IMTA NY 2014

I just finished working the IMTA conference 2014 in New York, New York and what a fabulous experience this was!

IMTA stands for ‘International Modeling and Talent Association,’ which occurs both in New York and Los Angeles each year, since 1987.  During the week-long IMTA conventions, unsigned talent competes in modeling, acting, singing and dancing competitions in the hopes of being discovered by one of the nearly four-hundred fashion and talent agents, personal managers, casting directors, network representatives and music producers in attendance.  Celebrities such as Josh Duhamel, Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes, and Ashton Kutcher have launched their careers through IMTA.

Check out these two videos below of the kick off for IMTA, including IMTA fashion show and musical performance.


This year, I was a director for IMTA and talent coach with a talent group based in Chicago that had nearly 150 young talent attend this year’s IMTA.

Duties included everything from 15-17 hour work days organizing contestant paperwork and announcing IMTA guidelines to coaching models on the proper run way walk and working with the talent on delivering their monologues and scripts with clarity, conviction, and pizazz!

Here are some of the young talent I was able to work with. Aren’t they lovely!?

Another ‘task’ which was rather fun in nature was mixing and mingling with other agents, directors, etc. for the mere fun of it, and of course to set up one on ones with our talent and agents and directors.

Here is a photo from the IMTA directors private party at the top level of the Hilton midtown...

…and a video of the ‘scene’ at the private party I attended at Elite Model Management’s new location…

A couple of the individuals I mingled with at the Elite Private Party include Joey Hunter, former CEO of Ford Models and current CEO of ModelWire, and Kenzie, another IMTA director and model with a San Francisco based agency, and other IMTA directors (photos below).

 After a week of diligent preparation and passion from our talent and models and hard work on behalf of us IMTA directors, almost all of our talent received callbacks from agencies around the US, and many from our group received awards for excellence in their age and division.

 So rewarding was it to help make a positive impact on these group of children in their journey of fulfilling their dreams.  I connected with so many of the kids I helped coach and direct, including  their families.  Additionally the contacts made through IMTA were invaluable.

IMTA NY 2014 was truly inspiring, unforgettable, and an experience of a lifetime!


 ~Lesley Yvonne~



The Metra Vs. The El

The Metra Vs. The EL--Suburban Paradise Versus An Urban Hell

 By Lesley Yvonne Hunter

Hello Chicagoans and maybe even some non-Chicago readers (I will refrain from commenting on what category Chicago ‘burbanites fit in)!  I assume that many of you know, but for those of you who don’t, I’ll quickly explain what the Metra and the El are.  The El and the Metra are both transit systems, with the El being the rapid transit system serving the city of Chicago and some of its surrounding suburbs and being the third busiest transit in the United States after the New York City Subway and the Washington Metro.  In comparison, the Metra is the commuter rail, taking passengers from the city (Union Station) to the surrounding suburbs.  So, you could say that the Metra is considered the ‘Suburban train’ while the El, the ‘Urban train’. And by the headline, I’m sure it’s not difficult to figure out my overarching views of both, but as I don’t like to make blanket statements, I’ll further explain the pros and cons of each.

Environment: You know how you feel when there’s no other bathroom to use for miles other than the restrooms at the gas station (and no, not the ones inside that have a decent cleaning attendant.  I’m talking about the ones outside and around the back you have to ask the station attendant for a key. Yea, those).  That’s the El. 

The seats are stiff; the air is pungent.  If you are claustrophobic, or simply fancy your ‘personal space,’ I regret to inform you that the El is not your place.  On the Metra, passengers generally sit down during the duration of the ride and relax (this may be due in part to the fact that the seats are actually comfortable), while on the El the isles are frequently blocked by a plethora of passengers, hoarding space just for the sake of hoarding and hovering anxiously near the door.  What’s worse—and is reminiscent of the gas station restroom scenario—is the cleanliness, or rather, the lack there-of of the El.  Can you say germs?

