Malibu’s ‘Model’ Citizen

Jennifer Pogats

Those who associate successful modeling careers exclusively with a younger generation perhaps don’t know Malibu’s Jennifer Pogats.

Pogats can be seen walking around town; a dark-haired beauty of a certain age, always nattily dressed with a hat on and a beaming smile on her face. It’s these features that have kept Pogats in the modeling business going on five decades and still one of the most sought after models of her generation.

Growing up in a small town in Michigan, Pogats (also known as Jennifer Meltzer) said she has dreamed of modeling since the age of seven. 

She committed herself to school, not knowing if her dreams would come true, and worked as an assistant librarian.

But, after being voted most beautiful in high school, Pogats packed her bags at the age of 18 and moved to New York City, not knowing a soul. Within six months she was signed to the prestigious Wilhelmina Agency after being discovered at a trade show by photographer Lucien Feldon, once married to the actress Barbara Feldon.

From then on, Pogats’ face has been featured in countless print ads, billboards, magazines, catalogues and television commercials, which led to acting jobs. She’s been photographed by some of the biggest names in the business, including Annie Leibovitz. And it’s not just her face that’s landed her lucrative work; over the years, she’s also been both a pantyhose model and a hand model, making hundreds of dollars per hour.

Along with print and runway work, Pogats has also been a live mannequin. In the 1970s, while working in Los Angeles doing film and television roles, the Beverly Hills store Lina Lee called Pogats.

“The Rodeo Drive store dressed me every Friday and Saturday in their most expensive gowns,” Pogats explained. “I was able to look exactly like a mannequin. I could stand not blinking or moving to the point that people gathered outside to see if I was real. I had people lined up around the block — Gregory Peck, Dino Martin and several famous people would show up to watch me. I would hold and when I moved, the outside viewers would applaud.”

After traveling the globe to shoot in exotic locales, Pogats settled in Chicago, where she shot to the top of the modeling world, made a home and raised three boys who became child models.

“Of course I have so many funny stories about the business, but one of the best was when I was pregnant with my third child,” Pogats shared about modeling as a young mother. “The job was for a medical machine. It was one that needed a pregnant woman lying on it. The job was booked for two days and all I was supposed to do was to lie on it, showing I was pregnant. I was to make $3,000 per day. When I phoned my agent after giving birth two weeks early, the poor agent had to find another beautiful, big belly. Timing is everything!”

While in Chicago, Pogats was able to study at the Second City Comedy School and landed more acting roles. She also hosted three cable television shows, all focused on family life and healthy living. She explained that her years in the business working with top photographers also piqued her interest in becoming a photographer herself, and she eventually opened her own home studio. She became a contributor to leading Chicago magazines and newspaper society pages with her photos of celebrities and politicians.

Pogats’ said her love of photography led to her becoming a hand-color artist as well. The long since forgotten art form of hand painting on film was popular before the digital age took over.

That shift in technology and her business led Pogats to Malibu, where she has lived since 2008. Signed with Howard Talent West, Pogats said she is booking a variety of commercials for beauty products and has appeared in dozens of infomercials.

And the competition for models in the middle age category is fierce. For every “go-see,” there are plenty of jobs that are turned down, but Pogats works steadily and plans to continue chasing and realizing her dream for years to come.

“It’s hard work, smiling outside in 100-degree, humid weather, wearing heavy fall clothing, dancing down a runway in eight-inch heels that are two sizes too small, and running along the beaches of Lake Michigan in a bikini while it’s freezing,” Pogats said. “[But] from age seven to now, I am still following and living my dream.”