Local talent excel at New York talent convention & Ford Models to Visit SA in September

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Every year, the driven and faith-filled Elsubie Verlinden, Chairperson and CEO of 33 and Me Talent Agency, takes a handful of African talent to New York City to participate in the IMTA (International Modeling and Talent Association), the largest talent convention in the world.

IMTA is where talent agents, managers and casting directors come to find new faces in the industry. IMTA has launched the careers of industry professionals such as Ashton Kutcher, Elijah Wood, Eva Longoria, Jessica Biel, Katie Holmes and more. As the premiere agent for IMTA in South Africa, Elsubie’s aim is not only to get youngsters to New York to audition in front of talent agents, but to seek out international education opportunities, and career prospects.

This year, Elsubie took 55 contestants from South Africa, Swaziland, Liberia and Botswana to IMTA. These contestants were selected over a course of countrywide auditions, hosted by the 33 and Me Talent Agency team, and culminated in an extravagant showcase – The International Arts Talent Showcase (IATS), held annually at Silverstar Casino. The showcase plays host to both local and international leading industry professionals, who spectate, adjudicate and evaluate the talent across four different faculties: acting, singing, dancing and modelling. Regulars include Nate Butler, Blaze Johnson and Rhavynn Drummer. It is here that promising artists are invited to IMTA. 

Every single one of the contestants who attended IMTA this July, secured call-backs from agents present at the convention. That means a 100% call-back rate from leading agencies such as Watersound Entertainment, Ford Models, Step Forward Entertainment and Mavrick Agency, to name a few. Local contestants also received numerous awards and honourable mentions from the association itself, which proves that Africa has what it takes to penetrate the international market.

Most worthy of mention are two remarkable opportunities presented to two of our local talents. Cape Town based performer Jason Jeffrey (24) and Johannesburg’s Lutendo Tshikwatamba (18), were presented with the opportunity to submit casting tapes to the Neil Diamond Broadway show and Michael Jackson Broadway show, respectively.

An excited Lutendo eagerly states, “New York, the city that never sleeps! To be in such an atmosphere was the opportunity of a lifetime. Let me tell you, you will not regret a single second when you stand in the street lights of New York. I auditioned for the IATS showcase back in 2018 and qualified to go to New York, but the trip was delayed due to COVID. Finally 2022 came knocking on my door. I did singing, modelling, acting and dancing. I woke up tired every morning but I was ready to do my ultimate best in everything. After my performance at the awards ceremony, I was blessed to be given the opportunity to audition for Broadway. I thought I was living in a dream but in that moment I just thanked God for the favour he has bestowed upon me.” 

Jason adds, “Being in New York amongst so much talent really brings out the best in you. IMTA is a very powerful platform for us artists. It helped me make some influential connections.”

Another achievement goes to Gizelle aka Miss G, who was scouted by a renowned designer, Amelia Tuu, and will be returning to the States next month to model at New York Fashion Week.

This year’s IATS is set to take place on 29, 30 September and 1 October, where a new bevy of talent will be given the opportunity to audition for the next IMTA trip in 2023.

With Elsubie continually seeking opportunities for our local talent, this year, she secured Paulo Santos from Ford Models, who will visit South Africa and form part of the panel of adjudicators.

“This opens up global fashion modelling opportunities for all our contestants at the showcase,” Elsubie explains.

Ford Models are looking for male and female fashion models. This includes plus size models, which is a major industry in America.

“This is a major untapped market in SA,” Elsubie says.

Paulo Santos, who echoes this sentiment, adds, “I am looking for beautiful and interesting models with great personalities. My hope is to find beautiful models to be represented by Ford NY, who will work in the US market. My eyes are always peeled, looking for the next top model.”

Ford Models are just one of the 10 American agents that will sit on the panel at this year’s IATS.

International workshops by the elite panel at IATS will be provided to all local talent attending the showcase, not only allowing them to get first world skills and expertise but to meet and network in person with some of the largest names in the industry.

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