Some say luck; others call it fate. However, you view a fortunate course of events; Erin Lucas’ story is one for the books. Throughout her 22-year career, Lucas leaped at the perfect moments, eventually navigating to her position as the Executive Vice President of The Industry Model Management, a high-end boutique women’s modeling agency with headquarters and relations at Pier59 Studios.
Lucas’ introduction to the industry was not what she expected. Just a teen, genetically blessed in height and beauty, Click Model’s legend Frances Grill scouted Lucas. After years of subscriptions to Vogue and an infatuation with style, Lucas anticipated a glamorous, jet-set life. However, she soon realized that modeling was a game of chance, no matter her efforts.
“I hung up my Versace jumpsuit, and threw on my Old Navy jeans,” Lucas said.
She returned to school to pursue a degree in Elementary Education while minoring in Photography, with the takeaway that rejection is inevitable, but when one door closes, another will open.
Marina Von Arnim, Lucas’ former Miami-based agent at Models International (now known as Elite), was the “fairy godmother” who opened Lucas’ next door of opportunity, this time behind the camera. Select Productions hired her as a photographer assistant and producer. With experience as a model, her ability to articulate her vision was effortless. Lucas established herself as a respected creative, but by her late 20s, exhaustion struck. Again, Von Armin’s impeccable timing and guidance pushed Lucas to unveil more of what she had to offer.
A full circle; Lucas joined Von Arnim and spent two years as a junior agent at Elite Miami. Under John Casablancas’ wing, Lucas broadened her network and sharpened her leadership skills. He saw a deeper potential and encouraged Lucas to take on The Big Apple, a place that intimidated her.
While at Elite,, Wilhelmina requested her assistance. Lucas was offered the Director’s position at Wilhelmina Los Angeles, pending a six month trial in their New York office to learn the ropes. Lucas made the brave decision to face NYC.
On the eve of September 11th, 2001, Lucas arrived in Manhattan. The next day, she watched the Twin Towers crash to the ground. Lucas thought that was the end. Was her luck running out, or was this her fate?
The tragedy and chaos on her first day on the job would not deter her. The senior booker kept the words of Frank Sinatra in the back of her mind, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
She was given a group of new, inexperienced models and made them stars. Lucas became the highest billing agent there, while learning the model management business from then Agency Owner and President, Dieter Esch. Los Angeles would have to wait after all.
After five intense, yet very successful years in NY, home beckoned. After arriving back in Miami and taking some months off to reflect, Esch offered her the Agency Director’s position at Wilhelmina Miami, which had faded into near-bankruptcy status. Luckily, with her extensive network in South Beach, along with the experience gained in New York; Lucas was prepared for this role. Early on, despite the lack of support and appalling disrespect amongst colleagues forcing her to dismiss almost the entire staff and rebuild; she persevered. Eventually, she was promoted to a Vice President role in the network, and transformed Wilhelmina Models Miami into the ‘crown jewel’ of the network with over $12 million in annual receivables.
After almost 15 years with Wilhelmina and a brief return to Elite Miami, only this time as the Agency Director there; Erin realized a bigger change was imminent. She felt complacent, and as if her growth, both personally and professionally, had stalled. Although wholly aware that success comes with challenges, she had grown very weary of the unflattering labels from men who dominated the industry often unfairly applied to her ambition and business tenacity. The constant need to defend herself to them had come close to extinguishing her passion for the business altogether.
By 2018, Federico Pignatelli, owner of Pier 59 Studios and it’s model management division, The Industry, came knocking with Lucas’ destined role in hand. Next stop: Los Angeles.
Over the past two years, as the Executive Vice President of The Industry Model Mgmt USA, she has led the company to great success, while also being able to soften her heart and pursue her true passion in model management. This time around, the success has been much sweeter.
Working for an agency owner like Pignatelli, who shares the same vision for what management should be, has brought out the best in Lucas. She has found a comrade in arms, who like her, believes that a model agency should do more than book jobs for their models. They are there to protect, empower, and educate their models to become self-reliant business women in a supportive agency environment where they feel heard and are co-collaborators in their own success. This is her true passion.
The resilient industry legend finally feels at home, living passionately from her heart. This go-around, Lucas can finally savor her time, something she believes is the greatest gift of life. Something that has certainly been on her side.