The Metra creates jobs and promotes cleanliness, consistently hiring additional coach cleaners to provide for nothing less than pristine train cars--even though, out of the gate, the Metra had more than acceptable satisfaction rates on cleanliness.  On the El, you’ll be lucky if you get a train car that doesn’t have a random plastic bag of who-knows-what near the door (I expect there’s nothing in there that’s sanitary), and if someone bothers to prevent their sneeze from sprawling all over the hand pole (aka about 1 inch from your hand), you truly are having a good day.  In fact, you’re having a great day.  It could be worse: like the time that a woman on the Blue line had a male passenger throw a sock full of feces at her.  Yes, I said feces. And if you don’t believe me, you can read this Huffington Post article: (See, I don’t just make things up for dramatic effect).  Not the way you’d envision spending your ride home from work, right? So, yea, the El train gets a thumbs-down for overall environment and cleanliness.

Convenience: Despite the bad rap of the sanitation level of the El, I will give credit to the El on its convenient schedule and departure times.  The El has trains departing from almost all of its stops nearly every 10-12 minutes on average, which makes it very convenient for individuals to grab the next train if they miss the previous.  This is quite different from the Metra—in that if you miss your train you will be waiting anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to catch the next (maybe this is why the typical Metra passenger appears to be running around like a chicken with his head cut off while in queue for his train opposed to the El passenger that has a more laissez-faire, ‘it is what it is’ attitude).  So, hats off to the El for having frequent trains to accommodate its riders.

Some El stops—unlike those of the Metra—even run 24/7, like the Blue Line and Red Line stops. Convenient right? Well, depends on who you ask. If you’re a guy or with a group of friends, sure!  If you’re a woman trekking it home at 2:00 am by yourself, not so much…unless you consider getting hassled by the homeless man in the corner of the El as convenient.  So,

The awkwardness of the late-night El train rides




The infrequent Metra train arrivals




A tie between the Metra and the El on convenience (I was always good at math in school).

 And last but certainly not least…

The People:  Well, this one is a doozy.  To be direct: the people on the Metra are, overall, what you would consider ‘normal’.  Metra passengers typically include both young and mature professionals, dressed business-casual or nice-casual, riding home or out to the suburbs to do whatever suburban people do.  They are generally pretty polite, not obnoxious, and at least somewhat sophisticated.  There is even a conductor who will acknowledge you.  How nice! 

Quite different from the general population that rides the El.  First off, no conductor (sorry, folks, those privileges are only for the esteemed Metra bourgeoisie), and the people are…hmmm not so normal.  Not to say that there aren’t sane people who ride the El. I mean I ride the El, for goodness sake. What I probably should have said is that the collective group or mix of people is rather eclectic.

You have everything from your drunken Cub fans (namely when you hit the Belmont and Sheridan stops near Wrigley Field on the Red Line) who have no understanding of what a decibel is and how it can rupture your eardrum, to your studious Loyola and DePaul students, to your melange of tourists who might as well tattoo ‘tourist’ on their forehead because they’re  

a) highly confused on where to go and

b) say things like ‘OMG Chicago is so much better than <insert any other city name here>’ and ‘We totally have to go to Navy Pier!’ (Really?! Not knocking tourists as I used to be one before I realized that Chicago was so much better than St. Louis, but just sayin’).

Oh, and you can’t forget the reoccurring homeless guy on the El that you’ve encountered at least twice in one week, who gives the entire train car the familiar speech on how he’s unemployed and will work hard, bla bla bla.  All he needs is a business card and/or interview.  Now whether you want to give him your business card is up to you (no judgment here. Well, maybe a little), but I’m thinking that the guy should really consider speech writing as a career, because he’s pretty darn good at it.

The kicker is ‘that guy.’  You know, the guy with the headphones, that is listening to music SO LOUD that he might as well have brought a boom box and put it on blast.  At least then he would have been honest with himself and with everyone around him. Dude, we can hear what you’re listening to. And if I hear one more ‘f*** the police,’ I seriously am going to rip your headphones off.

