The good old times in Singapore are over... We don't need that dirty money anymore.
Why did you start up this agency?
I was modelling when I was younger but that was more than 15 or 16 years ago! From there, I knew the industry. At that time, around 12 years ago, I wanted to do something that was required in Singapore because there weren't too many good modelling agencies around to represent models.
Why the name Phantom then?
There isn't any particular reason to it. My brother-in-law was a copyrighter and he just came up with a name. Phantom is like a ghost and he just felt that it was different and used that. He thought it was a cool name.
So is it a glamourous job?
It's a very time-consuming business. It looks glamourous but it doesn't feel that way. You're always in between, the models are demanding and the clients are too.
How do people respond to you when you tell them you own an agency?
It's always been pretty positive. People tend to be awed by it and they are very curious. It's different from your usual bank industry nine to five job. But different generations have different perceptions.
Some people think modelling is a bad influence. They think it's an industry where it's all sex and drugs and rock & roll. Some agencies have the worst kind of girls and do odd shows and that's when they give the industry a bad name.
Do you miss modelling?
No, not that all. I've sort of been there, done that. Now, photography is my passion so that's what keeps me going. It's mostly fashion photography. I do the models' portfolios. I picked it up for about a year and a half, almost ten years after I've been in the industry. I was tired of the day in and day out activities. It also compliments the agency to have a photographer and someone more on the production side.
How did you pick it up?
I've done a couple of courses. I took studio photography, did a couple of essays. I just did a photo essay on breast implants.
Uhmm... Breast implants?
Well, my friend is a plastic surgeon. He's one of the top plastic surgeons in Singapore. He wanted a candidate to be filmed for television. So, I had a model who was interested and I got to shoot the operation.
Well... was it gory?
It's not as bad as what people think. It was okay, not quite as bad as I thought.
Well, besides doing photography, what else keeps you going?
You always have to be on top of things. It's a very up to date kind of job where new looks, new styles and images keep coming in. You constantly have to update and be on the ball. As long as we can keep that going, then we are still in. We can't let ourselves fall backwards and become stuck with old styles and fashion. It's more of a mental thing. You need to be open-minded and give other people a chance. You need to have the right frame of mind.
Especially in the modelling industry, don't you deal with a lot of egos?
Oh yeah. All the time. They're lots of different characters. You get prima donnas, to girls and guys who think so highly of themselves and feel that since they are drop dead gorgeous, and everybody should succumb to their wishes. They are demanding and they always think as agencies we need to give them everything from head to toe. They expect us to feed them, mother them to the point where you just think "we're not your mother" and they just have to be a lot more independent.
Oh gee. What all do they expect you to do?
We pay their airfare, accommodation, allowances and it's never enough. They want us to pay their phone for them, pay for their car, phone cards and feed them three meals a day. They don't have enough money all the time.
Does that irk you?
Yeah it does, but you just have to deal with it. I'll say "Sorry, we can't do it. This are the way things are." I'll explain to them why. If they don't get it, they don't get it. Some of them are nice and you can get along with them. Others are really b*tchy. They're never happy with their job and they complain about their job all the time. It's a tough industry, and if they don't know what to expect as a model, they'll never make it in the industry.
Have you ever lost your cool?
I'm a very patient person when it comes to dealing with these things. I talk to them all the time and try to be really nice. I never scream and shout in the beginning. You always get a few that will step all over you. When they do that, I'll tell them they're wasting everyone's time. I've given them that amount of time to understand my point, and if they still can't compromise, I say just take your book and go somewhere else.
So what kind of agency is Phantom Management considered?
We are considered a friendly, easy-to-talk-to agency. There are five of us in the company. We're very close knit and we try to give our best service.
Will you ever do something else?
Hmm, I don't think so. I love photography and that's what keeps me here!
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A common question asked in our offices is,
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And can a meal be had for under ten dollars?