Model Scout Pilar Ammons knows that not everyone has what it takes to make it in the fast-paced world of modeling—but she’s always looking for the next face and willing to help those with an interest. You may remember a bit about her career from this feature on models from the Midwest, but we recently had the chance to sit down with her and discuss in detail her involvement with Midwest Fashion Week, the biggest misconception about modeling, and advice she would give someone just getting started in the world of modeling. Read on to hear her story!
For those who aren’t familiar with your history, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
My name is Pilar Danette Ammons. I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and graduated from Thomas Carr Howe High School a year early, and entered the military at the age of 17. My interest in the fashion industry was always there, I used to dabble a little in high school, but my interest started as a fashion designer. I also wanted to know how models were supposed to carry the clothes down the runway. This led me to a modeling school, back when modeling schools were brick and mortar. I attended school in the evening while I finished my military job. I was then stationed in Korea, and this allowed me to sit in tailor shops and sketch my designs and have them made, as well as to see how Koreans could replicate and reproduce anything. It was fascinating! I did my first big fashion show in Korea at the Officer’s Club. I trained all the models to walk and the show was a success—it sold out! I came back to the states and was an instructor at a modeling school in California. Fashion icon Mr. Blackwell even came and judged a competition and instructors wore the gowns I created. I made it into the newspaper for that.
What changed my trajectory was I kept running into models that had spent thousands of dollars and still didn’t know anything about the industry. They couldn’t walk a catwalk and it bothered me. From there I began training model after model and was happy with the end results. I’m a math person. I developed my own method of training models using a number system to get them to walk, turn and spin comfortably in each direction. To understand the how and why of what they were doing. I have now trained thousands of models using that technique. They consider themselves as a branch off my tree. When I see or hear models using numbers to navigate a turn, I know they were taught by someone that I taught. My experience in this field has been as an owner of a modeling school/agency, instructor, agent, and scout and each job has been rewarding. It has provided me with a 360 view of the industry to pick the good berries and give it to the models.
You’ve been with Midwest Fashion Week from the beginning! How have you seen it grow over the years?
In the beginning, as Midwest Fashion Week was being built, there weren’t many models for us to choose from. Most of the models were independent ingenue models that had no experience within the industry. They were trying to master their walk on the runway and not doing a very good job at it. There was only a hand full of people in the audience for the show—most of them being parents of the models. There were a few photographers there as well, but they didn’t understand the difference between portrait photography and fashion photography.
To help elevate the Midwest Fashion Week show, I did three or four runway workshops for the models prior to the show. Eventually modeling agencies began to pop up around Indianapolis and all of them were sending models to Midwest Fashion Week, but in essence I was training all of their models because models came to castings with no knowledge of the industry such as what an open call was, what they should wear to an open call, what a portfolio was or how to put it together, nor how to walk a catwalk. Midwest Fashion Week trained these models and made them more aware of the industry and its standards.
As Midwest Fashion Week grew and evolved, so did all of the components that supported it. We began to express our expectations and each element started to grow and to shine in its own light. The MUAs, stylist, photographers, videographers, bloggers, etc. Midwest Fashion Week became the example that every other fashion organization in the Midwest was mimicking when doing a show.
Since then, Midwest Fashion Week has expanded enormously! We do shows everywhere Chicago, New York, Paris. The preparation for Midwest Fashion Week now has standard operating procedures for back of the house and front of the house, with variations as required. Our staff is very cohesive and it shows with the production of each show. Our shows are now standing room only and the audience is very diverse.
Over the years you’ve helped discover a number of models who have gone on to have amazing careers! Can you name a few?
I have helped so many models since the beginning of Midwest Fashion Week. It’s really hard to remember all of their names. Models have become personalities, stylists, agency owners, nurses, lawyers, and successes in many different fields. Megan McNierney was our first model to enter into the national modeling arena. She is the model that showed other models and agencies in Indianapolis that models can be discovered and have a major career in the industry. The models that are presently working in the industry that I have trained, mentored, and placed in the industry with their mother agency are Essence Taylor, Emma Smith, Aviana McClish (Project Runway and much more) and Achenrin Madit. These models are inside the modeling bubble and making a huge contribution to the fashion world through campaigns, in editorials, in beauty, in the wedding industry, and on the runway. The most successful model to date is Achenrin Madit she was one of the top 50 models worldwide on Models.com for 2020.
What is the biggest misconception about modeling?
Reality TV has everyone thinking it is easy to be a model. That is the biggest misconception, that anyone can do it.
What is the most rewarding part of being a model scout?
Being able to find a new face and develop the model from scratch, then placing the model with a mother agency that can catapult their career within 1-2 years.
What is the most challenging part of being a model scout?
When people know that you’re a scout and know the success that you’ve had placing other models everyone think you have the power to place anyone. Unfortunately, not everyone is a model. Honing in on that diamond is sometimes challenging because the industry is constantly changing. It’s up to you to keep up with the trend and still be able to find that unique person that an agency didn’t know they wanted or needed.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of developing the modeling side of Midwest Fashion Week, and of training models to present a great show for the designer and the audience. I’m also proud of scouting and working with independent models to train, mentor and place them directly into the industry at the national level. This eliminates the many years that local agencies take to place a model, as well as, educating models on what should happen within the industry to make it smooth and seamless. Midwest Fashion Week has been an educational platform that has provided valuable information to all industry partners. It has provided a unique opportunity for models. The models feel comfortable on the runway with thirty-plus cameras and video cameras aimed at them. They know how to prepare for a show (back-of-house) interacting with the makeup artist and stylist and understanding line ups, which makes them more knowledgeable and experienced than agency girls in other cities.
What advice would you give young men and women who are trying to break into modeling?
Work on your craft just like any other profession. Study the industry to understand what a good agency is supposed to do to help develop your career. There are many different paths (commercial: beauty, catalog; editorial, wedding, cruise wear, etc.) in the industry, and knowing where you belong could be the difference in having an opportunity in this field or not having an opportunity in this field.
Thanks for chatting with us, Pilar, and for doing your part to help establish the Midwest fashion industry! Be sure to follow Pilar on Facebook to keep up-to-date on upcoming runway classes and additional opportunities.