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Talent spotter steps back after 10 years running modelling school

Tracy Cameron has faced some weird and wonderful challenges during 10 years running her Queenstown talent agency and modelling school.

It’s not unusual for her to be scrambling to find dozens of extras for TV commercials and movies being shot in the Wakatipu.

The boss of Ican Models and Talent has helped out on flicks such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 10,000 BC, The Water Horse and Bride Flight starring Rutger Hauer.

Cameron has also been called on for big-money adverts for the likes of Coca-Cola.

Her brief often borders on the bizarre.

“One of the toughest requests was when I once had to source 300 extras for a Carlton beer ad – fortunately it all came together,” she says.

“I’ve also been asked to find people in Queenstown to play everything from Pakistani sherpas to Russian soldiers and recently got 50 Japanese-looking men for a TV series, which wasn’t easy.”

Only one job has ever had her stumped.

That was when a movie company wanted a hand double for American superstar Robin Williams.

“He has incredibly hairy hands.

There was no one in Queenstown who was hairy enough.”

Before coming to the resort, Cameron, 41, spent a decade as co-director of Vanity Walk model agency in Dunedin.

No stranger to the catwalk herself, in 1988 she was a finalist in the Wella Miss Universe New Zealand contest in Christchurch and also enjoyed a spell as a fashion model.

But she still finds it hard to explain her career in the glamour world after being raised in a fishing family on Stewart Island.

“I suppose it’s a bit bizarre to be in the business I’m in after being brought up in gumboots and overalls,” Cameron says.

“But I love going back to Stewart Island for some tranquillity and a few years ago I got a real thrill when Billy Connolly landed on my parents’ lawn in a helicopter while he was there filming his World Tour of New Zealand TV series.”

Cameron shifted to the Wakatipu in 2000 to start her own business after having previously come up from Dunedin to supply extras for the Lord of the Rings and Vertical Limit movies.

She now has “thousands” of people from all over the country on her books and her website is accessed by agents worldwide who then identify the talent they need.

Ican also supplies models and dancers for everything from fashion shows to festivals.

“The people who register with me for work come from all walks of life,” Cameron says.

“Because of the nature of Queenstown, there’s a huge demand from production companies for top-line outdoor sports people aswell as dancers and musicians andthe likes.”

As well as her agency work, Cameron’s Ican school holds modelling and dance classes throughout Otago for everyone from kids to adults.

But with two-year-old daughter Neave to contend with, the married mum reveals she’s stepping back from her hands-on role of running the school after its 10th end-of-year show at the Winehouse and Kitchen at Gibbston in December.

“I want to spend a bit more time with Neave and hopefully expand my family, which means cutting back on my business life,” she says.

“I’d like to think the school will continue regardless but 10 seems like a good number for me to ease off at because the last decade has been a lot of fun but some very hard work.”