By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
By Jeff Balke
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
Page met her business partner when Rachel was working at a now defunct modeling agency called Michael St. James. Rachel, a soft-spoken, dark-haired woman who is the opposite of Page in both coloring and nature, came to that agency as a 19-year-old elementary school teacher's aide. She wanted to learn how to put on makeup. When the agency needed part-time help answering phones over the holidays, Rachel agreed to do it. Then, after the staff walked out when their paychecks bounced, the poorly run agency, desperate for people, hired Rachel full-time to handle the books.
On her return from Europe, Page was hired as Rachel's assistant. But Page despised administrative tasks like filing and alphabetizing and called it "monkey work." She needed to be where she could get her hands on something, so Rachel recommended that Page go into sales. When the company folded (the owners took off with the money, leaving Rachel and Page to deal with the IRS and unpaid models), Page got a job in admissions at the Mayo-Hill School of Modeling (now associated with the Neal Hamil Agency). But she said she wouldn't come unless Rachel could too. She even offered to split her salary with Rachel. Rachel eventually was hired as well, but the young women were itching to try something on their own. Page's mother gave them $20,000 to get started, and on April 1, 1981, 21-year-old Page and 23-year-old Rachel opened the Page Parkes School of Modeling. That summer they started a separate agency, Intermedia (now Page 713).
Things were slow at first. In the beginning, they billed about $5,000 a month and were so short on models that Rachel once booked Page to model a nightgown for a catalog.
"She was such a little trouper, up on her tiptoes," says Rachel.
Page was maniacal about work. She stayed long after Rachel had gone home. It was not uncommon for her to go to a fashion show until the wee hours of the morning and then show up early to the office the next day. On Mondays, Rachel would usually discover Page exploring the school's bathroom, lamenting about the fact that the cleaning crew had not scrubbed behind the toilets.
"I would say, 'Page, who looks behind the toilets?' " says Rachel. Probably not many people besides Page, but it bothered her so much she took to cleaning them herself.
Page became so personally invested it was easy to upset her, says Rachel. For years Page dreaded coming in on Fridays because that was usually the day of the week that models would choose to leave the agency or "tear into her" about something, says Rachel. Page would regularly break down in tears at the office. She couldn't stand to have anyone upset at her. Rachel would remind Page that she couldn't give her whole heart to something on a regular basis.
"It was her life, and she pulled me along with her," says Rachel. "Not that I resented it. But I think I had the balance of the personal and business, and she was all business."
But it paid off. With Rachel working the financial end of things and Page hunting and honing new talent, the two young businesswomen began to build both the school and the agency. In 1985 they opened their Dallas agency (a press release announcing the opening read, in part, "Had Page Parkes been five feet nine inches tall, instead of five feet three inches, with her sun-streaked blonde hair, sea-green eyes and heart-shaped face, she could have been a top model herself"). The Dallas operation immediately began to bring in money, and in 1989 the company ventured into the Miami market.
The growth was positive for Page and Rachel. But with growth came problems. This May, Dan Parsons of the Better Business Bureau asked Page and Rachel in for a meeting. It seemed that a small number of complaints about the Center for Modeling and Acting had cropped up suddenly.
Page Parkes's BBB record had been spotless for 20 years. In fact, it wasn't uncommon for Page to contact Parsons to complain about modeling scams and rip-offs invading the Houston market.
"When I came to the bureau in '83, Page was a whistle-blower," remembers Parsons.
Page showed up at the BBB office with Rachel and Lisa Lyngos, admissions director for the center, and Parsons sat them down to talk. But just like those Friday afternoons when Page would break down if anyone got upset with her, in the middle of the meeting she started to cry. Parsons remembers Page asking a billion questions, wanting to know just how any complaints could have tarnished their perfect record.
"I actually cried at the BBB. I was like, 'My mother's rolling in her grave,' " says Page.
There were six complaints, a fraction of a percentage, really. Some of the complaints had stemmed from the fact that in their quick growth, a few students at the center had been sent to the wrong "review board" -- the group that decides if students will be accepted into Page 713 for modeling jobs. Page refunded money, rectified the situation. She brought one daughter and her mother into her office to sort out the situation in person.