When IMD President Teresa Pollman opened her modeling and talent agency on New Year’s Day in 1998, she was concerned that her young age would be a deterrent in such a competitive industry.
“It was a combination of me being so young and that a lot of the older generation would pat my back and be like, ‘Oh, that’s cute,’" Pollman recalls. "At a Chamber of Commerce meeting, someone gave me a hug and gave me this pity look. I know they were looking at me like, ‘Little girl!'"
But Pollman was certain she would never lack the determination and passion to continue the only thing she could imagine doing for a career.
IMD Models and Talent marked 20 years this week with a long list of talents who have passed through its Medford doors. Despite an unlikely location for an agency that sends clients to New York, L.A. and Paris, IMD has placed those clients with the likes of Calvin Klein, Versace, Disney and GAP.
Pollman credits her success to her loyal, hardworking staff and the region, saying Southern Oregon talents are unique and hardworking, but those who know her say her work ethic and experience have paved the way for countless careers.
Since 1998, Pollman and her staff have taken talents to national competitions twice each year and achieved a 100 percent callback rate. In addition to training for acting and modeling, Pollman helps young people learn life skills, confidence and how to present themselves to the world.
A model for eight years and during college, Pollman grew up in the Rogue Valley, and despite working around the country and scouting for some large agencies, she always envisioned returning home. Familiar with the talent industry, it only made sense to open an agency in the place she most wanted to live.
The cornerstone of how she works with clients, she says, harks back to her own modeling days and seeing what worked and what didn’t.
Central Point native Dillon Westbrock grew up familiar with Pollman as a neighbor and friend; his mother had been involved with acting under IMD tutelage. While childhood attempts to bust into the industry were met with delays, Westbrock says Pollman’s insight for the industry provided solid guidance.
“When I was a kid, I would go into IMD every other year looking for opportunity and Teresa would tell me, ‘All right, but let’s wait.’ I had braces and crazy long curly hair. She was like, ‘Let’s wait for you to grow into yourself,’ ” Westbrock remembers with a laugh.
Now a familiar face on Calvin Klein underwear packages around the world, Westbrock says he still marvels at the success Pollman helped him achieve.
“When she finally thought I was ready, she signed me up for modeling, sent me to IGA and I went to Europe that summer. I was 16. Now I’m on packages of Calvin Klein underwear, I’ve modeled for Versace … and I’m from Central Point, Oregon.”
Of Pollman, Westbrock says location on the map has little to do with her pull with agencies around the world.
“Everywhere you go, everyone loves Teresa because she’s just such a badass. She’s amazing. I call her my work mama. IMD has given me such a different opportunity in life," he says.
Another Rogue Valley native, Mariah Strongin, met Pollman when she went in search of a pageant sponsor.
“I was this small-town kid and I was into modeling, so I gave her my whole spiel. She just smiled and said, ‘OK, we’re not going to sponsor you for a pageant, but we have this amazing competition I’d like to take you to,’” Strongin, now 25, recalls.
In her first year, Strongin was named Model and Actor of the Year for the competition and netted $40,000 in her first month’s work.
“Now I’m with IMG worldwide. I’ve been all over the world, and every single person I work with knows who Teresa is because IMD wins every single competition they go to. When Teresa brought me in to all this, she told me what to do, I did it, and now I’m here.”
Crista Klayman, director for the Runway Division of L.A. Models, noted Pollman’s successes in an industry dominated by those dwelling in cities such as L.A. and New York.
“The thing that’s crazy about it is it’s Medford," Klayman says. "It’s not the easiest place to get to, unless you’re on that 6:30 a.m. flight out of Burbank. And she has her fingers in this industry all over the world. It’s absolutely amazing, and people can talk about New York or L.A. or Paris being the places to be but no, Teresa just shows that if you work your butt off and you work hard, then it’s really about how you do your job.
“People in the industry know that with Southern Oregon, beauty is just home-grown there. And Teresa discovers these unbelievable talents. The world is her oyster, period. You could put her anywhere, and she would have the same successes. She is the hardest-working person I know.”
On the web: www.imdmodeling.com.
— Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at email@example.com.