic around their wrist (clean straight hair parted down the middle). Modeling can be a very expensive investment at the beginning, so I tell my models to buy one great outfit under $100 and wear it to EVERY casting. You are there to impress the casting directors with your walk, not your outfit. Later on, a little bit more money has be spent on clothes, but at the beginning a great pair of heels should be a model's biggest investment. I tell my models to put their heels on outside the casting address and get to and from castings in comfortable shoes. Casting heels are for practice and castings - they should last you a few seasons.
Being on time is very important, that’s why I mentioned that models should map out their castings the day before and check their phone between castings incase the agency calls. Walk into your casting with a lot of personality and energy, introducing yourself to everyone and confidently answering questions the casting team will have for you. Follow directions, a casting team may ask you to walk a few times for them, so pay attention to their directions and have fun!
TBM: Which models have you worked with in the past? Who do you see as the next big face?
DV: I’ve worked with so many models who have had and continue to have very successful careers - too many to name! Some of my recent top runway girls include Jenna Earle, Sophie Touchet, Zoe Colivas, Jessa Brown, Ashley Foo and Emma Genier. I see Jenna and Emma doing really big things this year. They really have it all! You can see behind the scene shots and model updates on my facebook page.
TBM: What are some of the shows the models you have trained walked in?
DV: My girls have walked for the biggest and best designers in New York, London, Paris and Milan. Prada, Fendi, Chanel, Givenchy, Burberry, Bottega Venetta, Lanvin, Dolce and Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, etc. But the greatest thing is seeing all the girls come back home after a successful show season and walk for the Canadian designers that gave them their first runway. None of my students have forgotten where they came from.
TBM: When you were modelling, what was your favourite show experience?
DV: Looking back at my modeling career, my favourite show experience was every single show I did! The runway was always my time to shine. I am so blessed to have done what I loved for such a long time. Traveling around the world, meeting so many visionaries and and kindred spirits – that will always be extra special.
Being exposed to so many different cultures, becoming a world citizen has opened so many doors for me and lead me to where I am now - sharing my experiences, teaching new models how to be the best models they can be and starting my very own model placement agency. I am beyond blessed and happy!
DV: You recently moved to Serbia from Toronto. What inspired you to start a placement agency? Why in Serbia?
I came back to Serbia five years ago, for the first time in 20 years. My uncle was very sick and his last wish was to return to Serbia, so I accompanied him. Along with my mother, he raised me and was everything in my life. He passed away here and I promised myself that no matter where I was in the world I would always come to Belgrade on the anniversary of his death.
Each year I stayed a little longer and fell in love with Belgrade more and more. My uncle played a big role in raising me to be the confident, independent woman I am. He was always my biggest fan and I know he would be so proud of me today.
I always knew I wanted to be a model manager when I stopped modeling. It was the next natural step for me after modeling and becoming the most sought after runway and model coach in Toronto.
I decided to open my placement agency here because I saw so many beautiful people and couldn’t understand why Serbian models weren’t more prominent on the global fashion scene. I am so happy with how everything is going. I am successful today because of all of the people I have met and worked with along the way - my ex agents and agencies have been very supportive and helpful on this new journey.
TBM: What does the modelling market look like in Serbia and surrounding countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, etc.)?
DV: They have enormous potential. There are so many talented designers, photographers and makeup artists I've worked with. It’s really a goldmine here - but there is plenty of work to be done. Serbian models have the personality and aptitude to compete with anyone, anywhere. It's just a matter of refining the industry a bit, breaking through the ideas that were cemented in people's heads by others that maybe haven't seen the way the rest of the world operates. The definition of beauty has to be redefined and young girls need better role models. Obviously though, I'm more excited by the potential than dreading the challenges.
Serbia, particularly, has been through so much and I am so proud of the talent that comes from here. I am confident and excited for what’s to come!
TBM: How often do you hold your runway classes? Have you started teaching in Serbia as well?
DV: My runway classes are held at least a month before fashion week castings begin. Agencies contact me as soon as they find a new face so that I have more time to work with the model. Runway takes a lot of practice- and the most successful runway models come from agencies that start training with me right away. I usually start off with a group of new models and then hold private classes for the models who need more work or for that occasional star I know will make it to the top. One of my students, Zoe Colivas, had many private classes before she booked an exclusive with Prada. Anything that looks like an overnight success took a lot of hard work and practice. In Serbia, I am only teaching my models all the tricks of the trade! I really want my placement agency to one day be the best in the Balkans.
TBM: What do you think your professional life will be like in 10 years?
DV: I hope the next 10 years will be as great as the past 10 years! I have been carefully planning my business for a long time and I want to start off small and concentrate on making a name for myself and making stars out of my models. It’s been a great first year! I have plans to hold scouting events throughout the Balkans and find the next supermodel. In 10 years I would love to throw a huge reunion party for everyone that’s been there for me: family, friends, agents, designers, photographers, makeup artists, and models. Until then, I hope to continue to be the best person and manager I can be.