When Alnisia Cruz became pregnant with her daughter after more than 25 years of modeling, she knew it was time for a career change.
She'd been in Gimbles catalogs at the age of 2 and had spent years later on traveling in hair and cosmetic shows, as a wine spokeswoman, and even as a spokeswoman for Revlon. It was fun and exciting, but it was cut throat and Cruz knew she wanted to be home with her baby.
In examining what she could do next she decided to do what she did best - she wanted to teach the business of modeling.
"I was thinking I had a lot of money, I bought a lot of homes, I did this and that, but I wanted to start my own business so I could be home with my daughter," Cruz said. "Even though I was successful in the modeling world, I didn't want to start my own agency because I knew the fickleness of what comes with it. I tried to decide what was something I was good at, and I realized it was just modeling and the business of modeling. I could do it with my eyes closed."
Cruz was living on the East Coast when she first started teaching classes. She taught from rented space or from her own backyard about how to avoid scams and how to be professional in the modeling business. She didn't charge for the classes because, to her, it didn't seem right. She was simply sharing her knowledge.
"At the time, the reason why I wanted to teach classes was through my years of modeling I realized that a lot of people were not as fortunate as me to have the success that I had," Cruz said. "It wasn't because they were less beautiful or less than anything, but I found they just didn't understand the business properly. The agents don't teach you, they just tell you what to do. Some people just get together with photographers who give bad advice. I've seen so many people get discouraged."
Eventually, her classes took off and students who she had built good relationships with would often come back and ask her to represent them. When her daughter was born and some of the agencies she had worked for in the past wanted to represent her daughter, she decided to do it herself. She did her research, got licensed, and became an agent. Within three months of starting her agency, Natori's Club, named after her daughter, she had 100 clients.
Cruz said she didn't charge any extra fees to be a part of her agency, but once a talent was established she made money off of commission. In four years her business grew and was flourishing, all from her home office and studio.
In about 2001 Cruz said her mother's health forced them to leave the East Coast. They moved to Las Vegas where she volunteered some time with the local chamber of commerce, teaching business etiquette seminars at colleges and high schools.
When her mother died, Cruz and her daughter followed Cruz's fiancé to Phoenix.
Now Cruz is living in Ahwatukee Foothills and is getting ready to start her classes over again.
"I'm starting this because it's where I started, and it's something I've very confident in offering," Cruz said. "This is how Natori's Club got started. I've got to start simple. This is what I know. I still think and believe there is a need for people to know about the business of modeling. I think everyone thinks about it, but they don't pursue it because they don't know anything about it. People know it can be dangerous to go out there and get caught up in everything. I just want them to know that you don't have to do all of that."
Cruz has received support from the city of Phoenix to host her classes. She'll be offering the class, The Business Fundamentals of Modeling, at Pecos Community Center, 17010 S. 48th St., beginning Jan. 21.
The classes are for ages 17 and up, but Cruz said younger students can attend with a parent. The cost is $99 for six weeks, and includes a condensed version of an annual planner for models that Cruz designed and published herself. The course code is 81251.
Cruz hopes the things she teaches can make her students successful in whatever business they want to pursue. She's unsure if she'll ever start an agency again but if her classes take off, it could happen.
For more information on Cruz and Natori's Club, visit natorisclub.com.
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