Former Military Analyst Tries to Revive Miami Modeling Industry with Strange Photoshoot

Categories: Recessionomics

modellauncher.jpeg
Courtesy of Andrew Lane
Mansfield Staniford wants to make sure the Brazilian girl is in the picture. He's running around in the anti-fashion trifecta of socks, sneakers and shorts, obsessively pulling his thinning brown hair. Little kids dash between the legs of the business men, photographers, models and moms who are gathered at South Point Park for the world's most bizarre photoshoot.

I've been invited here because Staniford thinks his company, Model Launcher, can restore Miami's reputation as a fashion mecca. The premise is simple: People upload photos onto the ML website and hope other people vote for them. The most popular amateur models are flown to Miami Beach for the photoshoot of their dreams. This is incredibly appealing to girls like Emilee Miller, the white-as-Wonder-Bread West Texan who Staniford just brought to town with her mom, Frankie.

Days ago Emilee was posing fruitlessly in front of an Orange Julius, trying to spin appearances at local mall fashion shows into a career, and now she's got a make-up artist and a handler hovering around, continually making minute adjustments to the cap that rests over her pin-straight blonde hair. Meanwhile Frankie, is holding a reflective prop for photographer Fabian Hernandez, smiling and continually making spirited remarks like, "Everybody's so nice here" and "I feel like we're in Hawaii."

Although Frankie is right that Florida's particular brand of orange-and-pink sunlight makes for a picturesque backdrop, Miami is no longer a modeling mecca. It used to be cheap to come to South Beach from Europe, which is why photographers preferred it to New York or L.A. in the '80s and '90s. That's no longer the case, due to the recession, as well rising hotel costs and airfare. Sensing an opportunity, Staniford started Model Launcher, which allows local companies access to eager (and free) models.

Apparel companies love Model Launcher, but it's important for Staniford to have models trust his company, too. Unfortunately, he can't convince the Brazilian of the great opportunity he's presenting her, at this particular moment, as the sun sets on South Beach. It's not that she knows he once worked the door at NYC's party central club, Palladium. Or that he once worked as a cryptographer for the Marine Corps. Or that he was interviewed by the FBI in 2010 after it was discovered both his accountant and his girlfriend, Anna Chapman, were Russian spies. It's not even because Staniford is the breathless type who can hardly get a sentence out before swallowing and taking a series of deep breaths. It's because Mirena doesn't speak English.

That doesn't stop him from trying. He's determined as hell to get a couple of shots of the exotic Mirena, too.

See Also: Miami's Modeling Industry Drying Up; Is the Entire SoBe Way of Life Next?

photosession.jpeg
Courtesy of Andrew Lane
It's been a year since Mansfield and business partner Jason Silverman started Model Launcher, and they're as desperate for exposure as any girl from a square-shaped state who dreams of becoming a model. It's important to distance Model Launcher from the skeezy, stereotypical photographers who take advantage of young girls' desperation to get noticed, Mansfield says.

Jason, a Boca businessman with silver hair, cuffed jeans and polished loafers, tries to steer the conversation while Staniford keeps going on about Anna, as if he's forgotten that he's changed his name from Bill to Mansfield in hopes of avoiding just this. "I thought she was an attractive, fun girl who had a lot of financing from Russia, and one day I wake up and she's on the cover of the fucking New York Post," he gushes.

"Hey Frankie," Jason interrupts, "I don't know if you'd mind repeating the story you told me earlier, but I just can't get it off my mind. It was so heartfelt, and it just shows that we're really doing our job of obtaining your trust." And so the woman describes, again, how she and Emilee haven't been on a plane since her husband died, and they had to go all the way from St. Angelo to Dallas for the funeral. "We're just Texas people," she adds, almost apologetically.

With Model Launcher, Staniford hopes to demystify the path to stardom by crowd sourcing it: Aspiring models upload photos, and people vote on them. Whoever gets the most votes gets flown to Miami, and free labor is traded for portfolio shots that can hopefully be parlayed into paying work. Today, Emilee is modeling nautical-themed clothing for B.O.A.T., a Miami-based company.

It sounds good, but the reality is weird: At one point, nine people are simultaneously photographing a 16-year-old small town girl who's so overwhelmed she can barely speak and a 14-year-old Brazilian who knows no English, but seems content to be posed by various strangers. By this point, the children who were running around and enjoying the park are gone; their mothers have pulled them away from the chaos to go play somewhere else.

The idea for Model Launcher came to Staniford as he watched the Super Bowl two years ago. "I realized that pretty much every guy in the world wants to be the star quarterback, and every girl wants to be the supermodel," he says. "Everyone understands the mechanism for becoming a football player, but no one understands how to become a model. It's very contrived."

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti

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24 comments
Frankie A Mercer-Miller
Frankie A Mercer-Miller

Natural or white is the new cancer free tan:) Be proud of who you are whatever your color.

Frankie A Mercer-Miller
Frankie A Mercer-Miller

This is my beautiful, daughter Emilee,. I did not like this article at all. Emilee's daddy died of cancer when she was 8 yrs old, and cancer runs in the family so I, have explained to her that tanning can cause skin cancer so yes she is white as wonder bread I guess. but she is naturally beautiful. So why the writer would say mean things about her I don't understand, but I am very proud of Emilee. And Model Launcher gave her a chance to fulfill her dream and they are a very professional and classy company. I thank them very much. Just wish your paper could have sent a professional writer to cover this story.(proud to be a Texan) Frankie (Emilee's Mom)

williamsc85
williamsc85

Why are they being distanced from photogs that take advantage of girls when the article made it clear they're working for free? I mean, Miami's cool and all, but a free trip there to take commercial shots other girls get paid thousands for isn't exactly compensation, nor is it far from exploitation.

