Interviews

10 Questions with Marlon Bolton, the 19 year old CEO of Zahni Int’l Modeling

Written by Xavier Murphy

Marlon Bolton is not your average 19 year old. He is new breed of young entrepreneurs in Jamaica who had not only found success in everything he touches but also very eloquent , focused and gives back to his community. In January 2003 he started the Zahni International Modeling which has sky rocketed to one of the top agency’s in Jamaica and also through out the Caribbean regions. The agencay has over 50 models who have been used in many international shoots and graced the covers of many magazines. Marlon has been jetsetting through out the world as the agency continues to grow. Recently we caught up with Marlon for and interview.

q: Your entrepreneur spirit started at what age and is that what you always wanted to do as a
career?

I must say that i grew up in an upper middle class family, in rural Jamaica, my mother was a fashion designer and was good at what she did, taking orders and always constanly shipping cloths off to, at that time at an early age of 7, i knew that business would be something that i would be good at, in my community i saw that there was no sort of business, where people sold stuff such as sweets, and children that went to school had to go to the nearest town to bye books and pencils, so i started selling, not that i wanted money or that i was in need of it, but a part of me wanted to do it, it was simply, the business mind, my parents begged me not to do it, because of their own reasons, but i continued for a while. eventuallyi stopped, soon after i started my Manchester Youth Foundation, then realising my public relations skills i started my PR firm, while i still own both establishments, i am a fashion designer and fashion agent and this is where my true love is, it is always something i wanted to do, and there is no way i am giving this up soon.

q: Are any of the ventures from your younger years still around today?

Selling biscuits, sweet books and that sort of thing no., i would prefer to own an establishement of that nature and have walk in customers, but i would not do walk and sell, not now., apart from that there is still Manchester Youth Foundation that is still around after 6years.

q: How did you get into the fashion business?

as i said in my last interview that, i was inspired by my mother, i co-produced with kerry ann Gill, Miss Jamaica Universe (middlesex) unbehalf of Kingsley Cooper of Pulse, then i was only 16., soon at that time i learnt the business of FASHION MODELING, and simply research using INTERNET and TELEPHONE

q: What is the reaction of most people when they meet you and realize you are 19 year
old?

The reaction is “19!!!!?, you must be kidding, so how do you do it….” or “Wow, im proud of you, cause i always love to see young Jamaicans like you excell” if there reaction is not the latter, my reaction would be “wel,l see you when i am going up the ladder of sucess and you coming down!”

q: What other ventures are you involved in?

I am into, Signing, Fashion Designing, Dancing, Acting, Social Work, Styling and show Production.

q: How do you feel being called a role model for Youth in Jamaica?

I feel so fulfilled, because my ultimate goal is to help people, whether it may be through my Social Work or Turning them in Super Models, just to help people in the realization of a dream, i am striving to build a better Jamaica, i feel good because i cannot change this country overnight or by myself, so when people look at me as i role model, i say “there goes another difference maker!”

q: Being that you manage quite a few beautiful models who would be the dream woman for
many young men your age. How do you balance the personal with business?

I am a proffesional, and i would much rather see them, stutt my cloths or walk the way i tell them, than think of any thing else, besides i am involved with someone who is not Jamaican and is not a Model, so i balance quit well. Work is work, and i treat it just as that.

q: It is rumored that the owners of many modeling agencies are very impersonal and harsh people to work with. What is your management style?

I am a peoples person, without people i cannot possibly survive, personality plays a big part in this industry, while this is so, a can be very impersonal, but that should not be made to mean unfriendly, it simply means that i distant meself a little, as if you work with people you are too close with, you might just settle for mediocrity and that is not something that i love, your friends are the hardest persons to shout on when you want to get something done, my models are my models, and i much manage my business better that way.

q: If we ask any of the models you managed to describe you in one word what do you think they would say?

You would probably hear silence, then a string of adjectives after 5mins: the number one word, then i think would be “Focused”

q: What is your advice to any young person who would like to become entrepreneur like
yourself?

Never think you will go into business and have a road with a silver lining and no pot holes, you will however, find no lining with ditches, also, if they have a good sence of patience and a strong head, i would say go for it, because you will get so many opportunities along the way.

 

Marlon Bolton takes on the World

Unlike many Jamaicans, Marlon Bolton did not grow up in the Ghetto, he however grew up in rural Jamaica, and unlike arguably most Jamaicans he grew up knowing his father.

