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Meet Rita Sehmi of DreamRay Model and Talent Agency in Irvine

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rita Sehmi.

Rita, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started out as an actor when I was a kid. My mom would drive me around LA to acting classes, showcases, and auditions. She did not know much about the industry and so trusted people along the way to help guide her to fulfill her daughter’s dream. Many of those people charged thousands of dollars for “classes” and “guidance”, or would give advice on their own benefit.

After spending so much money and not much coming out of it, my single mom of two kids had to stop. As I got older and went into college I started acting again in the theater, taking classes, and learning more and more about how behind the scenes of production work. I had ended up having internships at television shows, ad agencies, record companies, and even a radio station just to learn the business. I ended up loving not only performing in front of the camera but also loving the whole process behind the scenes as well. The entertainment industry became my passion.

After college, I started auditioning and booking work for commercials, print, television, and movies. I also went back to school to study for my MBA in Advertising Marketing and worked as an account manager at a leading ad agency, Young & Rubicam. The experience made me realize how much I loved the behind the scenes work. So after receiving my MBA, I approached the talent agency that represented me to ask if I could start work as an agent. It was something I had not done before but it seemed like the one area I still did not have experience with. I ended up loving it! I had been given the responsibility of the Children’s and New Face Department.

It was so satisfying to book eager, hard-working actors on so many different projects. I knew where the actors were coming from so it would bring me so much joy knowing I had a hand in finding them an opportunity.

I ended up leaving the agency after a few years to start my own family. As my kids grew older they expressed an interest in getting into the industry as well. I signed them to an agency and started taking them to auditions. I quickly learned the differences between being a child in the industry versus an adult. Once my children were a little older I decided it was time to come back, although this time I wanted to do it on my own terms. I wanted to take all of my experiences throughout the years and create something of my own that I was passionate about. I had met with my dear friend and mentor, Linda Robirds, who had recently open up an adult model and talent agency. After a long talk, she had encouraged me to open up my own children’s model and talent agency. Two months after that conversation, DreamRay Model & Talent Agency was opened.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Like with any new business, there are always challenges. The first challenge was not having any kids on our talent board. A solid talent board of talented kids is essential when approaching clients to book through any agency. I had zero kids on my talent roster and did not have any clients. I told myself that if trusted in my industry knowledge and experience and if I was honest and genuine with everyone I met along the way that things would fall into place… and they did. I met with many parents and children who I gave advice and guidance to. In turn, I had developed a solid board of talent that I could approach clients with. Slowly and slowly more clients were coming to the agency to book talent.

Six months into the business I realized that I needed help. It was cumbersome managing both the talent and the client’s responsibilities, as well as everything else that comes with owning a business (invoicing collections, permits, etc.). I had asked my best friend of twenty-seven years, Roxana, to come join me at the agency. Thankfully, she did! Roxana and I have the same principles. We believe in working hard, honestly, and being fair to everyone along the way. Roxana came in and has been able to grow our roster of talent to almost 400 kids. This has allowed me to concentrate on building our clients of production companies, casting directors, and ad agencies who have a need to book kids for their projects.

DreamRay Model and Talent Agency – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
DreamRay Model and Talent Agency is a children’s agency in the Los Angeles & Orange County area. We represent kids of all ethnicities & ages. Our agency is run with a true passion for placing the best talent with our clients. We pride ourselves on work ethic and close relationships with the kids we represent, their families, and our clients. We truly believe in our kids and know that they are the best in the industry.

I am most proud of the fact that we work hard and that we are kind to everyone we meet. I can not tell you the amount of times parents have come into our office and say “you guys are the nicest agents in the business”. That means a lot. Also, we pride ourselves in giving parents the knowledge needed to start their children in the entertainment industry. Being moms ourselves and having my own start in the industry as a child, I feel it is very important to have the best interest out for all the children we work with.

Another thing that sets us apart from the others is our desire to go above and beyond for our clients. With any production, whether it be a commercial, print ad, or promotional video, we view ourselves as a team with our client. Even if it is a last-minute casting or quick turn around shoot, we will make it happen for our clients by booking the best kids for their project. In the end, this benefits everyone.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I personally define success in a couple of ways. First, success is the feeling of having fulfillment. If you are truly happy with what you are doing you are successful. At the end of the day, I feel fulfilled knowing that I am truly working hard for our kids and clients. Second, success is continually growing. Since DreamRay started three years ago, we have grown to represent almost 400 kids. We also have doubled our bookings (sales) each year we have been in business. We are the fastest growing children’s agency in Orange County and Los Angeles. That, in turn, makes me very proud and gives me a sense of being successful.

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