Marri Gragnani, Ian Michelson, Chloe Peterson and Eric D. Jenkins Jr. are your typical grammar school students, unless you consider the fact that they could be anywhere in America for breakfast on any given day.
The four Chicago-area children grace the boxes of a new whole-grain sweet cereal from Kellogg Co. called Tiger Power. The children are on a series of four different boxes, with one child and Tony the Tiger—who Marri notes is a fake—on the cover of each.
The three joined some 60 other children at a photo shoot last September. They were told only that the photos were being shot for a new product for Kellogg.
Marri, 8, who lives in Berwyn with her parents, Tina and Laurie Gragnani, didn’t know she made the cut until January.
“We had just returned from vacation and I was at the grocery store... and there she was—Marri and Tony the Tiger,” says mom Tina Gragnani.
It’s a similar story for Loree Sandler and Bob Michelson of Glencoe, parents of Ian, 7.
“Nine out of 10 times you never see the work they do,” says Sandler, whose three sons model. Sandler was told only to watch for her son’s work to appear after the first of the year.
Chloe, 8, daughter of Maria and Ralph Peterson of Wheaton, is featured not only on the cereal box but also on the Internet and in television commercials.
“This has really given Chloe a break and evolved to amazing stuff,” says Maria Peterson, whose daughter started modeling at age 3 and has done work for Montgomery Ward and McDonald’s.
Like Chloe, Eric, 8, son of Valandra and Eric D. Jenkins Sr. of Chicago, is a veteran model who was also featured in the same Montgomery Ward and McDonald’s ads with Chloe. He recently was in a Nike commercial directed by Spike Lee.
Marri, who started modeling as an infant, also plays soccer and basketball, plays the piano and is learning Italian. And she goes on auditions—lots of auditions—as many as 25 for every job she gets, Tina says.
“Why they pick who they pick, it’s beyond me,” Tina says, adding her amazement at the power of advertising. “People do take notice.”
“It’s cool to see me on a cereal box and have people ask me for my autograph,” Marri says, noting that the photo was taken when her hair was nearly a foot longer. She recently cut it and donated it to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that uses donated hair to make wigs for low-income children who have lost their hair due to illness.
Her advice to other children interested in modeling and acting: “Why don’t you just ask your mom?” Kristi Torres
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