Child Stars: A Guide to Launching Your Kid’s Acting or Modeling Career

Looks: Check  Talent: Check  Personality: Check  Perseverance: Check, Check. OK, she has it all. Or, he’s got the whole package. But what do you do next when you know your kid is destined for the spotlight?


How do you get them noticed? Put them at the right place at the right time?

Acting and modeling isn’t for everyone. Although potentially fun, exciting and lucrative, it is a time-consuming process and should not be entered into lightly.

Having gone through this process recently with my daughter, here are the steps we followed and the best resources we found:

Step No. 1: Photos

You’ll need to have a good “comp card” just to get your foot in the door. No one will even speak to you otherwise.

Huh? Comp what? A comp card is a marketing tool that typically contains a minimum of two pictures. It consists of:

  • A cover page with a full-size portrait
  • A second page with a selection of representative shots from the portfolio, and
  • The model/actor’s basic stats, including height, weight, shoe size, eye and hair color, nationality and contact information
  • Printed on both sides of an 8.5- by 5.5-inch piece of card stock
  • One of the best (and reasonably priced) photographers for comp cards is Zoe McKenzie. Also, John Reilly has photographed some of Chicago’s most notable citizens. If you’re only looking for a headshot he is a good resource.

Zoe McKenzie

John Reilly


Step No. 2: Order 50 comp cards

Once you receive the headshots, choose 5 of the best shots and order 50 comp cards. If you’re not sure which photos to choose, the photographer can help you. The best (and most reasonable) place to have comp cards printed is J & S photo service.

J & S Photo Service


Step No. 3: Hire an acting coach

Whether you decide your child needs 1 lesson or 100, it is important that you have at least 1 session with a good acting coach. All agent auditions (even if you are only interested in modeling for print) will ask your child to deliver a monologue.

And, if you are going to hire an acting coach, you might as well hire a good one with connections. After years of working in the business, many acting coaches have developed personal relationships with local agents—one word from them, and your interview is in the bag. We recommend Susan Handleman in Highland Park. She has experience, know-how and connections.

Susan Handleman


Step No. 4: Contact agents

Write letters to agents. Enclose a comp card. But not just any agent. Not all agents are reputable. Below is a list of the highly regarded agents in Chicago.

And whatever you do: Don’t write a blind letter. Each letter must be addressed to an individual. For instance, if you are interested in “print” modeling for children, you need to call each agency and find out who is the individual in charge of that particular area and direct the letter to that person.

Reputable Chicago agents:

  • Shirley Hamilton, Inc. 312-787-4700
  • Stewart Talent 312-943-3131
  • Ford Model Management 312-243-9400
  • Ambassador Talent 312-641-3491
  • Gray Talent Group 312-344-2660
  • The Geddes Agency 312-787-8333

Step No. 5: Follow up

If you have not heard from the agents within a week or 2, follow up with a phone call. There is nothing wrong with showing them you are interested in securing your child’s representation.


Step No. 6: Apply for a work permit

After securing an agent, you must get your child a work permit. Work permits can be obtained at the Illinois State Board of Education Building at the James R. Thompson Center 100 W. Randolph, Ste. 14-300.

You will need 6 required documents:

  • “Intent to Employ” letter (given to you by your agent).
  • Proof of age.
  • Parent approval document.
  • Medical statement from the child’s physician (attesting to their fitness to work).
  • Social Security Card
  • Principal’s Statement (not just a transcript), signed by the principal, stating that the child is active in school.

We’d love to hear from you. If you and your child have been through the process. Please email us and let us know if you have any tips or recommended resources to share.

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