I’m sure there are many people who remember way back, when this lady began her dream right here in Cornwall as she opened “Angie’s Models and Images” but do you know how her story has progressed?
Well, back in April I did an interview with Angie’s daughter Helena-Alexis Seymour who had just won an award at the Las Vegas Movie Awards for her acting as Jessica Wu in the TV Series “The Chronicles of Jessica Wu”.
Helena began her career at an early age at “Angie’s Models and Images” right here in Cornwall, and with the same determination as her mother (and father), she is now living her dream in Las Vegas.
For many years, I was always excited to be in the Welcome Wagon Wedding Show, showcasing the custom made Wedding Invitations that I still make, as Angie would come from Ottawa with her models and put on a very professional fashion show which the Brides looked forward to each year.
When Welcome Wagon stopped doing their show, Sheldon (my life partner) and I began the “Wedding Expo Cornwall” (pre-Covid of course.) Hopefully soon we will again be able to have our show and Angie and I have already discussed her coming here to do a Fashion Show once again for our brides!
I am happy that I caught up with this very busy lady to congratulate her on ANGIE’S AMTI MANAGEMENT INC. being presented with the Award for the Best Talent Agency at the 2021 Ottawa Awards and I do apologize in advance for the length of this story but it shows what you can do with determination and hard work to overcome even major health obstacles and get to “LIVE YOUR DREAM”… so here we go …
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How, when and where did you decide to open this business? Please tell us about your early days and highlight some of the events that happened.
With a strong faith, optimism and belief in myself, I built a successful business and career from the ground up. I raised a confident and creative family and conquered the most daunting opponent of my life Cancer. Breast Cancer. Being told you have breast cancer is something I can never forget. I felt my life was over for a moment. I felt that once people knew I had cancer they would see me weak and not as a business woman. But I decided to speak about it and help other woman and empower woman. I had numerous surgeries from 2011 to 2017. I almost did lose my life but I kept faith over fear and I knew that my life was not over I was put on this earths for a purpose and that was to create more stars and make more dreams come true to people that never even thought they had a chance. My husband Lou, my kids, Helena-Alexis & Dimitrios right by side and all my models and actors kept me motivated and kept inspiring me every day to just keep fighting. December 5 2017, I decided to have a double mastectomy and I have never felt more beautiful and powerful in my life. Breasts do not define a woman, it’s your inner beauty that defines a woman.
Here is my little something about me and how it all started:
Angie began modeling at the age of 13 when representatives from Vogue Butterick and the Audrey Morris Agency visited her Montreal high school looking for local talent. A designer and sample model, her mother was set against the idea of her daughter modeling, perhaps because of the harsh realities of the business, perhaps for other reasons. Angie herself believed modeling was not for her but agreed to do the show. One led to another and throughout high school she took part in several local shows for stores like Eaton’s. Still believing it was not the career for her daughter, Angie was never allowed to travel and so her modeling career was limited to that.
Eventually she married Lou Seymour, a former heavy weight lifter, and together they had two beautiful children, Helena-Alexis and Dimitrios. Angie went to work for the government and led a fairly typical life of work, marriage and family, until fashion shows crept back into her life. “I started putting on fashion shows for the people I worked with as fundraisers for local children’s hospital programs. All the models were people we worked with or the kids of people we worked with. The response was great, both from the people who attended and the people who modeled. They loved how they felt getting glammed up and showing off for a bit.”
Angie and her family lived in Cornwall at the time and as she went about her business she noticed something disturbing in the teens she saw. Lacking confidence and self-esteem, she was looking at a generation of people she saw as being lost. “I looked at these kids and believed all they needed was confidence and a chance to feel good about themselves. Kids really need a connection to their families; to their parents. They need to know their parents adore them and are proud of them and many don’t have that.”
Angie approached a local studio, Top Hat Dance, and offered to teach a course in poise and etiquette. Her program was a success, and one of the partners encouraged her to get out on her own. Her first charm and etiquette school was a downtown studio she rented for $100 a month. Offering classes for $75 for a six month program, Angie thought she could get enough students through her Tuesday and Saturday classes to cover the rent. She had 75 students enroll. “Clearly this was something the kids, and their parents, were desperate to have.”
Angie recalls one mother who sent all of her daughters through Angie’s program. “I ran into this mother a few years ago and her daughter, the one who was the shyest and most reserved, was working as a spokesperson for Akwesasne’s water program. Her transformation was incredible.” Angie’s students did a lot of shows in local malls and in Massena. At a conference in New York, she won top school of the year. Still just a part-time business Angie felt torn between her government job and the time she spent with the school. “I spoke with my boss about quitting and he didn’t want me to leave so I became the first government teleworker and I worked from home as an employment counselor.”
