Sisters Aubrey Jessop and Deserae Pollock grew up in the Ninemile woods without electricity, living in a teepee with their parents and five other siblings (today there are 10 full siblings, five half) while their dad built the family’s log cabin. They were homeschooled and raised Mormon, and for fun would “take a camera, and take turns dressing up, and put makeup on each other,” Pollock says.
“It was a fun thing to do when you’re little country girls,” adds Jessop.
Today those little country girls are grown-up businesswomen. Last November the 26-year-old Jessop (a married mother of three) and 22-year-old Pollock (married with one child and another on the way) opened Jules Model and Talent Agency on South Third Street in Missoula. The sisters, who have modeled in competitions and catalogs from Miami to Portland, say they decided to open the business together in part because they are such a close family, and in part because their own modeling experience has led them to “want to inform girls what really happens out there, and to be informed that modeling does have a cost, and there are a lot of things that are bad in it, but there’s a lot of things that are good,” Jessop says.
For the past couple of weeks, the sisters have been gearing up for their biggest public splash yet, their theatrical production of The “It” Girl at the Wilma Theatre on Friday. The show, which is a benefit for the Make A Wish Foundation, will feature 31 models and actors in four scenes (crafted by the sisters and narrated by Moulin Rouge emcee Pearce Cleaveland) that track the transformation of one “It” girl from country bumpkin to supermodel. The show will also, the sisters hope, help spread the word about their agency.
But backing up: How do two self-described “down-to-earth” sisters, who today raise their own families in the Christian faith, go from the Montana woods to Miami’s runways? The leap is easier to make when your neighbor—just through the woods from your teepee—is actress and model Andie MacDowell. “We babysat her kids, and she was kind of our little ‘in’ right over the hill,” says Jessop, whose aunt, a former model, also helped with her first head shots.
When Pollock was 12 and Jessop 16, MacDowell sponsored the sisters’ participation in a professional scout company’s model search. That search landed Pollock a trip to New York as a finalist in the Teen Magazine/Maybelline Great Model Search, and got Jessop picked up by a modeling agent in Miami. Together, the sisters spent four months as models in Miami, escorted in limos to expensive dinners and nightclubs.
“Coming from Montana to Miami was culture shock,” Jessop says. When the sisters realized their agent was being paid to send them and other models out on the town with a wealthy Saudi Arabian man, “We left Miami because we thought that was just disgusting,” Pollock says.
Back in Missoula, the sisters are attempting to turn modeling’s stereotypes upside down. As woodsy-girls-turned-young-moms, their mission is, according to their brochure, “to provide aspiring talent with the tools to further their personal presentation. Whether they go on to be famous, land that dream job, or become a politician, we believe that beauty radiates from the inside out.” To that end, the sisters incorporate nutrition, fitness, skin care and makeup advice into their services. They want to spread the word that you don’t have to be a toothpick to be a model. They want to let people know that their classes—which include $100-150 photo and runway movement sessions with New York City-based modeling-industry veteran James Pentaudi—can also improve poise or interviewing skills, which have applications in everyday life.
But if Miami was a culture shock to the sisters, a modeling agency may seem like a culture clash with Missoula—at least at first.
“A lot of people are leery about coming into an agency because they think they will get ripped off,” Pollock says. “But we’re not promising anything. We’re trying our hardest to get them jobs, but we’re not promising them any.” (The agency takes a 20 percent commission for any represented model’s work.)
So far, the sisters say they have about 100 models who pay $30 per year to be kept on file at the agency. A handful of those have paid about $300 for “high-fashion photo shoot” headshots. The agency has sent one girl to do a Maybelline promotion in Billings, and one guy to New York for a blue jeans commercial. Other than that, The “It” Girl show and the television commercial they produced to promote the show have been their projects to date.
Like owners of any small Montana family business, Pollock and Jessop have to be resourceful to stay afloat. “I think in Missoula you just can’t wait and have everyone come to you,” Pollock says. “You have to get out there and do something or you’re just going to sink.”
In preparation for The “It” Girl, they’ve worked with local businesses, including Twigs and Burtello salons for hair, and Carlo’s One Night Stand, Crazy Daisy, J. Elaine’s and Beautiful Weddings for costumes. They’ve also cast 24-year-old actor Matt Luceno, visiting his native Missoula from New York City, to play a flamboyant hairdresser; 24-year-old actor Christian Ackerman, who hosts the Christian Ackerman Show on MCAT, to do a Zoolander skit; one of their other sisters, model Ariel King, to play the “It” girl; and other actresses they have on file, such as 24-year-old Jennifer Ogren, whom the sisters first spotted bartending at Stockman’s.
The show includes scenes from New York City, Miami and Los Angeles, and features six outfits from Pamela Anderson’s new signature line of clothing—the duds are being flown in to Missoula’s Dizin Fashions by “Pamela Anderson’s right-hand man,” Jessop says, and are “not anywhere else in the U.S. right now.”
The show employs slapstick humor, Pollock says, because, as Jessop adds, “when people think, ‘oh, modeling is scary,’ ‘oh, models are weird,’ the best thing to do is make fun of yourself because then people can relate to you. So that’s where we started.”
Is Missoula ready for what the sisters have to offer?
“I don’t know,” they answer together. “It might take a little time.”
The “It” Girl goes up at the Wilma Friday, April 22, at 7 p.m. One show only. Tickets cost $10 for students, $12 for adults, available at Ear Candy, Rockin Rudy’s, Jules Model and Talent Agency, J. Elaine’s and at the door.