Donald Trump's organisation officially shuts down Trump Models venture

Emily Shugerman
Donald Trump attends the Michael Kors Fall 2005 fashion show: Getty/Peter Kramer

The Trump Organisation is officially shutting down one of the President's pet ventures: the modelling agency he has operated for 18 years. Leaked emails from agency president Corinne Nicolas reportedly show Trump Models is preparing to close up shop.

In the emails, obtained by Mother Jones, Ms Nicolas told business associates that the organisation is “choosing to exit the modelling industry” in order to focus on its core businesses: real estate, golf and hospitality. She cited the recent sale of the Miss Universe Organisation as galvanising the decision. Mr Trump sold Miss Universe in 2015 after several networks refused to air the pageant.

When Mr Trump founded Trump Models in 1999, it quickly became one of the top agencies in the country, launching the careers of Hollie May Saker, Tiana Tolstoi, Zhenya Mygovich. Mr Trump handed control of the agency over to his sons before taking office, but maintains an 85 percent stake in the company. Financial disclosures show he earned nearly $2 million in commissions from the business in 2015.

Following Mr Trump’s election, however, numerous models and employees have left the agency. Models are reluctant to sign with the agency — and bookers are nervous to hire them — because of the Mr Trump’s controversial politics, Sutherland Models Creative Director Brandon Hall told Mother Jones.

Former Trump Models star Maggie Rizer publicly quit the agency last year, writing on Instagram, “as a woman, a mother, an American and a human being, I cannot wake up Wednesday morning being the least bit related to the Trump brand.” Other stalwarts like Shirley Mallmann, Katie Moore and Mia Kang followed shortly thereafter.

In addition to models’ personal concerns, Trump Models agents say working conditions became unbearable following the election.

"[Models would] arrive on set and people would say, 'Oooh, you're from Trump [Models]? How dare you,' or 'Why are you still with them?'" former Trump Models booker Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rocha told Refinery29. "They were constantly harassed by employees on shoots, especially by other models."

The agency has also become a political liability for Mr Trump, after models told Mother Jones and Business Insider that were exploited and driven into debt by the agency. More pointedly for Mr Trump, an immigration hardliner, several models said the agency had encouraged them to work without proper visas.

In her email to Trump Models associates, Ms Nicolas described the agency as a “tremendous success” and said she is “immensely proud” of its work. She did not provide the date on which the agency would close.

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