These city pets can credit committed owners for their rise to fame
- Last Updated: 5:47 AM, March 5, 2012
- Posted: 7:12 PM, March 3, 2012
Dina Lohan. Kris Jenner. Joe Simpson. There’s no shortage of “stage” parents in Hollywood. But two-legged talent isn’t the only kind receiving such dogged devotion from their elders.
Seven-year-old Eli, a Chihuahua from the Upper West Side, has such a loving pet parent in Karen Biehl that she dressed up as a MilkBone box featuring his face, and paraded around Manhattan passing out “Vote for Eli” fliers so he’d get a gig advertising the doggy treats. He landed the job, along with several others including a Bank of America ad, the spring 2010 Bloomingdale’s cataloge, a Ray-Ban ad that ran in Harper’s Bazaar, a spread in the September 2011 issue of Vogue, and his very own entry on IMDB.
Eli originally got his start in 2006 at the Barking Beauty Pageant, an annual competition for dogs held in Manhattan.
“When Eli won that first pageant, I knew that this was the beginning of something special,” says Biehl, a former opera singer who gave it up to focus her time on Eli’s talents.
While she does it “for the glory and fun, and to be an inspiration to others” — Biehl admits Eli pulls in anywhere between $350 and $750 a gig: “I took my creativity and focused it on creating success with Eli,” she says.
Biehl, who accompanies Eli to everything from runway shows to auditions, has no plans for an early retirement. She even had his own business cards made up.
Roberto Negrin, from Riverdale, can relate. He entered his 5-year-old toy poodle Hec-lin in a pageant wearing an outfit that he designed himself, and she took the prize for “best dressed.”
“The photos came out so well that everyone was telling us she should model professionally,” he says.
Negrin shares a giant closet with his three other professional dog models, where their supplies are stored for their many gigs, which have included a nail polish ad that ran in Glamour, a spot in an R&B music video and a role in the Russian show “Pets in the City.”
Does Negrin think he’s pushing his pups too far?
“If they didn’t like it, we wouldn’t do it,” he insists.
New to the game is Victoria Will, the proud owner of a soon-to-be famous 5-year-old French bulldog, Harry, who was recruited for a Ralph Lauren Home ad after he was seen walking around their Williamsburg neighborhood.
The ad hasn’t come out yet, but Will hopes to catch her pooch on a billboard some day soon.
“My husband and I joke about quitting our jobs and traveling the world with Harry and letting him pay our rent,” she says.
While these dogs wouldn’t be where they are today without their devoted owners, the pups also bring plenty to the table.
“If Eli doesn’t win something or get a job, it doesn’t matter,” says Biehl. “Eli’s message is that you can go for your dreams.”