Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Pulse sees dollar signs as Alicia Burke hits the ‘money list’

Published:Friday | September 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this May 6, 2018 Gleaner photo, Pulse model Alicia Burke (second right) is seen with friends, from left, hellene Gregory, Novia Wilson and Jodi Cespedes-McIntyre.
Kingsley Cooper, chairman of Pulse Investments Limited.
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Pulse Investments Limited is celebrating Alicia Burke's ascension to the list of top earning models worldwide, but would say only that her income was in the seven-digit range.

Pulse earns between 10 per cent and 36 per cent of its models' gross earnings, but even then the agency's income would be based on the jobs it had a hand in landing.

Chairman Kingsley Cooper told the Financial Gleaner that the actual percentage depends on whether jobs are booked by Pulse directly or through any of its network of agency partners around the world.

Last year, for example, Pulse booked $27 million in model income, whereas "our models gross earnings were closer to $250 million," he said.

He noted that most jobs are booked outside of Jamaica in the major markets of New York, Paris, London, New York, or such satellite markets as South Africa, Los Angeles, Scandinavia, Miami, Mexico City and elsewhere. New York is the biggest market.

Burke, who is from Bullet Tree district in Old Harbour, was the only Jamaican and Caribbean model on the new Hot List ranking.

Cooper said model earnings are significant for Pulse as they are in hard currency and fairly elastic.

"In the modelling industry, although the number of working internationals signed to any agency is important, the quality of contracted models is more important than the quantity. One superstar is more valuable from an earnings and impact perspective, than twenty moderately successful models," he said.

In recent years, Pulse has benefited from such top performers as Jeneil Williams and now Alicia Burke, both of whom were discovered through its model search in Jamaica.

A few years ago, McKenzie reached the top 25 of all models, and held the number one position among black models for more than three years.

Pulse's income from its models' earnings has been increasing steadily over the past few years. This, he said, is due in to rising talent, such as Miqueal-Simone Williams, Shalisha Stewart, Zoe Griffith and more recently a new group that includes Daniella Davis.

"We expect this trend to continue. However, if there is a sharp increase in models' earnings for any reason - such as Alicia Burke's latest success - there will be a similar increase in Pulse revenues from this source," he said.

The modelling industry is worth more than US$100 billion in the United States alone.

Cooper said Pulse generally works with partners, with "the muscle to get the kind of results that make a difference in the major markets, hence the success of Burke (Women/Supreme), Williams (IMG) and McKenzie (Women/Supreme)."

As to what the Jamaican agency itself invests in talent, Cooper said money was secondary.

'Time and focus are the main investments required to develop our talent to the top level of international modelling ... money is not the major input. Pulse must scout, develop and prepare models for a market in which beauty, attitude, dedication and professionalism are the main requirements," he said.

"Also, international partners who sign our talent will invest as required for such expenses as travel, accommodations, etc. Ultimately, models pay their own expenses from earnings, as Pulse and its partners are agents or managers, not principals so all expenses are refundable."

Last year, Pulse made a profit of $268 million before tax credits, up from $239 million in the previous period ending June 2016. Models contributed 5.5 per cent of income to Pulse during the period, Cooper said.

Alicia is the first Jamaican model to reach the top group of earners in the global modelling industry since the "money girls" ranking was instituted by Models.com through its Hot List. She is one of three black women on the high earner list and seven black women on the money list overall.

Models.com said of Burke that she "continues to mesmerise industry shot callers leading her poised prettiness to being tapped for Meisel lensed Ralph Lauren campaigns. Beauty clients from Bobbi Brown and Gucci to Nars and Tom Ford show her broad appeal. Laura Mercier for Fall 2018 adds another top beauty brand to Alicia's roster."

Pulse has represented models for 40 years. The company was founded by Cooper and headed by him up to the end of 2015 when the job of chief executive officer was taken up by his daughter Safia Cooper, while he continued to hold the title of chairman.

avia.collnder@gleanerjm.com