Tammy Theis, Founder and Creative Director of Dallas-based Wallflower Management, a talent agency, talks to ILTP about Texas fashion photography, Erin Wasson, and great shoes.

How did Wallflower sprout?
I was a fashion writer and stylist for The Dallas Morning News/Fashion for 21 years. I always had in the back of my mind this wish to do something that had my stamp on it, that was completely my creation—and I always wanted to use the word Wallflower. I left the paper to freelance in 2006 and then met Brenda Gomez who had been a stylist and booked models for Neiman Marcus advertising—we worked together at another agency and had great working chemistry. I kind of hit the wall with what I could do at the other agency so I left. Brenda followed shortly after and we decided to open Wallflower, a boutique agency, similar to small, selective agencies in New York. We opened Wallflower Management July 6, 2009.

I believe in including the staff in lots of creative decisions—I think that’s how you get the best results.

What is the role of a Creative Director at a talent agency?
Well, basically I oversee all the creative aspects of the agency—scouting, model development, photo editing, design decisions, etc., but I am not an autocrat. I believe in including the rest of the staff in lots of creative decisions—I think that’s how you get the best results.

When I was in Los Angeles a couple years ago I saw Erin Wasson walking down the street, pretty much owning the sidewalk on her way out of Fred Segal, how did you discover her and how does Wallflower go about finding new talent?

Erin was this curly headed, gawky 15 year old, skinny as a rail, all legs and arms—but her face was undeniable. The shape of her eyes, lips, nose—perfect.

I was at the newspaper when I first saw Erin. Fashion!Dallas was doing a model search with Kim Dawson Agency, and I asked our receptionist to see the entries that had been mailed in so far. She handed me a box and I dug through and came across these snapshots of Erin in her Irving home—taken by her dad, I found out later. Erin was this curly headed, gawky 15 year old, skinny as a rail, all legs and arms—but her face was undeniable. The shape of her eyes, lips, nose—perfect. Her smile was gorgeous. I remember calling Lisa Dawson and saying, I found our winner—because we were a bit worried with our first search that we wouldn’t find anyone. I remember doing her first shoots—she was so cute and like a sponge.

How much of your time is still spent styling? Do you still get to go to the big fashion shows in NYC, Paris, Milan, etc.?
My styling keeps getting less and less, though I hate that because I feel it’s important to my creativity. I stopped going to the shows when I left the newspaper—the budget for that was pretty much done anyways. I do miss the shows, but not the grind of covering them! Brenda and I are most likely going up this fashion week to see our models on the runways and visit agencies.

Does Wallflower plan to keep growing and representing more of other talent such as make up artists and stylists? Any plans to expand beyond Dallas? (Austin could use the help!)
We have been slowly growing—we want to stay boutique so we can continue to give that one-on-one management and attention. We rep one makeup artist/hair stylist, Shane Monden who is extremely talented and we rep two stylists, Uel White and Graham Cumberbatch (Graham is in Austin and featured in a previous ILTP interview). We chose them because they are very Wallflower. Not sure if/when we might expand to other markets. We do have ideas about our expanding our brand in other ways.

Texas is full of amazing photographers! Dallas has a community of talented photographers, and young shooters pop up every day.

What is your opinion of Texas photography and photographers?
Texas is full of amazing photographers! The Amon Carter Museum commissioned Richard Avedon’s In The American West. Noted Dallas photographer Laura Wilson, who assisted Avedon, is a great photographer in her own right. Keith Carter lives and works in Texas. Dallas has a community of talented photographers, and young shooters pop up every day. I’ve been amazed at the work of Lauren Withrow, who started shooting for Wallflower around the age of 16—but she was no novice—she was directing and seeing things in a very advanced way. Kids amaze me these days. I do wish there were more photo/art galleries or shows that focus on photography.

What are the benefits of working in Texas/Dallas?
Well, the cost and ease of living here makes it viable. Studios are affordable. There are great models, great scenery, though sometimes you have to travel a ways and/or battle the heat. Most importantly, there are clients.

I prefer artistic photographers—I don’t necessarily look for someone who is just technical but whose photos have no soul.

What traits do you think talent agencies and models appreciate most in photographers?
I like photographers who have a style, a point of view. I don’t want to see a group of work that is all over the place. I prefer artistic photographers—I don’t necessarily look for someone who is just technical but whose photos have no soul. I love black & white photography and I still love film. I think as an agency creative director, I give photographers a lot of latitude—I don’t like to dictate what photos I want them to shoot of a model—I want them to shoot their concepts and what inspires them—it invariably results in better photos.

How has the demise of print and the surge in digital publications changed the way you do business? 
Well, I am not sure about the demise of print. It seems like there are more magazines every day—mostly out of Europe but beautifully printed publications—I love visiting Book People in Austin to find lots of my favorite magazines—I’m an addict for sure. There are plenty of on-line pubs too though. It really doesn’t change the way we do business—we of course love being able to send our models’ portfolios by email and handling so much of work efficiently through technology.

