Selfmade STAR maker

Selfmade STAR maker

by marlies|dekkers

She grew up in a town with 3 traffic lights; now Lisa Benson represents some of the top names in the industry like Chanel Iman, Chrissy Teigen and Kelly Rohrbach. I met up with the IMG model manager to talk about the art of persistence and the importance of dreaming big. “I always trust my instinct.”

Marlies: My motto is ‘dare to dream, dare to grow, dare to be’. Lisa, you are an amazing example of a woman who did just that.

Lisa: Thank you! Yes, I grew up the smallest town ever in Pennsylvania: Punxsutawney, from the movie Groundhog Day.

Marlies: We’re both small town girls!

Lisa: Can you imagine, there were only 3 stop lights! But at 5 years old, I started dreaming of a different life. And then I discovered Vogue. I would devour the fabulous photo shoots and glamorous stories. My prom dress was a knockoff of a dress supermodel Shalom Harlow wore on one of the covers. Fast forward to IMG, when I actually worked with Shalom! If I could have known then…

Marlies: How did you nurture your dream of a different life?

Lisa: I was really good with numbers, so I went to Penn State to study financial business. But what I really wanted was an internship at a big fashion company. So one day I just called the Saks catalogue and said: “I shop a lot at Saks, do you guys have internships?” To which they replied: “Ehm, we sell catalogues.”

Marlies: I love this story! Hey, you have to start somewhere!

Lisa: I was very persistent, and eventually they got me someone on the phone about an internship! So there I was at Saks, doing buying and management for the summer. It wasn’t glamorous, but I didn’t care: I was in New York! Then, September 11th happened. The job market collapsed, especially in finance; I couldn’t even get a hostess job.

Marlies: It’s when you hit rock bottom that you really get to know yourself, isn’t it?

Lisa: Yes, at that point I was ready to accept advice from my father. My family was really into sports; I played golf for Penn State and my father was a big golfer, too. Arnold Palmer, the legendary golfer who started IMG, was a family friend, and he suggested that I apply for a job at IMG because they had just started a fashion division: IMG Models. I sent in my resume, got invited for an informational interview and met president of IMG Models Ivan Bart who represented supermodels like Stephanie Seymour and Milla Jovovich. Wow, suddenly, everything made sense. A combination of multitasking, finance, glamour, sports; I found my dream job!

Marlies: This was your moment!

Lisa: Yes, except there was no job opening. And so I just started calling Ivan every single day. Literally!

Finally, they offered me a job as a receptionist and I thought: “Watch out, I will be the best receptionist you’ve ever seen!”

Marlies: Isn’t it great when you activate that killer instinct?

Lisa: Absolutely! As soon as Ivan’s assistant left, I took her job.

Marlies: And now you are an extremely successful model manager yourself! What makes you so good at what you do?

Lisa: I always trust my instinct. For example, when Chrissy Teigen walked in -this was when she just started dating John Legend- I thought she was so witty and amazing!

Marlies: Your persistence is incredibly inspiring! Thank you for sharing your story! Do you have any final advice for my readers?

Lisa: Wake up every day and be happy about what you are doing with your life. Be grateful for every moment given to you, work hard and enjoy the journey. And if you’re not happy, change it! Dare to dream big, always. Hey, if I did it…

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