NEW YORK — Just call him “America’s Next Top Modeling Agent.”
Jon Tutolo is only 28, but after working at T Management, Donald Trump’s modeling agency, for just three years, last Monday he was named president of the company, which is changing its name to Trump Model Management.
This story first appeared in the September 30, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I swear, this week has been so wild, I don’t even know what day it is,” Tutolo says, sipping a glass of iced tea at the Blue Water Grill. “I basically quadrupled my responsibility,” meaning he’s now taking meetings with Anna Wintour while planning the schedule for his next top model, Valery Prince, in Milan and Paris. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had time to think about long-term goals: “I want to be the biggest, best agency in the world.”
Tutolo grew up in a suburb of Dallas — “My parents say I came out of the womb with an interest in clothes” — and after high school started working in the new faces division of a local modeling agency.
“Texas is a really popular location for looking for talent,” Tutolo explains. “I was at a fitting with Michael Kors, and he just couldn’t believe how many beautiful people come out of there. He said, ‘Texas is the Brazil of the U.S.’”
Forgoing college, he moved to New York at 20 to be an agent at Elite. Though he was the youngest one in the office, he used it to his advantage and found that it enabled him to empathize with the new faces he was scouting. “It’s a big city. There’s a lot to teach a young girl when she arrives here. She has to learn the city and the language and the dress and the clients,” Tutolo says. “You really have to bring yourself to the place in that person’s mind if you’re going to mold them into a product that’s going to work. That’s the responsibility of the agent. You can’t send a product out that isn’t ready to go.”
When he left Elite, he took some time off to try his hand at being a stylist and then found his way back to agenting and Trump, whom he refers to not as “The Donald” or even just plain “Donald,” but “Mr. Trump.”
“Without sounding too casual, I really think Mr. Trump is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met,” Tutolo says. “I don’t know how to say anything more without gushing.”
Trump returns the gush. “He’s a star. Everyone’s been waiting for me to make that move, so that was an easy one. He’s got tremendous energy and tremendous personality.”
Tutolo says that he will be featured on a few episodes of Trump’s reality series, “The Apprentice” this winter, but can’t discuss them because of “confidentiality agreements.” As for “America’s Next Top Model,” Tutolo didn’t quite buy the reality TV version of the modeling world. “Realistic? Yes. Is it like that 24/7? No.”
And since Tutolo is “not typically a person who likes to relax,” the fact that he’s always working fuels his personality. “My eyes are always peeled,” Tutolo says, taking a glance over at the bar. Blue Water Grill, he admits, attracts an “older, sophisticated crowd” (read: no models). “People don’t think that you’re going to find a brand-new model on the streets of New York because pretty much every beautiful girl here is accounted for, but you’ve got to ask.”
What’s more, the changes in the industry keep him on his toes. “You need to have a pulse of where your business is going,” Tutolo explains. “I’m talking down to what shade of blonde your girls are going to be this season, because in one season, platinum blonde might be great and the next season, it’s ash blonde. You wouldn’t believe the details we hash out.”