What is Wallflower’s take on social media for your business? What platforms do you use?
Well, I’m proud to say Brenda and I were the first agency in Dallas to have a blog (we were with another agency at the time but we started it). We have a blog, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for Wallflower.

What is Wallflower direct?
That is for models who have other “mother” agencies, meaning they are out of town and we rep them for our clients who have budgets to pay for travel.

I love the latest issue of the Wallflower zine, can you tell us more about that?
Thanks! When we opened I thought a zine would be a great idea for several reasons: it would scratch my itch of always wanting my own magazine (watch out what you wish for!), provide a creative forum for all of our talented photographers/stylists/hair and makeup artists/models as well as provide tear sheets for our models’ portfolios. It’s been well received—as soon as we publish one all of the photographers are emailing about the next one. This last one, the beauty issue, was our biggest yet with over 80 pages.

Favorite place to shoot in Texas?
That’s hard. I loved shooting in Palo Duro Canyon. I used to love shooting in Venus but it’s not as small town as it used to be. I’ve shot in Marfa and that was fun. I do love desolate open spaces, which there are plenty of in Texas. Of course in the summer, a nice air-conditioned studio is awesome—and I love simple studio photography.

Favorite Texas food?
Sonny Bryan’s BBQ in the old location on Inwood Blvd. I love Stoneleigh P burgers too.

Favorite pair of shoes?
My new Acne blue suede ankle boots from V.O.D.

Favorite place to shop for fashion?
V.O.D., TenOver6, Urban Outfitters and lots of other Dallas stores, but I buy a few really great things a season and wear them to death. I am a minimalist and pretty much wear a uniform of black skinny jeans or trousers and T-shirts. I love Acne and R13.

Rochelle Rae is an Austin-based makeup artist and entrepreneur who recently launched her own line of cosmetics.

How did you get started?
My degree is in fine arts. I was actually painting on canvas long before I was painting on faces. I modeled for a short time (wrong side of the camera for me, I was way more comfortable behind the scenes). I met a makeup artist and it seemed like she had a really awesome, fun and exciting job. (It is!!) So I moved out to LA and went to the Makeup Designory or MUD, stayed out there for a while but was always planning to come back to Austin, which I love.

I was actually painting on canvas long before I was painting on faces

Do you have a mentor in the field?
I am lucky to live in Austin, a town of entrepreneurs and mentors. Everyone has been very open and helpful offering advice, helping me learn from their successes and failures. It seems like everyone wants everyone else to be successful. I haven’t always experienced that in other places.

What has been your best career decision?
Taking the leap and starting Rae Cosmetics!

How did you decide to take the leap and start Rae?
I knew there was a segment of the population that wasn’t being reached by the makeup brands already on the market, namely us sweaty girls. Active and athletic women who still wanted to look pretty and wear makeup. Deciding to go ahead and try to make that brand was scary and expensive. I had a lot of support from my family and friends but I think they were probably even more scared than I was. If this didn’t work I would be broke. They stood behind my every decision and I am so grateful they were and are there for me.

What is your favorite thing about doing makeup in Texas?
Texans are usually very friendly and it makes working fun. There is such a large variation of styles that it is like having a new job every day.

Texans are usually very friendly and it makes working fun

What is your favorite/go to beauty product on set?
The Climate Control Mineral Tint is the best product ever, it is great for every situation. It is a moisturizer, sunscreen and foundation in one but best of all it stays on when you sweat. So if you’re outside in the sun, working out in the gym or under hot studio lights, the makeup always looks awesome.

How do you stay motivated?
I think about this, my favorite quote:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

Who are you inspired by?
I am not really impressed by “celebrity.” I have been really fortunate to meet some amazing women though and because it takes time to do their makeup I actually am lucky enough to get to have conversations with them. I was lucky enough to be Liz Carpenter’s makeup artist before she passed away. A fabulous and funny woman, Liz was a writer, feminist, reporter, media adviser, speechwriter, political humorist and stood in the forefront of the Women’s Movement. She joined the staff of Lyndon B. Johnson in his campaign for Vice President in 1960 and traveled on his foreign missions as a press spokeswoman. After Kennedy’s election, she became the first female  executive assistant to the vice-president.

Sarah Weddington is another in the forefront of the women’s movement. At 26 years old she argued Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court and won. She is an advocate of women and children and has helped to pass many laws to support and protect their rights.

Liz Smith, the Grand Dame of Dish. Another amazing woman. New York Times Best Selling Author, columnist, reporter and producer. In the 1960s she worked as entertainment editor for the American version of Cosmopolitan magazine and simultaneously as Sports Illustrated entertainment editor as well. Another woman who paved the way for all of us.

These are the women who impress me.

I’m not sure I will ever reach “success” but I will strive for it every day!

