Debra Jacobs has an eye for modeling talent, a keen sense of someone who will just leap off the page or screen or make an advertisement pop.
One would hope so because, as a model and modeling scout herself, plus previously running a modeling agency in Delaware, Jacobs now runs Debra Model Management & Modeling School, just a few miles south of Wesley Chapel in Tampa Palms.
Don’t be mistaken — despite its name, Debra Model Management is not a modeling agency, but a school, one that teaches both potential models and even those genuinely interested in learning all of the ins and outs, dos and don’ts of the modeling industry.
“Everywhere I go, people ask me how do I get (me or my child) into modeling?,” Jacobs says. That’s why I started this. I wanted people to have an affordable, transparent modeling management agency so they can really learn about this industry. That’s why this is a school, not an agency. They can learn modeling, they can learn fashion, and they can learn how to manage their careers. That’s what I’m teaching them here.”
Jacobs, whose first modeling gig was when she was just 15 years old, says she loves discovering new talent.
She has approached some of her clients to gauge their interest in modeling, including her newest client, Kannon Wengert, a two-year-old boy Jacobs saw at the Tampa Palms Publix and gave his mom, Rachel, her business card.
“We were just at the Publix pharmacy when Debra spotted us,” Rachel says. “I will say, it did seem kind of weird, but she was like, ‘He’s so cute. He should model.’ I had thought about it and did want to get him into some kind of modeling. Whenever I post pictures of him on social media, people are like, ‘He could be a model.’ But, I figured people were just being nice.”
After meeting with Jacobs, and learning about all her experience in the modeling industry, Rachel thought she would be a good fit for Kannon.
Debra Model Management offers a 10-week course that includes teaching runway techniques and other poses for photography sessions. The photos taken go into the student’s professional modeling portfolio. Jacobs also teaches proper nutrition, fashion dos and don’ts and the importance of self image.
“When I did my first ginormous fashion show,” Jacobs recalls, “it was in Washington, D.C., in Constitution Hall, and they just gave me a bunch of clothes and told me to go out there. I didn’t know what to do. In many modeling schools, they don’t tell you those things, like what goes on backstage and knowing where to go and what to do.”
But, it’s certainly not always easy. Jacobs admits that she faced obstacles. She remembers being rejected, and told she was too “short-waisted,” or all legs, she says. She remembers thinking how cruel that was to tell her, and says she has never forgotten it.
“That is why my company will never reject or give bad feedback to anyone who wants to model,” she says. “People are amazing when they are driven to do something, and won’t take no for an answer. Just because one person rejects you, that doesn’t mean that others won’t accept you.”
Jacobs went on to model in New York City, and signed with agents in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Virginia. She walked runways for high fashion designers, and became a regular fashion model on QVC-TV out of their West Chester, PA, studios. She won a runway modeling competition and was named Washington D.C.’s Super Model of the Year.
One of her Debra Model Management clients, 23-year-old Ashley Lawrence, is getting into modeling because of Jacobs.
“I had been told I should model, but didn’t think I could until I met Debra,” Lawrence says. “It was a lot about getting through the right doors, and she has helped show me how to do that. And, just learning how to model the right way, in pictures and everything.”
Certainly, Jacobs has the experience and knowledge to impart to her students and clients. She has modeled for 40 years and counting, including what she considers to be her greatest accomplishment — modeling for the 1993-94 Ebony Fashion Fair, an event put on by Jet and Ebony magazines, in which they only pick 18 models to go on to tour 189 U.S. cities, the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands.
“I also was known as the model with the most changes,” Jacobs says with pride. “Eighteen changes each show.”
But, Jacobs is well educated in not only modeling, but also fashion. She holds a degree in Fashion Merchandising from Wesley College in Dover, DE, which is part of the coursework taught at Debra Model Management.
Helping Children A Passion
Jacobs says she is very passionate about not only helping children who have aspirations to model, act or perform, but also to give back by working with various charities that help more unfortunate children. Her plan is to get back into charity and community work, just as she did when she worked with abused and impoverished children in the court systems.
It’s easy to see what an immediate impact Jacobs has with kids and one has to look no further than 9-year-old Mikayla Alexander. “I love that she teaches me to be a great model and be a great actress,” Mikayla said. “I’ve learned how to eat better, like more fruits and vegetables, and I’ve also learned about positive self-image. I know all of that is very important now.”
“Isn’t she just so poised for her age?” Jacobs adds, beaming with obvious pride.
Jacobs also is proud to start the first — and currently, the only — modeling business in the New Tampa/Wesley Chapel area. She says she will always go above and beyond for her clients.
Since Debra Model Management is a both school and a management company, Jacobs is focused on helping each of her models realize their full potential, because once that happens, and they have what someone is looking for, they will be found, she says. Just like she was.
“When I tell people about all of my experience and accomplishments, I realize some may not believe me,” Jacobs says. “Because I’ve done a lot. But, I truly love modeling and the fashion industry. My business is geared towards those individuals who are excited about it, like I am. When you walk into my studio, I want you to feel like you’re in a modeling wonderland.”
Debra Model Management is located 5331 Primrose Lake Cir., Suite 245, in Tampa Palms. For more information, visit DebraModelManagement.com or email email@example.com.