The Big Picture
Renew Artists Hawai‘i founders Serena and Hudson Taylor are revitalizing the state’s modeling industry by putting the people of the islands in focus.
Imagine enjoying a relaxing, sunny day at the beach when you’re unexpectedly approached with the opportunity of a lifetime. Or, you’re in your neighborhood market, but instead of walking out with groceries, you leave with a chance encounter that completely changes the trajectory of your life.
These are just two examples of how Serena and Hudson Taylor have discovered talent for their modeling agency, Renew Artists Hawai‘i. Time after time, the couple have proven they possess the magic touch to uncovering hidden gems in the islands’ most unexpected places.
Still, the Taylors never imagined their agency would grow into the empire it is today. Renew Artists Hawai‘i currently has more than 200 models, many of whom are booking with national brands that include Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret, Gap and Urban Outfitters; signing with major sports apparel companies such as Nike, ASICS and Athleta; and landing jobs in the big leagues of the surfing industry with Roxy, Hurley, O’Neill and others.
While it’s only been five years since this husband-and-wife duo launched their agency, their inspiration can be traced back to 2009 when Hudson was a model.
“Originally when I was modeling a lot, there were all these other models that just needed help,” explains Hudson, who had signed with the New York City-based agency IMG Models Worldwide and whose face was once plastered on ads for national brands and billboards nationwide. “They needed guidance and they were with the wrong managers, agents … just not in good situations.
“I was obsessed with the idea of just helping people and getting them with the right people. So, I started introducing them to a bunch of friends that were big agents around the world,” adds the North Shore native, estimating he scouted more than 100 models before Renew Artists Hawai‘i came to be.
This motivation to help others would lead Hudson to another passion of his — photography, which is what ultimately led the Taylors to Los Angeles in 2013. Soon after, Hudson Taylor Photography was born.
More and more photo shoot requests came rolling in and within three months, Hudson had shot his first cover for Elle. Since then, he’s done cover shoots for other magazines, including Vanity Fair, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Givenchy and GQ, and photographed celebrities such as Elsa Hosk, Shay Mitchell, Zoe Saldana, Jessica Alba and Noah Centineo, among others.
During this period, Serena was also learning the ins and outs of the modeling industry as a junior booker at Elite Model Management in LA. She says her time there taught her the inner workings of a well-known agency — everything from how to choose photos for the company’s website to effective methods of communicating with clients and other agencies.
On her days off, the Punahou School and Hawai‘i Pacific University alumna learned Photoshop to help retouch Hudson’s photos and assisted as a second shooter on photo assignments. Eventually, she’d leave that job as word-of-mouth of the couple’s work spread and demand for their services required they roam the globe shooting ad campaigns and magazine covers.
Yet what the Taylors really yearned for was a base to create their own modeling agency, and what better location to do that from than the very place they now call home: Hawai‘i.
“There was a gap in the market we knew we could fill, especially with our skill sets and level of experience,” say the Taylors, who moved back to the islands in 2018. “We knew we could create something with an aesthetic and taste level that hadn’t quite been tapped into in the Hawai‘i modeling industry. We wanted a fresh, revitalized take on modeling in Hawai‘i and we just knew there was an abundance of talent on the islands with untapped potential due to lack of resources or the right vision, and that’s how and why Renew Artists was born.”
“I think that being a Hawai‘i-based company in such a big, worldwide industry has been valuable, because we are able to share the philosophy of aloha, and treating people like ‘ohana rather than just business transactions,” adds Serena, who knows a thing or two about aloha after capturing the title of Miss Hawai‘i Teen USA in 2007. “I think that really helps to set us apart. We truly care about our models and clients.”
It didn’t take long for Renew Artists Hawai‘i to expand given the Taylors’ extensive knowledge of the fashion industry, along with all the connections they made with clients and other agencies from around the world.
“I just think we’re constantly trying to evolve and expand and continue to learn as the industry progresses,” says Serena.
And grow they have. In October, Renew Artists Hawai‘i held its largest modeling casting call, which hundreds of women attended, meeting agents from many of the biggest modeling firms in the world, including NEXT Management New York and IMG Models Worldwide.
While Serena remains at the helm as owner of Renew Artists Hawai‘i, Hudson is currently working on a number of local film projects. However, he is always available to offer his wisdom and guidance to Renew Artists Hawai‘i’s models.
It’s evident that this power couple knows how to work hard, but it’s their sons, Blu (age 4) and Aero (14 months), who teach them to play harder. The family loves the great outdoors and can often be found enjoying their time together at beaches.
While Serena’s heart remains with the boys, she still pours love into the agency, which she affectionately calls “her first baby.”
When asked what makes Renew Artists Hawai‘i special, Serena answers, “I like being part of the creation of something that has changed so many people’s lives.
“We’ve started people from the very beginning, who didn’t have any clue that they’d think of becoming a model and then all of a sudden, step forward a year, or two or three later, their lives are completely changed. Where they’re able to be financially stable … and be able to create their own finances and even help their own families through modeling and through the experience they had.
“We’ve given people an outlet for their creativity. We’ve given clients the ability to have models of so many different ethnic backgrounds from Hawai‘i. They’re able to discover beautiful talent for their brands.
“It’s been great to see Hawai‘i be put on the map because there is so much incredible talent here. And to be a part of being able to discover a lot of that has been really special,” she adds.
Mahina Florence, who has modeled for Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS clothing company and recently walked in Louis Vuitton Men’s Pre-Fall 2024 Show by Pharrell Williams in Hong Kong, can attest to just how much the agency has changed her life.
“My modeling career would not be where it is today without the guidance of Renew. They believed in me and my potential from the day I signed with them,” she states. “I am working with my dream clients who were either booked by Renew or booked through the other agents that Renew had gotten me to sign with.
“They have helped make my dreams come true. You are only as strong as the team you have on your side, so I’m blessed to be a part of the Renew ‘ohana, and I thank them for all they have done for me.”
As much as they’ve accomplished, the Taylors believe the best is yet to come. “I just want to keep my feet on the ground here in Hawai‘i,” says Serena, “and continue to find talent here that are going to continue to blossom and grow and reach new heights around the world.”
To learn more about the Taylors and their agency, visit the following Instagram accounts: @renewartistshawaii, @serenahawaii and @hudsontaylor.