What was probably the order of his early life; is the battle to live childhood and his teenage years at normalcy, he first started business in Sales, then talent management, Public relations and by 17, Managing Models, yes, by 17, and don’t be surprised he started business at 12. The funny thing is life was not taught to him at all “The hardest part of my earlier years was the fact that I had absolutely everyone in the world to sit me down and talk to me, but my life must have seemed perfect, no one volunteered to hear my problems and in some cases my accomplishments”, the humbled now adult said, Marlon’s career seemed pretty clear to everyone, “everyone knew I would have been in entertainment, whether in Fashion or on stage as an actor or singer, I started a modeling career at age 15 and recorded my first single at 17, so know one bothered to question what career path I would take, my father mentioned law and I know that’s what he would want, but again I must have seemed to focused on Fashion, he never even bothered to follow up on all that”.

Fast forwarding to age 17, when Marlon also started Zahni International Models in Jamaica, it seemed like a joke to most people, but Marlon grabs attention fast, by age 18 he first appeared on Smile Jamaica on Television Jamaica, then the Gleaner dedicated a page to his story, then the Youth link magazine, CVM’s News at Sunrise, Sharon Shroeter’s Hype Zone and the CVM’s “The Party” this “CEO” was hard not to notice, and as Marlon dominated the local scene, he took off to New York, where he would sign his first model, which since capped the attention of casting Directors at Benetton and L’Oreal and has since booked, The Fader, Essence, Vibe, Australian Oyster, V and V magazines she booked Target, Adidas, Levis and Tommy in that same year Marlon’s Company signed over 17 Models in New York, making that company the largest provider of Black Models to New York from the Caribbean.

By Age 19, the Youngest CEO in Fashion, had Casting Directors, Photographers, Designers, Magazines, Power House Agencies, and even members of the Government back home noticing, “What was surprising was that I never knew that I was so popular, I visited an agency in NYC for the first time at one point and as I walked in, the front desk assistant said ‘Hey Marlon, Welcome’ I cant even go on the street back home as every body approaches me, I went to buy a piece of garment at one time and had to run from a tumult; I spend most of my time now oversease.

If you are wondering where Marlon is today, then you can stop wondering, Marlon is now arguable the most influential booker in North America and definitely the youngest, and Marlon doesn’t even seem deterred by the latter, “I have a ‘You don’t ask, I don’t tell’ policy, lots of my clients don’t ask so I don’t tell and even if they knew, I would be an inspiration to them, as I am, to the ones who have asked and I have told, lots of people just assume my age and most don’t ask, they just expect that the task that I am given must be done, and I am very good at that, what gives me a good laugh and a pleasure ofcourse, is when one finds out about my age and suddenly feels ‘funny’, I know they feel this way because what they have been doing for years, I mastered in a few months when I took my first internship, with one, in the top three greatest agencies in the World!, or that I can do what they can or cant do, my connections are overwhelming, I book jobs out of Chicago, Los Angeles, Canada, New York, Miami, Atlanta, Milan, Paris, London and Germany, among the more prominent, and my client list is just phenomenal”

So is Marlon every in a frenzy? You bet! What makes him tick are people who aren’t understanding of his talent “What gets me wondering and furious is when people become standoffish when they hear of my accomplishments vs. my age, and then start to question … what is equally disturbing is, the fact that I hear people preaching, ‘Youth Empowerment’ and when we do elevate it’s a problem! I have not come across someone who does not want to work with me or who would not want to hire me for a job because of my age, if this happened then they would be greatly blundered as they would miss out on a power booker or casting director or what ever capacity I work in”

Nearer back home, Marlon has not given up on his passion, he still manages Zahni International Models and he still manages a team of 54 international models that hails from the Caribbean, North America and Europe, Marlon is also getting ready to launch a Television Show, Marlon and his team is dedicated to the vision of eclectic beauty. Feeding the fashion industry with future trends and stars. He’s set apart from other agencies he brings a more boutique vibe to Jamaica, where he focus’ on high-end fashion clients and boast years of industry knowledge with a cutting edge approach to the industry, focusing on Model Placement, Zahni offers worldwide placement and career guidance for their models “we help them to navigate their way through this cut throat industry. We believe in personalized management tailored to our models’ needs and goals. We place models in every market, worldwide. We understand what is necessary not only to have a good season but more importantly, what it takes to create a lasting career. We advise our models not only with career direction, but also with contract negotiation, global movement, etc” Bolton added, Marlon has also launched a record label, 38 Records that already has affiliates in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.

Now on the heals of age 22 and not far from 30, and a booker in North America, Marlon envisions greatness, feeding his live with positive energy and thoughts, he’s always invited and never miss a fashion event in the world and lives the dreams of many of us.

About the author

Xavier Murphy