Kelly Streit with Heather Marks
at L'Oreal Fashion Week
Toronto, March 2005Kelly Streit has built an empire that rivals, and even surpasses, many New York agencies. Heather Marks, Julia Dunstall, Marla Boehr, Agneiszka Wichniewicz, Twyla Hayes, Claire Cormeau, Brenna Rose, Kim Renneberg, Erica McDonald, Jen MacDonald, Kelly Fluker, Wade Ponic, Arlynd Fletcher, Paul Greene, Piotr Zielinski and so on. Then there are his American stars like Brandi Brechbiel, Katie Nauta and Darla Baker. In Canada for sure, no other agency can claim to be mother agent to so many well-known faces.
I'm frequently asked about him. As the publisher of this website and someone that operated an agency in the same market for a number of years, I often have people wanting to know what makes Streit so successful. It isn't a simple answer, but vision, restlessness, hard work and risk-taking - in that order - are the key ingredients.
In Calgary, where he has chosen to make his home, the native of Innisfail, Alberta is seen on the news more often than the oil executives and other business leaders that stir that city's booming economy. He is sighted at soirees, chatted-up at charity events and written about at restaurants. And yet despite operating so publicly he remains somewhat of an enigma.
His industry origins give a glimpse of the man as he is today; a man that doesn't necessarily accept things at face value... a man with a thirst for knowledge and a determination to find out. "I went to a modelling thing in Calgary at the Westin Hotel. Of course I didn't pay. I didn't believe in the convention circuit until I went to meet the agents that were there.
"I'll never forget meeting Giovanni (Bernardi, of Giovanni Model Management), Alecia Bell (then of International Top Models, now Elite Canada) and Karen Lee (then with Pauline's in New York, now with Elite New York). They were all standing together." He laughs as he re-tells the story. "Karen walked me down 4th Avenue in Calgary and I asked 'Why do models have to have full lips?' Right away I started sending them pictures and placing models with Giovanni, and placing models with Karen, and the rest is history."
Streit first gained noteriety for discovering Tricia Helfer at a movie theatre in Red Deer, Alberta. Helfer, rather famously, went on to become the Ford Supermodel of the World (and now stars on TV's Battlestar Galactica). Shortly after that Streit was featured in MacLean's 100 Canadians to Watch.
So what's left to say about Kelly Streit? "What people don't know is that I love to go to the play area at Market Mall (with his young daughter Chloe). Or that I go for the dollar breakfast at Ikea and let her go through the toy section because I think it's the best toy section in town. That's the kind of thing I think people don't know about me. I do that every weekend and I just love it."
"A lot of people don't know I have a wife and kid. Stephanie (his wife) was our agency director and placed all the models alongside me for 16 years. She worked together with me straight out of high school. We've been together forever, relationship-wise off and on."