So to wrap this up (because I’m sure you’ve pretty much gotten the point by now), the Metra--although not having as many rides available as the El--is cleaner, more relaxed, significantly comfortable with more room, and contains pretty ‘normal,’ peaceful passengers, while the El is plagued with germs, crowded (typically), has seats about as comfortable as rocks, and whose assortment of passengers is about as disconcerting as a Miley Cyrus ‘twerk’ session. 

However, although the Metra may appear to be the desired transit option for many, I do have to say that there is something uniquely riveting about this unconventional train: something that keeps me coming back—like a car crash or a bad TV show you just can’t look away from no matter how hard you try.  So, for now at least, I say ride the El! It’ll bring some excitement to your life.  Just make sure to dodge the guy with the socks.



The Fashion Hero

I am proud to be a recruiter for and a part of The Fashion Hero, an upcoming television show and fashion movement. Register to compete/become a finalist to model for international brands and be invited to Grand Sirenis Hotels & Resorts in Riviera Maya, Mexico for the show filming, and select 'Lesley On The Town' as how you heard about the site. The purpose of this movement is that you do not have to fit the typical model 'mold'. Men and women ages 16-40 of all heights, shapes, and sizes encouraged to apply. Good luck, future models!

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Have You Heard? It's The Heard!

What do you get when you merge old school 70’s funk with new soul? THE HEARD!

This local Chicago band encompasses fresh tones akin to Lettuce & Soulive fused with seasoned sounds of James Brown and the Average White Band, with a uniqueness that can’t be replicated.  But this band is anything but average--ok maybe white, but certainly not average! (Why did I suddenly start hearing ‘Play That Funky Music, White Boy’ in my head?)

But I digress.

Thursday night I heard this band play at the backroom of Alive One, a Lincoln Park favorite, for about the dozenth time, and each time is more exhilarating than the last.  Their chill yet energetic attitude is refreshing, command of the stage, admirable, and their tunes make you want to get up and shake your boot-ay.  In fact, when you enter the backroom of Alive one to hear The Heard, you’ll see that EVERYONE is shakin’ what their momma gave ‘em.  You’d probably have to be in a coma to not get up and shake it. Well…no, never mind.  Even coma-induced individuals would snap out of it and get down.

Having graced the stages of Metro Chicago, Lincoln Hall, Congress Theater, Concord Music Hall, Chicago's Northcoast Music Festival, String Cheese Incident's Suwanee Hulaween festival in Florida, and a plethora of others, The Heard continues to keep movin’ and groovin’ locally and nationwide.

And here they are! 

(From left to right). Mike Starr (bassist), Reid Muchow (Drums), Taras Horalewskyj (guitar), Adam gross (trombonist/tambourine all-star), Lucas Ellman (saxophone), Neal O'Hara (keys)

As you can imagine, all these guys are pretty awesome, but I do have some bias towards Adam Gross, the trombonist, as we go way back to our study-abroad days in the south of France. Even then, despite his mediocre French-speaking skills (sorry Adam!), he was one of Arles’ favorite musicians, getting gigs at popular local bars without even trying.  The French people fell in love with his playing (see, I slipped a compliment in there).

Flash back! Here is an endearing photo of me and Adam in Arles, France back in 2005.

But enough of the childhood reminiscing that none of you really care about. Let’s get to what you REALLY care about!

How, where, and when do you hear these guys  jam out? Check out their website where you can download their music, check out their suave looks (especially for all you ladies out there…and heck, even some of you men ;D ), and stay tuned to what shows they’ve got coming up.  And be sure to check out their new single, ‘Pinch and Roll’, cause its pretty kick A$$.

Below is a video of The Heard breakin' it out at the Boulevard Festival in Chicago 2013.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you for now, but this won’t be the only time The Heard will be featured on this blog, so stay posted.

Peace, love, and soul!

~Lesley Yvonne