By Yasmin Santana
I got an invitation to judge the iPOPLA Mini Pilot Season Showcase in Las Vegas and I jumped at the chance. The invitation came from my dear friends, reality stars, Patrik Simpson and Pol Atteu, from the award-winning show ‘Gown and Out in Beverly Hills’ now streaming worldwide on Amazon Prime Video. The model and talent showcase held at the beautiful M Resort Spa and Casino, just south of the famed Las Vegas strip. I had never judged any model or talent competition before but, here I was a fashion journalist and a PR girl ready to attend my first show as a judge. It isn’t every day I get invited to participate in events like these, so I was certainly thrilled to be a part of this experience. I just knew it was going to be amazing as I would be judging this competition alongside some of the entertainment industries best.
I flew into Las Vegas and arrived at the beautiful M Resort and Spa and was astonished at just how large of a showcase this was going to be. There were a sea of new faces and people that came in from all over the world to perform for the week in modeling, acting, singing and dance competitions and I was a little nervous at just how overwhelming this would be. iPOPLA, short for International Presentation of Performers Los Angeles, is a showcase competition where models, actors, singers and dancers, discovered by international scouts from all over the globe, meet under one roof to compete for five days in different categories, for a chance to be the next stars in the fashion, music, dance and entertainment industry. Some of the competitions included are TV Commercials, Soaps, Sitcoms, Runway and Fashion Print.
iPOPLA, which is in its sixteen year already, is held in Los Angeles at the Historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel twice a year, in the summer and winter, but this year they chose to hold the showcase in Las Vegas, to mix things up a bit. I felt honored to be included as a judge, alongside over 150 agents, casting directors, managers, record label representatives and international model scouts, judging talent in various categories and competitions. I was excited to be judging with my celebrity friends, Patrik Simpson and Pol Atteu, the world-famous fashion designer and TV personalities.
iPOPLA was founded by Ron Patterson, chairman and owner of the John Roberts Powers Acting and Modeling school’s franchise of the past. He has spent his entire career training models and actors for careers in the entertainment industry. I got a chance to sit down and talk to the man behind the magic of iPOPLA, and how he started his whole career in the entertainment industry. “When people were going to school, I slept in my car for three months while trying to go for casting calls”. So, it was not always easy. Now, iPOPLA has over 400 performers competing in front of Agents, Managers, and Scouts, all hoping to get discovered.” Many kids from all over the world have never even been on an airplane before and here they are in Las Vegas and I am seeing their emotions come into play. When parents talk to their kids and support their dreams, it really is inspiring and heartwarming,” says Patterson.
Kirsten Poulin, President and co-owner of iPOPLA has 35 years under her belt in the entertainment industry. She began her career in modeling and acting in California and has traveled to over 30 countries as an international Model and Talent scout. Finding some of the most famous faces you now see on television, in movies and magazines.
Citizens of the world, Patrik Simpson and Pol Atteu, have been to over 80 countries and are scouting for fresh faces all over the globe. The power house Beverly Hills duo have been in the entertainment and fashion industry for over 25 years with their world-renowned couture boutique, at Rodeo Drive. They have created beautiful gowns for so many strs, like Bella Thorne, Ariel Winter, Nadia Bjorlin, Betty White, Renee Taylor, and lil Kate (Mackenzie Hancsicsak) from NBC’s hot show, ‘This is Us’.
Now they are creators, executive producers and hosts of the new television show, America’s Rising Stars, which films with at the iPOPLA Showcase as the final backdrop for the series. “As executive producers we travel the world and scout models and talent to attend the iPOPLA Mini Pilot Season Showcase and their journeys are featured on our TV show.”, says Simpson. So, what fashion and beauty trends are iPOPLA looking for? “The trend right now is a beautiful fresh face exotic and personality and is the best representation on stage”, says Patterson. Some amazing talent has come out of the iPOPLA Showcase, including singer Ariana Grande, and actors such as Josh Duhamel, Selena Gomez, Lucas Till, Caitlin Carmichael, Madison Wolfe, Albert Tsai, Madeleine Petsch and so many more, who have gone on to be featured in big films such as: The Twilight Saga, Unbroken, Conjuring 2, X-men, just to name a few.
I was thrilled to get the opportunity to judge under the category for modeling and fashion which was right up my alley. The competition was amazing, and I met so many new faces, from all corners of the world, that I am sure I will one day see on TV. I was proud to offer a select handful of models the opportunity to launch their careers with an editorial fashion shoot. During the big call back day, my table was visited by hundreds all vying for the chance to be in their first layout. At the end of the day, I cast a few models for the Pol Atteu winter collection editorial shoot and awarded them the shoot on stage. It was such an exciting moment, when the clip of the photo-shoot ran at the iPOPLA Awards Gala on the big screen, and all was filmed for the next season of ‘Gown and Out in Beverly Hills’.
In my opinion, the photoshoot looked like it was out of Vanity Fair magazine and we found the most beautiful and world-famous location at the M resort, The Hostile Grape. This wine room is known for having over 400 international bottles of wine, a unique tasting system and every type of wine you could ever imagine. Los Angeles, Fashion photographers, Tatsu Ikeda and Jeff Linnett took the most incredible high fashion photographs of the new models, Carly Dennison, Johanna Overton, Cassidy Jensen, Kaylin Marie and male model, Sammy Heaney. The girls selected looked absolutely stunning I the couture gowns and just for fun we had the male model shirtless!
The days at the iPOPLA Showcase were a whirlwind of fun with so many talented new faces all under one roof at the same time, and that made it hard to pick the winners. I eventually had no choice but, to narrow down my scores and really get my “hands dirty” to make those tough decisions. All in all, I was happy with my selections and judging. Some of them were even winners on stage at the final awards gala.
So, what advice would you give a new model, actor, singer or dancer that wants to get started? Patrik Simpson answers that. “Being successful is a combination of training and being in front of the right people. That is why iPOPLA can help arrange all these kids in front of the right people.” Ron Patterson finishes, “You have to be adaptable and you have to be invited here. All celebrities came from crap jobs and that’s the beautiful thing about this business. You can come from nothing and look where we are now”.
The iPOPLA Showcase week ended with tears, fears, excitement and new beginnings! For many, this will be the starting point in a career in the industry. iPOPLA is the perfect launching pad for anyone that wants to pursue a career as a model, actor, singer or dancer. I saw with my own eyes over 200 agents, managers, A&R Reps, Magazine Editors (including me), Casting Directors, Producers and so many more industry VIPS, all coming together for one week to find that next big discovery! Are you next? Contact an iPOPLA scout and you may just wind up at the next showcase and on America’s Rising Stars!
FIND iPOPLA and their scouts on all Social Media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter