Making a Difference: An Interview with Mélie Tiacoh, a Model, Talent Agent, and Humanitarian
Making a DifferenceAn Interview with Mélie Tiacoh, a Model, Talent Agent, and Humanitarian
[A part of the BEYOND THE SURFACE series]
A force to be reckoned with, Mélie Tiacoh is an international model and finance graduate. She was born in Paris and raised in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast; an international upbringing that shaped the entrepreneur and businesswoman that she is today. Melie is signed to over 10 of the world’s most well-known agencies and has worked with top names like Dior and Tom Ford.
Coming from Ivorian, Guinean, Lebanese and Italian roots, Melie has a background as diverse as her portfolio. But her true desire is investing in and giving back to Africa, a passion born out of intense love and admiration for her home continent. In 2017, Melie became an ambassador of the Kalou Foundation, a charitable organization founded by football players and brothers, Bonaventure Kalou and Salomon Kalou. The foundation facilitates medical care and access to sports for children in need. They also throw a Christmas celebration every year for orphans in Abidjan, a highlight for Melie. Melie’s most recent venture in bringing opportunities home is The Hunt, a scouting and placement agency that showcases African talent. Her goal is to bring the diversity of the African continent to the forefront of international modeling by mentoring fresh faces and helping young models build lucrative careers.
Your fashion career spans over 13 years. What is the key to longevity in the industry where careers are mostly short-lived?
The fashion industry is unpredictable, I feel lucky that my career has lasted this long and am very grateful to still be doing what I love. Aside from luck, I strongly believe that being professional and nice to others is the most important thing. People will keep working with you if they enjoy your company and if you are able to deliver. I have always made sure to be kind, polite, professional, to have fun and stay true to myself.
What motivated you to start a talent agency, and in what ways has your past experience as a model influenced your approach to managing talent?
I have wanted my own agency for as long as I can remember. Because I travel a lot, time was never on my side and I thought I would do it once I retired. However, the pandemic started it all. I suddenly had more time on my hands and no room for excuses! The brainstorming began in October 2019 and I launched THE HUNT Management June 5, 2021.
Being a model has really helped me manage my talent. I can place myself in my model’s shoes; I know how they feel at every step of their career. The uncertainty, the fears, the excitement and joy, the long-term plans… everything. I can thus be more present and understanding, reassuring and advising them to the best of my ability. I also want each of them to feel heard and satisfied with their career, just as my Mother Agency made me feel.
I am also now able to see the other side of the industry, the booking side. Experiencing the intensive work being done as a booker, as well as the constant challenges they face, made me much more appreciative and grateful for my agents! Overall, I have immersed myself quite smoothly in this environment as I was very familiar with the industry. In times of uncertainties, I am lucky to have my Mother Agency, NEXT Canada, who I know I can always rely on. They have been present every step of the way and I am so grateful for them!
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced in your career as a model and agent? Do you have advice for young models on how to build resilience?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced is the uncertainty of the job. I do have a degree in Finance and Computer Science, but I found myself modeling full time right after graduation. Did I make a wise decision? Would I be able to make clever and sustainable investments for the long run? What would happen as I got older if modeling slowed down and I didn’t have any experience in the field that I studied? When would I retire?
I have it all figured out now and am very relieved about it, but it was definitely a challenge going through this phase.
It was also challenging as a younger model to sometimes not feel heard, to not get the very little attention I was begging for. The fashion industry can be ruthless; competition is fierce and you win when you build genuine connections with a team that truly believes in you. Many times I felt unheard and stuck, I questioned myself and lost my self-confidence. With the help of my family and Mother Agency, I learnt to toughen up, claim some space, stay true to myself and enjoy the ride.
The biggest challenge I am facing as a Mother Agent is in reassuring young models who, naturally, are going through tough times of uncertainty, frustration, self-confidence issues, financial instability, feeling homesick, etc. I must find the right words to help them navigate more easily, positively and with confidence in an industry that is unpredictable and out of our control.
I would tell any young model reading this that each of us has our own path in life. What is meant to be will be, trust the process! We all have insecurities, so don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t waste your time making comparisons. Accept the fact that people will always have an opinion, and don’t let it affect you. Stay true to yourself, embrace who you are and only allow love and positive energy around you. Have fun!
Can you share a success story that you’re particularly proud of from your inspiring work with Kalou Foundation?
To me, every story is a successful one. From the Christmas celebrations to the fundraising galas for the hemodialysis centers on the Ivory Coast. The construction of schools and the ambulance donations, it would be hard to pick just one!
I am very proud to be a part of such an amazing team and really admire Salomon Kalou and Mamaudou Diawara for all of the great things they have achieved over the past 13 years. My most memorable moment was walking into the orphanage of Grand Bassam on December 19, 2017, to meet the girls for the first time. We came to inaugurate a big sports field that we had built for them and to offer them a brand new TV from one of our donors. They welcomed us with a song they wrote while clapping their hands in synchronicity. I remember my heart filling up with so many emotions, both sad and joyful, it was about to explode! I cried the entire day.
To meet them, introduce ourselves to one another, share hugs and stories, and see their reaction when we brought their gifts. Every moment was magical! I also had the honor of announcing the Christmas party that was awaiting them, I’ll let you imagine their happiness! In the days that followed, we shopped for the Christmas party and wrapped every single gift with so much love and attention! Seeing their excitement on the big day as they unpacked their gifts, hugged Santa, danced to local artists, and enjoyed the playfield was the most beautiful thing.
This story stands out to me because it was my introduction to the Kalou Foundation. I knew I was doing the right thing and that charity work was part of my destiny.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
This year, I want my agency to keep growing steadily; I am looking forward to many more success stories! I want each of my babies to have a beautiful story to tell. I pray that THE HUNT Management will have the greatest positive impact on my models’ and their families’ lives so that they can, in turn, reciprocate positive actions to our beloved continent, Africa.
I am also looking forward to continuing to grow as a model and reach new highs. The sky is the limit!