How do you define ‘success’ in your own career?
I’m not sure I will ever reach “success” but I will strive for it every day!

What’s next? Any exciting projects coming up in 2012?

  • I’m in discussions to start a Rae skin care line
  • Working on involvement in Miami Swim, Miami Fashion week
  • Talking at the HBA Expo in NYC on the 19th at the Javits Center
  • Doing some events for Austin Fashion Week in Austin – I’m also on the advisory committee
  • Still writing for the national magazine La Nouvelles Spa And Esthetique Magazine as well as many local publications
  • I am a regular Beauty contributor to several television stations
  • I was a speaker at the International Congress of Esthetics & Spa Convention in Dallas in May
  • We do in store events usually every six weeks, and I’m having a big one during Austin Fashion Week
  • My staff of makeup artists and I do makeup for ALL KINDS of TV, magazines, runway, etc…

Favorite BBQ?
I love the Sassy Sauce at Rudy’s BBQ

Favorite breakfast taco?
Ones I make myself. And I love them spicy! I don’t eat cheese or egg yolks so it is too hard to eat breakfast tacos out.

Favorite libation?

Do you collect anything?
Not really, I hate clutter. I love art, so a small collection of art I hope to grow.

Lisa is a makeup artist living in Austin,Texas but working all over the country for clients like McDonalds and Marie Claire.

How did you get started
I always loved make-up, hair, painting and creating things from a very young age. I was a “talent” in high school and college. I attended a modeling school in Cincinnati, Ohio where I was taught make-up application for auditions, runway, print, and broadcast. I fell in LOVE with that part of the process and just had a natural talent for it.   My modeling coaches saw that potential and started to have me help out.  Eventually I became the modeling agency’s  “make-up , hair, and wardrobe” instructor during college. At this time I also started working as a Regional Make-up artist for Lancome at their events. When I graduated college, I began working for Macy’s starting out in their buying program and just did make-up on the side. Finally after a career and two kids, I decided to get back into my first love “MAKE UP”.  I started taking all types of refresher classes and pro classes to update my skills. By this time we were living in Minneapolis (BRRRRRRRRRRRR) and I began testing with photographers and freelancing to build my portfolio.  After a few years, The Wehmann Agency in Minneapolis became my representation. Minneapolis was an incredible market in which to work. I was able to work for such top clients as Target, Best Buy, Marshall Fields, Dayton’s , 3M and many more.  Now I am living in Austin, Texas..couldn’t be happier or warmer.

 I began testing with photographers and freelancing to build my portfolio

Do you have a mentor in the field? 
All the greats;  Keyvn Aucoin, Dick Page, Pat McGrath, etc.

What has been your best career decision? 
To dive full time into becoming a professional hair and make-up artist!

What is your favorite thing about doing hair and makeup in Texas?   
I love meeting new people everyday, making them feel comfortable and relaxed so they can fully give the photographer that “shot”.  I love being a part of the creative process, meaning collaborating with the photographer, art director and client on getting the right feel and look and making their vision come to fruition. Working in Texas is wonderful because people you work with are truly nice and exceptional! Plus, I adore location shooting and Texas has an array of beautiful scenery!

I love meeting new people everyday, making them feel comfortable and relaxed so they can fully give the photographer that “shot”

Do you have a dream assignment? 
Actually, I’ve never thought about that. Hmmmm…I would be overjoyed to be able to have full creative license on an editorial shoot. Meaning I could pick the model, do the hair and make-up however I choose and also to do the wardrobe styling.  Anyone up for testing??

How do you stay motivated?    
Pure and simple, I’d rather work than not. That is how much I enjoy my job. It’s not a necessity, it’s a want for me!!

What was your first big break?  
That is so many years ago, let me think.  I would say when the modeling school hired me as their make-up instructor.

Was there one project that gave you that “ah ha” moment, where you knew this is where you wanted to take your work?
Again, I would say just being exposed to the industry when I became a talent.  I was able to see everything that goes along with the process and knew that I preferred to be behind the camera creating.

Who are you inspired by?
I’m inspired by many things and many people.  Colors, nature, clothing, magazines, landscape, interior design, photographers, models.

How do you define ‘success’ in your own career?
I’ve been blessed to work with some of the best photographers and clients from all over the USA .  “Success” to me is when the client, art director, photographer, and talent are thrilled with the results I was able to achieve .

What’s next? Any exciting projects coming up in 2012?
All the projects I get are exciting to me. I guess the newest venture for me is that I have just recently opened my services up to weddings.  It is so fun to work with the brides on the most important day of their life.  It’s such a happy occasion!!

Favorite bbq?
Rudy’s but it is because of their incredible potato salad!!

Favorite breakfast taco?
I make a mean breakfast taco myself.

Favorite libation?
Cosmo, yum

Do you collect anything?
Fashion magazines, surprised?