Need Models for Your Party? There’s an App for That

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Need Models for Your Party? There’s an App for That

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When the vibrating yoga pants were switched on, the party perked up considerably. “Oh, I like this,” said Briana Siaca, facing the floor in a downward dog pose, as electronic sensors pulsed along her legs.

Ms. Siaca, 23, a two-time Miss New York runner-up with more than 6,200 Instagram followers, was one of several fit young women who attended a private shopping party in Little Italy last week for Wearable X, a high-tech clothing company that embeds haptic technology within its garments.

It wasn’t by chance that the sculpted women in that Mulberry Street penthouse looked as if they had been shaken, like subscription cards, from the pages of an Allure magazine. Six of the small clutch of party guests had been recruited through Surkus, an app that matches demographically desirable civilians — including aspiring models, actors-in-waiting and social media dwarf stars — with club promoters, marketers and other clients willing to pay for an attractive human garnish at their events.

Members can make as much as $100 for a couple of hours of hanging around a nightclub. The app is a marketplace where influencers, the talent and the merely lovely can connect with buzz seekers who want to rent such youthful glamour, with Surkus taking 50 percent of the fee.

In addition to shopping parties, Surkus members have been paid to attend restaurant openings, off-nights at clubs (where they are known as “atmosphere models”) and promotional parties for products. Some get cast for film and modeling work.

Members join the app by linking their Facebook profiles and are then “crowdcast” for clients, based on demographic details like their age, interests and number of Instagram followers. Eighteen months into operation, the app is still building its business; it approached Wearable X to provide its services, at no cost.

Ms. Siaca earned a modest $10 for her attendance, and her Instagram post from the party (“When @wearablex launches new technology embedded yoga pants, ya gotta check it out!”) garnered over 115 likes and three emoji comments, including one from Scott Lipps, an influential model agent.

“For me, it’s not about the money,” said Ms. Siaca, who works in digital marketing for Clarins, and has earned about $600 attending 12 Surkus events. “It’s what kind of people can I meet, what kind of, like, environment is it? Is it a cool brand that I might be interested in?”

Surkus is run by Stephen George, a 30-year-old who lives in Los Angeles and rides a Onewheel (a sort of motorized skateboard and unicycle) to the company’s Hollywood offices each morning. A subdued tech millionaire, with apple cheeks and searching brown eyes, he makes an unlikely conductor of cool.

Mr. George started his career in 2008, as an intern at the company that became Groupon. After making almost $10 million from the stock options, he traveled the world for three years before investing $250,000 in Surkus in 2015, becoming chief executive last November.

According to Mr. George, Surkus has 150,000 members who have attended 4,200 events for 750 clients, mainly in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami. Power users, he said, can earn $4,000 a year.

It’s not all beautiful people doing beautiful things. We’ve had some very fun one-off events,” said Mr. George, citing one movie extra casting “where they needed senior citizens, 65-plus, and so we acquired members to do that.”

How, exactly? “We may have organically hacked that, and reached out to a couple of senior citizen homes in L.A.,” he said, suppressing a giggle.

But O.K., it’s mostly beautiful people doing beautiful things.

The next night, Surkus supplied 10 women, all in their mid-20s, for a party promoting Patrón tequila at the Marmara hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

The Surkus guest list, as displayed on its app, recalled Mitt Romney’s line from the 2012 presidential campaign about having “binders full of women.” It was a grid of alluring social-media portraits (“thirst traps,” as the kids say) packing enough tousled hair extensions to spring Rapunzel from 1 World Trade Center.

The members, each of whom would receive a star rating at the end of the night indicating how she had comported herself, were a cross section of ambitious young arrivals to the city. They included a Rockland County native, Vanessa Wilson, 25, a receptionist at Chanel’s Midtown offices, and Kristin Taylor, 24, an actress from Kansas City, Kan., who makes a living impersonating Jennifer Lawrence on YouTube.

Each received $10, and was told to be discreet about how they came to be there. The client, a downtown “experiential agency” called Bowery Collective, charged everyone else up to $85 to attend.

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