Last week, Atlanta Film and TV had a conversation with Press Manager and Influencer Booker, Alice Winson of Zebedee Talent.
Located in the United Kingdom, Zebedee Talent was established in 2017 and is a specialist talent agency created to increase the representation of disabled people until now, has been excluded in the media. Zebedee Talent represents models and actors across Europe and the USA with a variety of needs.
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you give us some background on Zebedee Talent?
Alice Winson: "Zebedee is a family business, where we share a passion for increasing awareness representing people with disabilities as well as visible differences across all forms of media. When Zebedee launched, there was a very small percentage of people either with disabilities or visible differences in the UK media, including commercial advertisements. Currently, the disabled population averages around 20 percent, which meant we had a job to do! At the time, there were no management companies representing the talent we wanted to represent, so we decided to go for it. Now, we have expanded across the UK, into America. We’re throughout Europe, and soon will be in Australia."
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you give us some background on the founders, Zoe Proctor and Laura Johnson?
Alice Winson: "Alice worked as a model for years, and currently still works as a plus-sized model. Her day job was working as a performing arts theater teacher for disabled children and adults. While working as a performing arts teacher, Zoe noticed the lack of representation and the lack of opportunity in media."
Laura, on the other hand, worked as a mental health social worker, and worked with a lot of children, and noticed that there were not a lot of opportunities for disabled kids who wanted a career in performing arts.
While walking on the beach one day, Zoe and Laura came up with their business idea. They thought, ‘if no one is going to give people with disabilities and visible differences an opportunity to work in the media, then, we’re going to have to!’ During that same week, Zoe and Laura launched Zebedee, and afterward, set up their first casting - which, by the way, they had a lot of talent to work with from Zoe’s performing arts classes. Currently, Zebedee has over five-hundred people with disabilities and or visible disabilities signed to them as either models or actors."
Atlanta Film and TV: How did the name Zebedee come about for the company?
"The name Zebedee came from Zoe’s disabled performing arts students at the time. I don't think there's a meaning, I just think they thought the name Zebedee was cool! "
- Alice Winson
Atlanta Film and TV: How did Zoe and Laura earn their reputation as a trusted Talent Management Company?
Alice Winson: "When Zebedee launched four-years-ago, Zoe only had experience modeling but lacked the experience as an agent. It was, however, a struggle for Zoe and Laura, to get that experience. Now, we do our own thing, like speaking to the press, and found out four years down the line that other modeling and talent agencies don’t necessarily do that. But, it works for us! Doing things differently is how we managed to keep going and how we’ve become successful. "
Atlanta Film and TV: COVID has brought about a paradigm shift over the past year, and technology is being used in the entertainment industry in ways we hadn’t imagined before. Due to how content is now being created, produced, and distributed, in your opinion, how is this advantageous for those in the film and television industry?
Alice Winson "During the pandemic, we managed to launch our influencer department, and we’ve had a lot of beneficial work for all of our talent through social media, and since then it’s grown. We have also gotten a lot of your ‘normal’ modeling and acting work, because the creative wheels have not stopped turning, and people need their media and entertainment. We’ve had a lot of models getting work in America, and recently, one of our lovely amputee models worked for Nike a few weeks ago. The pandemic has affected us more in the UK than in the US, but we've adapted and diversified, and our models have gotten more work through our influencer department. At Zebedee, we're more of a community, we have our Zebedee family, and we have parties on Zoom!"
What are your thoughts on the fashion industry ignoring disabled models and since the launch of Zebedee Talent, have you seen more inclusion of disabled models?
Alice Winson: "I think we’ve seen more inclusion worldwide of disabled models. Especially since one of our models, Ellie Goldstein, had a successful shoot with Italian Vogue for Gucci, and has the most liked picture on Gucci’s Instagram account, which I think showed a lot of brands that it works! Sometimes during interviews, we get asked questions such as, ‘do you ever fear disabled models are ever being used, for companies to look better?’ And, if that's the case, getting disabled people out there is working, and we’re being equal in the media. And, when it does work, we have more repeat clients for our models and actors."
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you talk to us about Ellie Goldstein, the eighteen-year-old teenager who is the first model with Down Syndrome to model for Gucci?
Alice Winson: "Ellie Goldstein is from England, she’s an incredible dancer, and is a superstar, in her own right! If you ever go onto her Instagram, all she is doing is dancing or modeling. When Ellie was younger, I think what she wanted to be when she grew up was famous, and she’s done it! She’s an incredible model and has done an amazing shoot with Amazon, and I loved the images from it, and it shows her beautifully!
I think she knew how groundbreaking it was for her to be the first woman with Down Syndrome, to model for Gucci, and how incredible she was for getting the job. I think she thought she should be here, because ‘she’s amazing!’ "
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you talk to us about some of the other talent that Zebedee represents?
Alice Winson: "We have some inspirational people signed on to Zebedee Talent from all over the world. We have a lady from England named Lucy Dawson, who does a lot of influencer work, and she prides herself on her journey in life. Her Instagram account is very inspirational as she gets most of her work from there.
We currently have at least 75 people with Down Syndrome, signed on with us as talent, and they always book incredible work! We have a little girl named Anna Catherine, who is an influencer, she loves to dance and does her ‘Moody Mondays.’
We have a lot of talent with visible differences, and we also represent people who consider themselves non-binary and trans. We have a guy who is an amazing model from Philadelphia, PA named Julian Gavino, who is in a wheelchair and has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and he loves spreading the message of ‘his disability does not define him.’ We’ve recently signed sisters, Hannah and Becky, who have a massive Tik Tok following. Hannah, who is the oldest, has cerebral palsy, and loves to smile!
We have such a wide range of models, that I can’t begin to tell you about half of them, because they are all amazing!"
Atlanta Film and TV: If I know someone who is looking for representation, can you talk to us about what the process looks like for them to submit?
Alice Winson: "We have our online applications on our website. And, people are also welcome to reach out on our Instagram DM’s, however, it's not guaranteed that we’ll see it. But, we are always welcoming new talent, in the US, and Australia, and we have certain times of the year for the UK, and we’re ever-growing! "
Atlanta Film and TV: Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Alice Winson: "We are always happy to have people come on board with Zebedee. One thing that we’ll never do is set people up to fail. Especially if someone doesn’t have the demeanor that we think we’ll need to get through this, and we’re sensitive in that department and our job in inclusivity, and disability, and non-binary representation."
How can people connect with Zebedee Talent?