Happy Birthday Blog to Brett: A Model Child and a Child Model

In honor of my son Brett’s 29th birthday, and by popular request from the mostly female contingent of Brett’s friends, I am going to tell the pictorial story of Brett’s modeling career. Brett truly was a model child. So much so that he was also a child model.

It was Andy Warhol who said that everyone will get his or her 15 minutes of fame.

Brett acquired his quite young, before the age of 3. It lasted more than 15 minutes too – more like four years or so.

Brett was a cherubic, bowl-hair styled, big blue eyed cutie as a toddler. A friend of mine who was modeling wanted to use Brett in a professional shot for her portfolio. She needed a “mom” shot and she chose my Brett to be her son.

My model friend’s agency saw Brett’s photos and immediately contacted me to sign him up as a child model. The camera loved Brett, and he loved the camera.

I quickly learned that there were two things that were required of child models who wanted to get a lot of bookings.

1. A completely compliant personality where you can sit and smile for hours without complaining or getting cranky

2. Cute looks and great hair (The Bowl cut was BIG back then)

Brett loved the attention and loved sitting around smiling and waiting for directions from photographers. Plus he loved the bribery I offered. (Ex: Brett, if you sit nicely for the Foley’s Father’s Day shoot, I will buy you the jeep you want.) Worked every time.

We first commissioned Brett’s “headshot.” It was a good one obviously, because Brett was selected for many major bookings just from that. (below)

Head shot

Within the first few WEEKS of “listing” him at the modeling agency, Brett was selected to be in a city-wide poster for a food donation program. Little two year old Brett was going to show the entire city, including every supermarket, how great it felt to donate food into our Red Barrels. (below)

Brett 21

Brett was a regular child model for several department stores in their newspaper and circular ads.

Brett 4


Brett 1


Brett 20

Brett 13

He eventually branched into television appearances and commercials. (Good Morning Houston below and then Weiner’s commercial)

Brett 6

Brett 15

Ironically, this Jewish child did tons of Christmas ads:

Bret 3


Brett 19


Brett and Elissa modeling


The one above is with his sister Elissa!

Brett 5


For the Father’s Day magazine circular shots below, famous national Ford agency models were flown to Houston to pose with Brett:

Brett 10


Brett model 1

Exciting at the time, Brett had several national shoots and was featured in Time and Newsweek magazine in a financial planning ad one year.

Brett 17

He was on a poster for Visible Changes Hair Salons that was hung in every store around the country. (Below)

Brett 9

One of the most wonderful things to happen to him was that he was selected – again from a newer, updated headshot (below)

Brett 18

– by the manufacturer of a brand new toy on the market. Manufactured in Houston, the owners told Brett’s agency that he was the ONLY photo pulled out of their hundreds available. They said they hoped he still looked like his photo and had all his teeth because there was no second choice.

The agency of course, was thrilled.

Brett on Brik Toy Box

The toy, a hot toy in the 1980’s and early 1990’s was called BRIK. It was like a GIANT lego. The toy went national and then international with Brett’s face on the boxes. Some fun feedback as a result of Brett being on the box of a popular toy are these two anecdotes:

My sister-in-law visited New York and excitedly called me to tell me Brett was in the WINDOW of FAO Schwartz on 5th Avenue – on a box of BRIK toys of course.

A friend who vacationed in London breathlessly called me when she returned to tell me Brett was in the window of a toy store in London in Knightsbridge -a tony shopping area. (Again on the BRIK box)

He occasionally had to “act” on the shoots, like this one for a medical group of physicians:

Brett 12


Brett 11

Note, no child models were harmed in the making of that ad.

Alas, as Brett started playing sports such as Little League and soccer, there was no time for a modeling career. He gave it up, just as I always told him he could whenever he wanted to.

Note: The modeling agency agent was used to Stage Mothers who wanted to have their own little Macaulay Culkin discovered and was totally taken aback by my uncooperative non-aggressive stance on this. A typical exchange between me and the agent went like:

Agent – I have a try-on for Brett for a shoot for X Dept store

Me- Sorry, can’t make it, Brett has a birthday party he is invited to

Agent – Shocked silence

I wanted Brett to have a normal childhood. I didn’t want work to define his life. And besides, we all know how it turned out for Macauley Culkin. (FAMOUS PERSON ALERT: Our agency also represented Hilary and Hailey Duff, and Brett actually did a modeling job with the latter.)

All good things come to an end. Around the time Brett lost interest and discovered team sports, he started losing his baby teeth, and that my friends is the kiss of death for a young child model. We put all of Brett’s earnings in a little low interest savings account and he was able to purchase a used car thanks to some of the savings from this career!

Brett’s sister Elissa tagged along on many shoots and was also big blue eyed adorable. She was signed on to the agency but didn’t last long as she was too feisty and uncooperative. She was fired from a shoot after throwing her Easter hat (for the shoot) into a body of water.

So here’s remembering Brett’s claim to fame, which was recently re-ignited when he appeared in a local magazine. (Below)

Brett modeling

M Penner magazine cover

Brett – you were always a model child even when you were no longer a child model, and I thank you for the years of pride and joy you have given me. As much as I truly enjoyed every minute of your childhood (give or take some ┬áin the teen realm) – I am even more blessed at the man you have become and look forward to so many happy moments in the present and future.

Happy Birthday with lots of love and gratitude to the best son a mother could hope for.



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