1. Measure yourself.
Figure 7.2 Molly’s dreams of growing up to be a supermodel were dashed when her mother turned out to be right, and her face got stuck that way.
Models must meet certain basic physical requirements. Height is the most important of these, and women who model are always (with extremely few exceptions) between 5’9” and 6’0”. You should be well-proportioned with moderately sized breasts and hips, and your dress size should be between 2 and 6, unless you want to model plus sizes from 12 to 16. Male models are between 6’0” and 6’2” with a jacket size of 40 regular to 42 long.
Be suspicious of anyone who says you can model despite being outside the usual height range. The size requirements for modeling may seem harsh, but if you don’t measure up, you won’t fit into the sample-size clothing provided by designers. If someone tries to convince you otherwise, they’re probably just after your money.
2. Be wary of scams and cons.
The moment you decide to pursue a modeling career, you become a target for con artists. In general, if someone wants money in exchange for furthering your career, it should raise a red flag. Legitimate modeling agencies pay your start-up expenses and get reimbursed only after you’ve worked your first job. Paying to participate in a model search contest or convention is normal, but you should research the organization behind it and find out what others, including the Better Business Bureau, have to say about it.
Protect yourself from predators. If something doesn’t feel right about an agency or scout, trust your instincts. Never give out your phone number or other personal information without confirming the legitimacy of the person asking, and only agree to meetings during regular business hours.
3. Have a set of pictures taken.
Whether you introduce yourself to an agency in person or through the mail, they’ll need to see photos of you. Ask a friend or family member to take these; any photographer who tries to sell you professional photos for this purpose is either misinformed or scamming you. These pictures should be casual and simple, with your hair away from your face and very light makeup, if any. Wear a two-piece swimsuit in a solid color and include full-body shots and waist-up shots that show your figure from the front, back and both sides, as well as four head shots--one relaxed, one smiling, and two profiles. Write your name, age, body measurements, and phone number on the back of each picture.
4. Find an agent.
Successful models work through agencies. Yes, your agency will take a 20% commission from every paycheck you earn. But because most clients go directly to agencies with their modeling needs, the best jobs aren’t available to freelance models. In fact, freelance modeling is sometimes referred to as “hobby modeling” because, while it can be a rewarding experience, the rewards are rarely monetary.
Present yourself appropriately. If an agency accepts pictures via mail or email, you may send them your complete set of photos with a letter of introduction. You can also meet agents at model searches, contests, and conventions, or during “open calls,” which are specific times when agencies open their doors to aspiring models. When meeting agents in person, wear light makeup, a simple hairstyle, and casual, figure-flattering clothes.
5. Pose for your portfolio and composite card.
Your agency will arrange for a test shoot. If you’re signed by a legitimate agency, they will pay to have your first professional photos taken and compiled into your modeling portfolio and composite card. You’ll be expected to repay these expenses after your first job. Because the agency is already financially invested in your career, they’ll try to develop the most marketable look for you.
Your portfolio and composite card will be presented to all potential clients. As you gain professional experience, the photos from your test shoot will gradually be replaced with the best “tear sheets” from your modeling jobs, usually referred to as “bookings.”
6. Go on go-sees, lots and lots of go-sees.
Figure 7.3 Ironically, they got into modeling because they thought it would be easy money.
Even well-known models have to attend go-sees. A go-see, or casting, is like an interview for a modeling job. You go so a potential client can see you. Your agent will set these up, and if you have a second job, it should offer flexible hours and leave your weekdays open for go-sees and bookings.
Dress casually for go-sees, in flat shoes and clothes that show your figure. Keep your makeup simple and wear your hair down. A friendly and relaxed attitude can increase your chances of being hired, but you should also learn to handle rejection gracefully. Bring your portfolio for the client to flip through, and leave a copy of your composite card, which shows your contact information and a few of your best photos.
7. Seek out a variety of bookings.
Gaining experience in many different types of modeling can only help your career. Often, the most coveted jobs pay very little--for instance, just a few hundred dollars for a spread in a fashion magazine--but give a model enough exposure to land more lucrative runway bookings or advertising contracts. Meanwhile, you can earn a day rate in the thousands by posing for a print or online catalog, even though it’s lower-profile work.
Be willing to work in other cities and countries. New York City is the biggest and most prestigious fashion market in the world, and many of the models working there got started in a foreign city like Paris or Milan. And of course, working models have to travel constantly, all over the world, for individual bookings.
Preparing for Life Beyond Modeling
Girls usually begin modeling at around the age of 15, and the average model’s career only lasts about 10 years. That means even successful models spend most of their lives doing something other than modeling. Many transition into other careers in the fashion or entertainment industries, but others go into completely unrelated fields. Keep your options open by finishing high school even after after you start working as a model, and set some of your earnings aside in case you decide to attend college later on. Even while your modeling career is going strong, you should be pursuing other interests and developing other skills so you can move as seamlessly as possible into your post-modeling life.