Model-spotting on the streets of Brussels

  • Tamara Van der Perren finds potential models in train stations, at music festivals and other locations.
  • She can often be found on the rue Neuve in Brussels, where she spoke to Le Soir.


Baptiste Radufe was waiting at Brussels Central Station one day when he was accosted by Tamara, the head of a modeling agency. That was two years ago. Right now, Baptiste currently sits at number six in the official world ranking of male models.


“I was really surprised when Tamara handed me her card. I hadn’t thought about that kind of career at all; I’d just started working at a restaurant in Brussels. I wanted to be a chef,” recalls Baptiste. “I took her card and left rather hurriedly, as I was going to miss my train. I called her the following week.” This twist of fate would soon change his life. Within four months, the young Frenchman was picking up some major contracts, and he now focuses exclusively on modeling.


The practice that propelled Baptiste onto a different career path is known as ‘scouting’ in the industry; in other words, it involves discovering the models of the future in all types of public places. Tamara Van der Perren scouts every day, and Le Soir accompanied her on one of her assignments on the rue Neuve. “Wednesday afternoon is a very good day for talent-spotting,” explains the former model. “That’s because there are always lots of young people in the streets.”


Tamara walks around, observing the crowds. She seems busy; her cell phone rings constantly. How often does she spot potential candidates? “It really depends. The person has to appeal to me and have charisma. And then, once the process is under way, lots of other criteria come into play. The person needs to be free at the time and his or her parents need to give permission if you’re dealing with a minor. In addition, adolescence is a time when people often don’t really know what they want to do with their lives. When all is said and done, if we get a girl or boy for one season, that’s already a good result.”


Due to unforeseen circumstances, the agency director has to curtail her scouting session, without having unearthed any rare gems. Back at the office, Ibrahim L’kaderi, whose role involves scouting and management, goes over the ideal profile of the model of the future.


The criteria are fairly standard: tall, thin, agreeable face. “The current trend is classic beauty. It comes in waves – there were models with beards and long, rock star-style hair, then there was the androgynous phase. Now, it’s a more natural, spontaneous type of beauty that is the flavor of the month. And Asian models too, because China, for example, has huge purchasing power.” The law of supply and demand applies here too.


Having failed to find a serious candidate in the street, the agency workers make do with a youthful male model already on the premises. He’s young, tall and very thin, and has the face of an angel, with big blue eyes and dark hair. “Lots of young people don’t realize that they’re good-looking,” explains Ibrahim. Many people don’t call back. “Most of the time, we’re forced to note down the person’s phone number. If we just give them our card, people hardly every call us back. Often, people don’t believe that it’s real,” he adds.


Tamara and Ibrahim have already encountered all kinds of different reactions after handing over their cards. Shrieks of joy, parental displeasure, curiosity, and total happiness, for those who dream of a career in modeling. For that group, however, “it generally doesn’t work out,” according to Ibrahim.


Fairytale or risky endeavor, then? Baptiste’s life has not turned out at all in the way he had planned. But he has no regrets. As far as Tamara is concerned, scouting is a daily activity. Ibrahim agrees: “It’s a practice that is becoming more and more popular with agencies. There are even freelance scouts that bring their young prodigies to agencies.”


You are therefore forewarned: if you meet the criteria, be aware, as a scout could be lying in wait at the end of the street.


But remember, it’s like the lottery. Winners are rare and almost always caught off guard.



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