Eventually she got too busy even for that so she left her government career behind and began working full-time at her school. That was 32-years ago now and she’s never looked back. “We had people coming to us from Ottawa, Montreal, Massena, Platsburgh, Vermont, and Kingston. People kept encouraging me to move to Ottawa because there was nothing like what I was doing there.”
For two years she commuted back and forth between Cornwall and Ottawa before her family made the move to Ottawa and Angie and her husband opened there permanently, not as a school of etiquette, but as an agency. “Poise and etiquette was still very much my focus but instead of teaching it, I was looking for people who had it.”
Angie believes modeling helps people, and helped her, develop more confidence and self-assurance. And while some say modeling is all about a look, Angie says it is more about personality. “You can have the ‘look’ – full lips, beautiful eyes, great hair – but if the personality isn’t there – if there isn’t that inner shine – it isn’t there.”
Angie brings in about 30 new models every year and says the industry is always looking to her for fresh faces. “I speak with a lot of people every year looking for that personality we want to see. The industry wants faces they haven’t seen before and I want people I can work with; people who have what it takes to succeed.”
Holding open calls, Angie gets models from all over the country looking to get into the business. While it is the potential model Angie works, it is also the family. “The whole family must be prepared for the change and the work that can come. It may mean travel and summer school or tutoring to keep up with school work. All of the models I work with must be 70 plus students. I expect them to finish high school and look ahead to continued education in the future so they must be bright to maintain that level of commitment to their education.”
Angie looks at all of her models as an extension of her family. “I look out for them; become a second mom to them. I still get Mother’s Day cards from many of my girls. When they travel they are assigned a guardian who will follow them and guide them until they are ready to be on their own.”
Looking back on her days in Cornwall she insists her models’ families are supportive and involved. “When the kids are little of course, mom and dad and grandma and grandpa come out to watch and cheer but as the kids get older, parents may think it’s ok not to be around as much. I insist that at least one parent is there to be supportive and watch what the child is doing so they have that support and family connection.”
With travel and exposure models not only advance their careers but grow as people. “Think of it. When you have the chance to travel and see the world, it changes the way you view the world. You meet new people and have new experiences and you become more rounded, more experienced.”
Angie says some of her models and talents have stayed in the business and others leave to continue school or have families. “I’m now representing the children of people who worked with me over the years. I guess that’s what they call full circle.”
Other talents stay on in the business and make it a full-time career. “I first met Ryan Gosling at Top Hat Dance school and told him he should be acting. That was his start and he took it from there.”
Angie’s own children are involved with the business to some degree but have successful lives and careers on their own as well. “My daughter Helena-Alexis is a successful actress now living in Los Angeles, photographer, make-up artist and stylist. My son Dimitrios is running our agency in Toronto for the last 8 years.
Looking at Angie now and absorbing her confidence one would assume Angie always knew she would someday be where she is today but she says that was not the case. “I went to a psychic once who said she saw me down the road with my name on a door. I was working for the government at the time so imagined myself as a department head or something. I am pleased and grateful every day to be where I am today but I never could have pictured this.”
Besides Gosling, Angie has worked with some famous faces over her career including Brianna Barnes who walked into Angie’s Cornwall office at the age of 14 and who Angie booked for her first movie and is now a working model living between LA/ NY; Melinda Shankar, star of How to be Indie & Degrassi; and model Herieth Paul who is the Maybelline girl, graced numerous covers of Elle Magazine, Vogue, Dressed To Kill, Flare, plus so many others and the CK1, Tom Ford, Sephora, Polo campaign plus so many more.
Professional success aside, Angie is a woman like any other and this past year she was challenged with the greatest battle of her life; breast cancer. But, in her own unique way, she took on the disease head on and conquered it with the same positive approach she has for everything in her life.
Her story begins in 2010 when she went her doctor because of a hardness in her breast. A mammogram was ordered which came up negative and so the technologist declined to do the ultrasound that had also been ordered. A year later Angie went for her annual mammogram, which again came up clean but this time the nurse noticed the hardening and asked about it. When she heard Angie’s story she made calls immediately for follow-up and the roller coaster ride began there. “That nurse saved me.”
Angie phoned her own doctor to inform them of the results and that she was being asked to wait six weeks for a biopsy. “But I said, since I first noticed this last year, haven’t I already been waiting a year?”
