‘Millie is brave, strong, passionate and is always going the extra mile, listening to her clients’ needs and staying across the detail’

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  • YMU

Millie Lean’s colleagues have a tongue-in-cheek nickname for her: ‘the shock absorber’. She credits her resilience, empathy and calm disposition to her medical history – overcoming blood cancer in her teens, she was classed as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ at the outset of the Covid pandemic and has often worked in one of the industry’s most sociable roles in isolation.

From securing book deals for comedian Stephen Mulhern and diver Tom Daley to building relationships with both Buckingham Palace and the White House, it’s clear that Lean has not let anything hold her back.

Starting out at Bloomsbury and then Penguin Random House, she has worked at YMU since 2021, swiftly forging a key talent deal with Francis Bourgeois – aka The Train Guy. From TV to books and brand partnerships, Lean has managed all aspects of his career, having spotted him on TikTok, where his followers have grown from 500,000 to 3.1 million under her watch.

Lean spotted that Bourgeois’s appeal could go beyond trains and trainspotting, positioning him as a young face of STEM, inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists with his joy and passion.

Talent champion

She has helped him land his own Channel 4 Digital series, Trainspotting With Francis Bourgeois, pairing him with the likes of singer Sam Ryder, footballer Jesse Lingard and actor Aisling Bea. He has also chalked up appearances on everything from C4’s Hobby Man and Kathy Burke: Growing Up to ITV2’s Shopping With Keith Lemon and YouTube series Amelia’s Cooking Show – he even voiced a train announcer for the UK release of Pixar’s Elemental.

YMU managing director of literary, Amanda Harris, says that under Lean, Bourgeois became the first 360-degree talent management client within the agency’s literary department.

“He could have been an ephemeral talent who burned bright and disappeared,” she says. “With Millie’s strategic mind and empathic management style, Francis now has a category-killing book and ongoing relationships with brands including Lego and Gucci.”

All this and a personal invitation last year from Joe Biden to thank Lean for the support she had given to the White House’s digital department. Harris says the president saw a “confidence, strategic mind and sense of trust that she imbues in all who work with her”.

For Harris, Lean is the ‘gold standard’ in talent management, who commands fierce loyalty from her clients through being “brave, strong, passionate”, “always going the extra mile, listening to her clients’ needs and staying across the detail” and ultimately being “the perfect advocate” for them.

Within the company, Lean is “a team player from the get-go, who rolls up her sleeves and shows up, both professionally and emotionally”, says Harris.

She adds: “Millie delivers for her clients and for YMU, and she makes decisions that have seen exponential growth for her clients. She explores their ideas, negotiates hard across every deal and never leaves a stone unturned to progress their careers.

“Problem solving is Millie’s forte, as is emotionally connecting with her clients so they feel truly seen and heard.”

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