The BBC’s weekly The Boss series profiles different business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to Laura Johnson and Zoe Procter, founders of Zebedee Management, a talent agency that represents models and actors with physical and learning disabilities.
Zoe Procter and Laura Johnson were walking along a beach when they came up with their business idea.
Laura, who is married to Zoe’s brother, recalls how she was visiting her sister-in-law in 2017 during her maternity leave from her job as a social worker.
“We were having a chat and putting the world to rights, talking about the lack of representation of disabled people in the media,” she says.
Zoe, a model-turned-performing arts teacher for disabled adults, was saying that while her students “were so talented and keen”, they faced limited opportunity. The women wondered how, without a talent agency, Zoe’s students and other disabled people, would ever get acting or modelling work. So they decided to set one up themselves.
“It sounds cheesy, but it was like a light bulb moment,” says Laura.
Work began the moment they returned from the Lincolnshire shoreline. They named their company after Zebedee, the character who bounces on a spring in the much-loved children’s TV programme The Magic Roundabout.
“In a way, he has his own sort of mobility needs, and is also such a really happy, bouncy fun character,” says Laura.
They emailed UK disability groups and set up social media accounts to connect with potential talent. Just three years later, Zebedee now has more than 500 people on its books around the world, with its headquarters in London, and offices in New York and Los Angeles.
After Laura and Zoe had secured their first clients in 2017, their next challenge was to earn a reputation as a trusted talent agency, as casting directors are more likely to work with agents they know they can rely on. Relationships are everything.
“We hammered on doors and begged people to see our people,” says Zoe. “Everyone thought, ‘who are these women?'”
With casting directors listing job adverts on industry websites every day, describing the look, age or gender required, Zoe and Laura also decided to put their clients forward for work whether or not disability was listed in the job advert.
“If we waited for a call saying ‘disability’, we’d have no jobs,” says Laura.
Their first breakthrough came when a client was picked to model a set of colourful hospital gowns. Some 200 roles were secured that first year, compared with 600 so far in 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Zebedee Management collects a small percentage of the fee from each casting, in line with industry standards of between 10-15%.
When they began the agency, Laura and Zoe say they were often asked what would be their dream advertising campaign for one of their clients to front. Laura, a new mum at the time, longed to see a baby with a disability on a nappy or baby wipe advert. Zoe hoped to see one of their clients as the face representing a high-end fashion brand.
This summer, b
Attack outside former Charlie Hebdo office in Paris ‘clearly act of Islamist terrorism’ – French interior minister
A meat cleaver attack that seriously injured two people outside the former offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris is being treated as an act of Islamist terrorism by French authorities.
Two employees of the Premieres Lignes news production agency were outside their office in the 11th arrondissement on Friday when they were attacked by a knife-wielding man. They were “very badly wounded,” Premieres Lignes founder Paul Moreira told AFP.
The attack took place near the former address of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical newspaper whose staff was massacred in a 2015 attack by Islamist militants. The 14 alleged accomplices in that attack are currently on trial in Paris.
Charlie Hebdo eventually reopened at a different address in Paris, which is being kept secret for security reasons.
AFP reports that five men have been detained, including the suspected attacker. The PNAT anti-terrorism prosecution office said it has opened an investigation, with charges of “attempted murder related to a terrorist enterprise” and “conspiracy with terrorists.”
PNAT head Jean-Francois Ricard said the main suspect is an 18-year-old man, reportedly born in Pakistan.
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‘The Army just killed my wife!’: Soul-crushing video provokes online outrage towards Colombian military
A young Colombian man filmed himself crying over his dead wife, who was shot in her car by soldiers. The emotional video led online users to denounce both the country’s government and US foreign policy.
The woman, reported as Juliana Giraldo Diaz, was killed on Thursday, while she and her husband were driving through the rural area of Miranda, Cauca. In the graphic video, her body can be seen lying in the car’s front seat, apparently shot in the head, and in a pool of blood.
WARNING: DISTURBING VIDEO
The Colombian army shot this man’s wife in the head and killed her. He’s begging for help. “Help me please, we have nothing.” Her name is Juliana and she was killed this morning in Miranda, Cauca.pic.twitter.com/l8Cq4TPmZU
— Camila (@camilateleSUR) September 24, 2020
“The Army just killed my wife!” the man, Francisco, can be heard screaming in the footage.
“We had no drugs, we had no weapons, we had nothing … Please help me!”
The Colombian Army has issued a statement, saying that the woman was shot by a soldier while the military was securing the area.
The country’s president, Ivan Duque, ordered both the defense ministry and the army to carry out a “quick” investigation and “punish” those responsible. Separately, the incident will also be reviewed by the attorney general’s office.
Condeno repudiable hecho ocurrido en Miranda, Cauca. He ordenado a @mindefensa y @COL_Ejercito disponer lo necesario para investigación con celeridad. Responsable debe recibir castigo ejemplar. Solidaridad con familiares de Juliana Giraldo, a quienes brindaremos acompañamiento.
— Iván Duque 🇨🇴 (@IvanDuque) September 24, 2020
Commentators universally condemned the killing online, saying that people in uniform always get to act with “impunity”.
Others lamented that “no one” in the international community addresses such incidents, in their view because “Colombia is a US puppet state”.
Knowing Colombia is US puppet state no one will condemn it.
— Tito ☭ 🇸🇻 ⛰️ Андрей 🐈🐕 (@adxtrjuseniorit) September 24, 2020
The woman’s horrifying death follows countrywide turmoil during protests and riots against police brutality, which broke out over the death of law student Javier Ordonies. He died on September 8, after being repeatedly tasered by police officers.
Death toll from Covid-19 could ‘very likely’ reach 2 MILLION before vaccine widely available, WHO says
The coronavirus death toll could double to reach the two million mark before a vaccine comes into wide use, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) head of emergencies Mike Ryan has warned.
The current death toll, which is hovering just below the one million mark, could easily grow twofold without a “concerted” effort to make an effective vaccine widely available as soon as possible, Ryan said in a Friday news conference.
“Unless we do it… the number you speak about [two million deaths] is not only imaginable, but sadly very likely,” he said.
The official also spoke about the ongoing increase in spread rates registered worldwide in the past few weeks after anti-coronavirus lockdowns were eased in many countries. Ryan cautioned against blaming the latest spike on young people, who have allegedly become the primary spreaders.
“I really hope we don’t get into finger wagging: it’s all because of the youth,” he said. “The last thing a young person needs is an old person pontificating and wagging the finger.”
The situation in Europe, where several countries, including France and the UK, reported the highest-ever daily rises in Covid-19 cases, remains very “worrying,” WHO officials have said, urging the authorities to do their best to try and halt the spread before the season of regular flu comes around.
“We are at the end of September and we haven’t even started our flu season yet, so what we are worried about is the possibility that these trends are going in the wrong direction,” WHO’s technical lead on coronavirus, Maria Van Kerkhove, said.
Globally, more than 32.3 million people have contracted the disease with over 980,000 succumbing to it, the latest figures by Johns Hopkins University show.
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