Her doctor, and a miracle, got her in more quickly. “I’ve always felt someone was watching over me during all of this. I had to go for an MRI and I was very nervous waiting. They told me to be still but I just couldn’t and all of a sudden I felt a touch on my foot and it calmed me. When the test was done and I was out of the machine I asked who had been there to comfort me and they said I had been alone the whole time.”
This was all in January of 2011 and by April, Angie had undergone a full mastectomy. “Along with the tumor I had felt, the doctors also found .5mm of an invasive cancer. That small an amount would have been hard to detect on its own and they got to it before it had a chance to spread. The doctor said I was very lucky and that I must have someone watching over me.”
Angie’s mother underwent her own battle with pancreatic cancer; a battle she lost some years ago. “I remember it all so well. My mom decided to live every day and not let herself be defined by her illness. The doctor had given her six months but she decided to live and she had two and a half years more with us. I took mom to all of her treatments, including to a homeopath. I believe the homeopath helped extend her life.”
Remembering her mother’s strength, Angie decided she would not let her cancer control her. Rather, she decided to take control of it. “I was never afraid; even after they first told me. I just decided I would be fine; decided I wouldn’t let it into my mind; and from the first day to now I’ve felt good. I’m sure my mother has been an angel by my side guiding me through all of this.”
From the first day she was told the news Angie decided a positive outlook was strong medicine. “I used homeopathy as my mother had; ate organically; took flax seed…. I decided I needed to be positive. I saw myself as a Greek goddess warrior queen fighting a battle I was going to win.”
Angie believes part of the reason for her outlook on life has been the career she’s chosen. “This industry – this disease – you have no control. You have to appreciate every day and don’t sweat the little things because there are so many variables and so many things that can change.”
A person of faith and of inner strength, Angie believes in God and herself. “I believe God does not give you more than you can handle. I believe I am a strong person and having cancer has not made me less than who I am; losing my breast has not changed me. I may be a little quicker to speak my mind now. I feel more powerful than I did before. I have beaten this disease and since I have a platform to speak, will tell every woman I can what I know: that we can win; that there is strength within every one of us; that cancer does not change us for the worse but can make us stronger.”
What is your Mission Statement? About Angie’s Models & Talent Inc. (AMTI)
Established in 1990, Angie’s Models & Talent Inc. (AMTI) has helped countless young men and women succeed in the world of fashion, theatre and film. Headquartered in Ottawa & Toronto, our models and actors travel across top fashion & entertainment markets such as London, Tokyo, Milan, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, etc.
Founded by Angie Sakla-Seymour (CEO) and Lou Seymour (CFO), AMTI is a family-run agency with an overwhelmingly positive culture that treats everyone who walks through our doors like extended family. We’re a prestigious agency with over two successful decades of industry experience and provide international representation to a boutique roster of models & actors who we are passionate about promoting worldwide.
What is unique about your business?
I myself will answer all emails. I also travel with our models or go on set with our actors. With over 32 years of trust & relationships, AMTI is affiliated & recognized worldwide by top agents, fashion agencies, personal managers, and commercial clients & casting directors. Known for managing some of the industry’s brightest stars, AMTI has grown to become a major powerhouse not only in Canada, but internationally and have clientele that includes magazine editorial, catalogue houses, advertising firms, commercial print, television & film.
How does your business improve or change the community at large?
We have more films coming in to Ottawa and we have the most diverse roster. Casting Directors and clients love this because they have so much to choose from.
Success is being happy and content in what you are doing is making a difference in people lives. Give more than you take. And never tell anyone that you are building an empire let them see it!
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business?
Covid-19 has changed our industry for the better! We are busier than ever before. We have found the best models and actors during this pandemic. As they say: take a negative and turn it into a positive.
Your company is definitely a success story as is every model and actress/actor coming through your doors . Could you please tell us about some of the bigger names and where they have ended up. Also please highlight some of the awards that you have received and some of the famous people who you have crossed paths with.
