The model agent Mohammed Fajar (Ford Models NY) isn’t impressed by conventional beauty. Rather, he said it’s the thrill of discovering a new special face that makes his job exciting.
“I love to make new stars,” Fajar said. “When you take a girl that’s fresh and you see something is happening to her, that’s amazing, because after a while they become big models.”
Fajar started out from the bottom at Women Management 17 years ago, eventually becoming one of the top agents in the business. Now at Ford, he represents faces like Crystal Renn, Alana Zimmer, and Hanne Gaby Odiele.
Still signing away proofs as he sat down to be interviewed, Fajar’s dedication to his job is evident.
“When I work, I give 200 percent,” Fajar said. “That’s why the girls I think like me.”
Fajar said he never imagined he would end up with a successful career in fashion. He fell into the world of modeling by accident when in 1994 he met Paul Rowland, founder of top agencies Women and Supreme, in Paris. Rowland invited him to move to New York to work at Women.
Born in Morocco, Fajar grew up in El Jadida, a small coastal city 45 minutes from Casablanca. He moved to Paris at 19 to study psychology. He hated it, and after two years, he switched to literature. Then, he sold antiques for seven years, going on to the restaurant industry for two years before meeting Rowland.
Starting from the ground up, Fajar began at Women from scratch, doing books, answering the phone, and then doing testing – learning the ropes before becoming an agent. He was lauded for his photographic visual memory, which gave him an edge at getting a grasp of models’ faces and photographers’ styles, and for his people skills, which rounded him out.
“The most important thing is that you have to have the personality for it,” Fajar said. “The rest you learn. It’s not like you go to school to be an agent.”
Although most modeling agencies have a division featuring new girls, most often the new girls are paired with a less-experienced assistant – people who are “not connected enough,” Fajar explained – and therefore new models take a long time to find success.
Realizing the need to give rookies more attention, Fajar opened Supreme with Rowland. It was an endeavor meant to focus on putting new faces on the scene. Fajar and the team opted for the aggressive route, pushing their models to their clients. After a few months the phone would not stop ringing.
“For the first month, we had girls confirmed with Ines [van Lamsweerde] for a Narciso [Rodriguez] campaign,” Fajar recalled.
But Fajar said he never fell for the glamorous aspects of the fashion world. Instead of attending the high-profile fashion shows and events, Fajar said he likes to live a low-key life, opting to head home to the East Village early to spend time with his 2-year-old son. He said he goes to bed around 10 p.m: “You never see me at any parties.”
But with the 24/7 demands of his job, Fajar often wakes up in the middle of the night to answer phone calls and emails, not wanting to miss an opportunity for his models.
When asked about how he became a successful agent, Fajar brushed it off: “Probably my looks, I guess.” But with all the big egos and demands from clients, Fajar owes his success in the modeling world to his thick skin and ability to deal with people.
“You have to really know how to deal people, not to offend this one, you have to be politically correct,” said Fajar. “You have to be pretty smart to manage the ego of this one or this one.”
Fajar watches carefully after his models, playing the role of not just an agent, but sometimes also that of a friend and parent. Especially with the stigma for models to stay thin to continue to get work, Fajar said he is adamant about never pressuring models to lose weight.
“You’re supposed to be there for them, and we are of course, when the girls depend on you more than anything,” Fajar said.
He mentioned a girl he represented who was very skinny at the beginning of her career. She was able to book major projects for eight seasons. But then, out of the blue, she gained weight, and the worked stopped. Fajar gently told her to accept she wasn’t going to lose the weight. Although tears rolled down her face, Fajar said a sense of relief overcame her. “Now she’s a plus-size model; she’s very happy.”
“It’s about being healthy first, in your mind and in your body, before being a model,” Fajar said.
Despite stories like that in the industry, Fajar being able to travel the world and make money as a model is an incredible opportunity.
“It’s very positive, I would not be in this industry if I did not believe in it,” he said.
It might be this honesty Fajar uses in dealing with both his models and clients that has earned him both their trust and his solid reputation.
“I’m never going to lie to a client,” Fajar asserted. “If I believe a girl is great, I’ll tell them she’s great, if I don’t believe she’s ready, I’ll tell them, so they trust me that way.”