Jeff and Mary Clarke are the married scouting duo behind Mother Model Management, and they believe the Midwest of the United States is a fountain for supermodels.
The couple, who are based out of Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, make annual trips to Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois to scout for models in shopping malls and events.
The Clarkes are responsible for discovering Karlie Kloss — a Victoria’s Secret Angel frequently seen in the company of Taylor Swift — in 2005 at the age of 13 at a charity fashion show in St. Louis, Missouri.
The couple also discovered Ashton Kutcher, who also began his career as a model, at a bar near the University of of Iowa in 1997 when we was just a biochemical engineering student.
Grace Hartzel, an Indiana native discovered at a St. Louis Cheesecake Factory at the age of 14, is also among the Clarkes’ finds — Hartzel opened and closed a Yves Saint-Laurent fashion show in 2014.
The couple are always on the lookout for tall and good-looking recruits for which they also get a finder’s fee, but the Midwest specifically has served as a model gold mine for them.
Mary Clarke told the Atlantic about one theory she heard from another scout for why so many models seem to come from that particular region of the U.S:
“I remember [this scout] telling me that there’s a lot of Scandinavian blood. There’s a lot of height in Iowa in particular.”
According to the theory, many immigrants of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish heritage settled in Midwest states like Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin in the late 19th century. Scandanavians and other ethnicities in the region are widely known to be some of the tallest people in the world. According to the U.S. Census, 31% of America’s Scandinavian-American population lives in the Midwest, though more Scandinavian-Americans actually live in the West.
When it comes to scouting strategy, it’s also about being able to feel that a recruit is truly something special. Mary Clark revealed to The Fashion Spot:
“Of course, it always starts with height. But yesterday we were at the mall ordering a book and we’re both looking at the girl taking our order. She was tall and pretty, but there just wasn’t that thing where you go ‘Wow, she’s really special.’ You learn to trust your instincts. If it just took being tall, beautiful and photogenic, our job would be 5,000 times easier. But it’s so much more than that.”
So if you are an aspiring model blessed with Scandinavian height, good looks and something “extra special,” you may want to hang out in some Midwestern malls for a chance to be discovered as one of the world’s next supermodels.