Angie’s AMTI has discovered some of Canada’s most notable faces, including Ryan Gosling (Golden Globe Winner, Oscar Nominated Actor, The Notebook, Drive, The Big Short) and Melinda Shankar (Degrassi the Next Generation, How To Be Indie). Our talent can be seen on the big and small screen, including: SamAshe Arnold – Lead roles in NETFLIX, TV Series, Are You Afraid of The Dark, Best Worst Weekend Ever, Transplant, Brotherhood, The Adventure Club, Odd Squad: The Movie, Winter Hymns, Blindfire, John-Alan Slachta –Make It Pop: Season 1 & 2; Nickelodeon & Helena-Alexis Seymour Birdman: The Unexpected Virtue of Innocence, XxX: Return of Xander Cage, Girlfriends Guide To Divorce, Chronicles of Jessica Wu, Exceptional Beings, Handmaid’s Tale, Zombie at 17, The Dissapearance, Highly Functional, My Worst Nightmare Proof Sheet, The Perfect Stalker, Beauty and the Beast, The Best Laid Plans, Love on a Limb, Diva’s Christmas Carol, The Ron James Show, Blue Mountain State,; Mikael Conde –The Exchange, Queen Of Spades, Transplant, Fatman, Party of Five, Midway, Street Legal, 19-2, Two for The Win, On the runway & in major campaigns world wide, including: James Hicks – Midway, The Detectives, Long Shot, Jupiter’s Legacy, The Boys, Butchers,Herieth Paul (A Victoria Secrets Model,Maybelline Global Ambassador, Sephora Global Campaign, GAP, Polo, TomFord),Ariel Himbeault (Shoppers Drug Mart, Holt Renfrew),William Jardell (America’s Next Top Model Cycle 21: Runner-Up),Matthew Stephen Smith (America’s Next Top Model Cycle 21, M8W Ambassador); and on the field, including:Maurice Leggett (Winnipeg Blue Bombers; CFL),Carline Muir(2x Canadian Olympian; 400m). I have won the BEST TALENT AGENCY in Ottawa this year and since 2011, Best Business Woman, Woman Working Award, The Nelson Mandela Award.
I believe that your company has been busy working with Oprah. How does this kind of thing happen and are there any interesting stories that come with this experience?
Yes Own Network/Harpo has been awesome! They are seeing new actors and seasoned actors. They are seeing who is out there because more and more films will be shooting here in Ottawa. Wish I can tell you more but we have signed an NDA. Which means we can’t say more than this.
We all think that the life of a model, actor/actress is glamorous but I’m sure there is a lot of work that comes with this career choice. What advice do you have for someone looking into this dream, how old should they be to start and how do they go about contacting your agency.
This industry is not for everyone. Making a living out of modeling and acting can be great and fulfilling, but building up a successful career, can be a bit of a tough process. You spend more time looking for work than actually working. Being rejected over and over. But don’t let rejection derail your career. For someone starting off young it helps to build character and realize that life is full of ups and downs and rejection. This is something that nobody ever tells you before getting into this industry. Being a good model or scorer isn’t just about how good looking you are and how talented you are in delivering your lines or about your amazing genetics. There’s a lot of beautiful and talented people in the world. If you are serious about getting into the industry it’s important to build a resilient personality. Stay focused. Never take rejection personally. Be comfortable with who you are. Be yourself. Be confident. And treat this as a business and work hard every day do something that brings you closer to your dream.
Parents let the children decide that they want to do it and not the parents living their dreams though their children.
I also know that even though you have a busy work schedule (even though I’m sure, like me, you love what you do so hopefully most of the time it doesn’t feel like work) whenever there is a natural disaster or if someone needs help you are there rallying the troops to get supplies and help wherever it is needed. Please tell us about some of these experiences where you have reached out a helping hand.
Lou is from the beautiful Island of the Bahamas and when the island was hit by the Hurricane. Our agency models & actors donated their checks, clothing, food and we rented a Uhaul and drove to Florida with all the donations and then took the ferry across to personally distribute food, money, clothing to the victims of the Hurricane. We did this this twice all before COVID. We surprised 150 children with bicycles for Christmas. Lou was Mr. Claus and I was Mrs. Claus. We surprised single mom’s with money, food and clothing. We surprised cashiers, stock boys with money. To give and help is the most rewarding. On December 19th Lou was Santa Claus again and went to Vanier and held a party and passed out Christmas toys, food to the families.
Anything else you’d like to leave us with?
– I want to say that when you give you get back ten times more. – Being kind and grateful for every single day will change your life. – Manifest your dreams. – Don’t wait for a better day to start something. Start now. – Avoid comparing yourself to others. – Keep your faith larger than your fears. Faith over Fear remember that! – Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right. – Don’t be afraid to spend time alone. – Avoid gossip and bashing others. – Speak kindly to yourself and to other people. – Please yourself before trying to please others. – Stay away from people who drain your energy. – Ignore any opinions that don’t enhance your life. – Start your day with this: I will be present in every moment. I am smart. I am kind. I am brave. I am beautiful. I am talented. Today is an amazing great day.
Thank you Angie – you are a true inspiration to all us ladies xo
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