Jen Powell is the Powerhouse Manager Behind Mega Influencers

by Alexandra Ilyashov

Meet the influencers captivating us this season, and the behind-the-scenes talents orchestrating their success from all angles. First up: Jennifer Powell, a longtime model agent turned influencer manager.

A dozen years ago, seasoned model agent Jennifer Powell saw the vast, untapped potential of influencers, and worked with OGs like Fashion Toast and The Blonde Salad in their infancies. Now, she skillfully guides the big businesses of WeWoreWhat’s Danielle Bernstein, Tezza Barton, Happily Grey’s Mary Lawless Lee, Sincerely Jules, and more.

How did you pivot from models to influencers?
I was a model agent for more than 20 years, at Look in San Francisco and Next Models in L.A. When I was at Next in 2008, Rumi Neely was sent to me by a photographer; she had a “photo diary,” Fashion Toast. Brands were sending her clothes, asking her to shoot and post them, and link out to product; then the product was selling out! Rumi, being the brilliant lady she is, knew there was financial value to what she was doing. At Next, I booked models with a lot of the brands sending clothing to Rumi, so when I spoke to those brands, I’d mention this new type of model that clients could track sales ROI on. They started paying Rumi for shooting and posting. I applied model day rates to what Rumi was doing, because I knew how much money brands had, and what typical usages were. I just winged it! She started making money, sitting front row at shows in NYC and Paris, and shooting campaigns.

Who did you work with next?
Chiara Ferragni from The Blonde Salad came to me. I booked her for fashion projects and magazine covers, which led to capsule collections and campaigns. Then the flood gates opened: Kristina Bazan from Switzerland, Gala Gonzales from Spain, Danielle Bernstein from NYC, and Sincerely Jules from L.A., all of the first fashion bloggers. It was wild. I stopped booking models altogether to be able to just focus on them and really understand the landscape. I realized I really loved building brands with talent, so I started my own agency, Jennifer Powell Inc, or JPinc, in 2017.

How do you help clients amass business acumen?
I know my way around a contract, so I definitely help them with those. I also advise on business infrastructure: Do you have an attorney? Are you incorporated? Do you have, or need, a business manager, financial adviser, or wealth manager? Do you have contracts with photographers, who own the imagery?

What negative changes have occurred in the influencer space over the past five years?
Brands are trying to take more control of the content, talent, and shoot during campaigns than before. Initially, the influencer might have had too much control; now, the brand is micro-managing. There’s a happy medium. The brands that want to control the narrative, it’s absolutely fine; however, I’d suggest just hiring a model.

What mistakes do you wish burgeoning influencers would avoid?
People quit their day jobs too early. You need to keep this as a side hustle until you cannot do your day job anymore. You don’t ever want to have to take brand jobs out of desperation; you want to be thoughtful about your brand association. Work your day job and invest in your influencer career, until you absolutely cannot do both.

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