Angie’s peaceful retreat

By Julie Beun Photographs by Ashley Fraser

“It’s a simple room but I’m a simple person,” Sakla-Seymour says. Her 13-year-old pooch, Ralph, seems to agree

She regularly rubs shoulders with the world’s most celebrated designers, discovered Ryan Gosling when he was nine, and has put budding Ottawa supermodel Harieth Paul in the pages of Vogue three times — in one week.

So when the word “simple” comes to mind when walking in the front door of Angie Sakla-Seymour’s sprawling Manotick house, it’s a bit of a shock.

Sure, there’s glamour in the 4,000-square-foot Princiotta-designed home — the co-owner of Angie’s Model and Talent International reclines on a white leather couch sporting Chanel bijoux, a Michael Kors dress and Tory Burch ballet flats — but it is a simple kind of glamour.

Currently being redecorated by her daughter, Helena-Alexis, 26, according to the energy-healing principles of feng shui, the house at the end of a cul-de-sac in a high-end neighbourhood just 20 minutes from downtown is a study in taupe, wood, stone and black granite. Yet there are flashes of colour: Sakla-Seymour’s office off the front hall now has mustard yellow walls and is decorated with her wall of fame photos of clients. “All the frames were metal originally,” she laughs, “but Helena-Alexis said they had to be wood. We had to change 20 frames over. We had art from our other home, but she said it’s just not right. Believe me, it’s expensive to change all that.”

But it is the soaring ceiling and openness of her sun room that Sakla-Seymour (and her beloved 13-year-old dog, Ralph) love best. Simply decorated with a vast wall of rich blue paint, a comfortable white leather couch and a love seat she calls “the throne,” the room is flanked by two walls of windows, offering unimpeded views of the front yard as well as the pool and hot tub in the back.

“It’s a simple room, but I’m a simple person.
I like vanilla ice cream and clean lines,” she says, adding that its airiness means “you have the visions from both sides and energy comes from the light. I get energized after a day in that room.”

And energy is something the Montreal-born dynamo has in spades. A former model, Sakla-Seymour and her Bahamian husband, Lou, put in long days as one of Ottawa’s premier booking agencies. Work in the office typically runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., before they head home to eat, relax in the sunroom, then continue working until around midnight. It’s a rigorous schedule that has paid off. After 21 years in the industry, they consistently book models for everything from New York Fashion Week and European fashion shoots to magazine covers. Her current rising star — the long-legged, perfectly featured Harieth Paul, whose rate is now up to $100,000 a day — recently did an unheard-of three issues of Vogue in one week and was chosen as the face of Montreal’s Simons fashion house. She models for Calvin Klein and “is just going to keep climbing,” says Sakla-Seymour. “Yet she’s very humble. Her whole family is very grateful and very spiritual. She knows that this could go away at any time. But as always for me, the challenge is to find another star. Everyone is looking closer at us now, saying, ‘she found one, she’ll find another.’”

It’s a long way from Sakla-Seymour’s career beginnings as a government employment counsellor “teaching people how to get jobs in the real world,” she laughs. In her spare time, she would book models for small jobs. But it was only when her boss quietly took her aside and asked her to stop using the office fax machine for her sideline that she considered working from home. “I was getting into trouble, so my boss said I could be a tele-worker and just come into the office when
I had to do presentations. In 20 hours a week at home, I was getting the same work done that I’d do in 37 hours at the office.” Meantime, Lou, then working at a printing company, was also double-dipping by printing models’ comp cards and running the casting side of things, once booking 500 extras for the movie, Fly Away Home. Eventually, their home business grew so unwieldy, they both quit to focus on it.

Known for grooming and training models carefully and mother-henning them backstage at Fashion Week, Sakla-Seymour obviously takes a lot of pleasure from seeing her clients reach the top of their game.

That’s the case with Ryan Gosling — the dashing leading man in Crazy, Stupid, Love — who Sakla-Seymour first spotted as an astonishingly talented nine-year-old Cornwall boy with a passion for singing. “I was at a dance recital for my two kids (her son, Dimitrios, is 23) and out comes this group of 12 kids dancing and they had stuck Ryan in the back. He was following the group, but there was something about him. I went backstage and asked where his parents were. I said, ‘You should be acting’, but he wanted to sing and dance. So I asked him to sing and dance at my charity fashion shows and got him started. I had him and his sister perform at my government Christmas party.”

From there, Gosling, whose father worked at the Domtar paper mill, got a break on the Mouseketeers (The MCC Channel) with a very young Justin Timberlake, then The Young Hercules before moving into the Toronto film industry. “I’m not surprised where he ended up,” she says of the star, who keeps in touch. “When we did his farewell when he was young, I said, ‘pay attention to this name, he’ll be a star.’”

She was correct — and no doubt there will be others. Although the age of the supermodel has passed, “unless you turn yourself into a business”, she says there will be other Ryan Goslings and Harieth Pauls in her future. “It’s not about quantity and the size of the business,” she says, relaxing like a cat on her couch. “It’s always about the quality of the people you work with.”

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