Besides, Miami is a seasonal shooting zone, you wouldn't shoot fall/winter shots there. Duh. The action is hot for a few months then it tapers off. Definitely don't see these jerks making much of a difference with that.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

the modeling busines in MIAMI does exist only it's called PROSTITUTION and i've seen all these wanna-be young kids throwing themselves into shoots at ART BASEL and various other HOME and BOAT show events hoping to be "discovered" - well if they don't GIVE in before they GIVE out they might as well GIVE up !

no legitimate model is going to be discovered in this sleezy place and too many mediocre talent is already flooding the scene

IF YOU ARE really good go to NY or LA hire the best agent and take your SHOT there = period

verdisvioletta
verdisvioletta

These are girls who are being crowd sourced for FREE gigs. They are NOT being paid, yet they are being flown in (some internationally) to be photographed and those photos will be used in commercial ads? WHAT? First off, these girls are not REAL working models, they are aspiring models. They don't have agencies because no reputable agency allows that kind of "free work on speculation" to go on. Lastly, if these girls have what it takes to be a serious model, all they have to do is make one flight to NYC and hit all the major agencies; they will know right away if they have what it takes. This is not going to revive the modeling business in Miami. It clearly states EXACTLY why the modeling business in Miami has collapsed- economics!! It is too expensive to shoot here; plenty of locations that are better and cheaper abound. So instead of luring in the business with the highest quality amazing girls, this guy is luring them in with FREE girls. It is cost cutting and NO agency that finds out these girls did this are going to want to hire them. Instead of calling it "Model Launcher", it should be called "Model Exploiter".  

miamistar901
miamistar901

It must take some type of twisted author to turn a story about two local Miami start-ups giving a 16 year old girl from Texas a chance to help her start her career into a negative. What does the Miami New Times have against Miami? She seems like a very pretty girl to me. 

John Wolfe
John Wolfe

i really hope so, i feel terrible about all the poor, struggling models in miami

suntzu
suntzu

@williamsc85 hmmm. sounds like some very ignorant folk commenting on a business they clearly know nothing about. 


miamistar901
miamistar901

@frankd4 Why are you so down on Miami! Move to NY if you hate it here so much. Jeez.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

exactly !

miamistar901
miamistar901

@verdisvioletta Exactly how does giving a girl a free trip to Miami and a photo shoot exploit the girl? Am I missing something?

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

it's more a warning to the unsuspecting

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

yes indeed all the pretty young kids with low-self esteem that pander to such wolves i see at these SHOWs put such a premium on rewards they cannot deliver makes it heart-breaking because having an early gift of a splendid physique is something one is EXPECTED to cash in on - like a unique voice or other talent that blossoms early - but then come the wolves and it's over before it begins - ESPECIALLY HERE IN SOUTH FLORIDA !

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@suntzu @frankd4 

each of these entities have formal COMPLAINTs against them that tell the tales of woe for many many unsuspecting pretty young women attempting to "monetize" their good looks

get a copy of any "contracts" these business have and you will see for yourself

ask almost any "host" at any club or "ambassador" at any liquor outing about the "promises" given

go search the better business bureau type sites collecting the complaints on these exact operations and see for yourself

if you think this is legit okay by me BUT you are ignoring the real damage it can do to vulnerable young women who don't know any better = period

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@miamistar901 @frankd4 

MIAMI is a mess in many ways since it is so poor BUT that doesn't mean myself or others "hate" it - we just wish the people were honest

MIAMI is the scam-capital and i know these free model agencys to be a scam and i know most all sides of these stories - the girls, their handlers, their relatives, the guys, the johns. the pimps

i happen to attend ART HOME BOAT shows as well as charity GOLF outings and can sometime see even see these same scammers around town 

LIKE THE ARTICLE itself says no pretty girl really knows the successful blueprint to MONETIZE herself - it's all hit-or-miss UNLESS they go into pornography or prostitution certainly two tried and worn paths to BIG money and why EVERY famous woman celebrity typically has a past of at least brief nudity - which is the stepping stone for some and THE END of the road for most

YOU CAN FIND them in the CLASSIFIEDs under ADULT SERVICEs described as "new in town" and "the ultimate GFE"


frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

suntzu,

all scams have their GOOD HOUSKEEPING seals of approval they point to to convince the unsuspecting and ward-off the suspicious

anyONE could walk-on PROJECT RUNWAY and MB DOESN'T HAVE A "FASHION WEEK"

if you can't pay your TALENT then the actual rewards are either misappropriated or non-existant

PAY TO PLAY means you have credibility - otherwise it's just a hobby

williamsc85
williamsc85

Because other girls get paid THOUSANDS to do the exact same thing. Would you want your face plastered on shopping bags for a brand you might not even like that much and you didn't get paid for it while other girls make a mint?? Classic exploitation.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@suntzu @frankd4 

okay then why NOT pay them for their "services"

if it is such a stable and lucrative operation then how come you expect these "models" to work for free ?

these "businesses" prey on the unsuspecting = period

BLING by ERICA KENNEDY exposed much of the HIP-HOP industry's preying on up and coming stars and much the same initial attention is paid to these "models" who do not realize the financial implications of those "free" limos and meals and resort stays and other amenities that are anything but "free"

otherwise just hang around south beach and you will see the OBVIOUS results of what WAS PROMISED vs what actually got delivered


suntzu
suntzu

@frankd4 @suntzu Model Launcher has ZERO formal complaints. The vulnerable women you refer to are flown in with their parents. You are clearly misguided on your opinion of what these guys are doing. They deliver the promise of launching a career and fulfilling dreams on the level they promise. You certainly take the time to answer this so I suggest doing more research for yourself and you wont come across so ignorant. oh wait "Ignorant". " " " " ".

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