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Advertisements for Themselves

The search for Malia and Sasha look-alikes to sell products.

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Madison Avenue is scrambling to adjust to a new era, when the most admired people in America are a black family. To reflect this reality, talent scouts are on the hunt for models who look like the Obama children, Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10. “People are looking for girls who resemble them,” says Charlie Winfield, the head booker at FunnyFace Today. Tali Lev, an agent with the Gilla Roos agency, keeps links to her “Sasha” and “Malia” model lists on her desktop for easy access. “Photographers even want them for their portfolios.” Marlene Wallach, president of Wilhelmina Kids & Teens, says the First Daughters are tough subjects to match. “It’s a very specific age and a very specific ethnicity, so there aren’t that many girls that would necessarily fit the bill.” Two who do are Ariel Binns and Kylah Williams, whom Wallach booked as Sasha and Malia, respectively, in the September 2008 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, which featured a faux Obama family (Tyra Banks played Michelle).

Ariel, 6, lives in Crown Heights and has been working as a model since she was 11 months old. Two years ago she started getting noticed as a Sasha look-alike. “I remember walking down the street and people would say, ‘Oh my gosh, you look just like Sasha,’ ” Ariel’s mother, Dawn Crooks, recalls. Ariel typically earns over $100 an hour for her print work, which she has done for clients like Target. Now she’s trying to land an ad for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. “She keeps saying she’s hoping to go to Washington, D.C., and meet Sasha,” Crooks says with a sigh. “I told her some day we’ll do that.”

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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