I often get asked the question “How can I (or my son/daughter) be a model?”. While this question has no straightforward answer, and definitely no guarantees, there are many things you can do to help your odds in getting your foot in the door of a very tough industry.
Photo by Kelby Reck, wearing Roger Figueroa
There are a few things that are ‘musts’ when you’re trying to get into the modeling industry. All of the tips below I have had first-hand experience with, and have also seen many other models go through as well. While following all of these tips doesn’t mean you’re going to be signed by the first agency that lays eyes on you and shoot straight up to supermodel status- they are very helpful when trying to get in front of the right people, or to give you guidance when you’re first starting out.
1. Be Honest with Yourself
The harsh reality is that the modeling industry isn’t very diverse or inclusive when it comes to the standards they hold models to. Most agencies require models to be a minimum of 5’9”and size 0-4, unless you are curve/plus, and then you have a whole other list of crazy requirements to try to achieve. Because of this, you have to be brutally honest with yourself and ask yourself if getting into this kind of industry is something you really want to do. Thanks to social media, most people think that it’s all about the glitz & glam, and that anyone can be a model- but the reality is that you get turned down for more jobs than you book, and you are constantly being judged on how you look and pressured to look a certain way. It takes a lot of hard work to be a model, and not everyone is cut out for it- and that’s OK!
2. Don’t Spend Money on Unnecessary Photoshoots
When you are first starting out and don’t yet have an agency, it’s not necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on photoshoots.
All scouts & agents want to see from potential models is simple unedited and unfiltered snapshots of your face and body (aka- digitals). These photos can even be taken from your phone! They want to see how you look naturally, not with full glam & professional lighting.
If an agency feels you have potential but aren’t quite sure if they want to sign you yet, they may set up a ‘test shoot’ with a professional photographer and hair/makeup team. Sometimes, an agency will cover the expense of the shoot on the condition that you pay them back once you start booking jobs, but other times this is an expense that you will have to cover on your own, which can add up to a few hundred dollars per shoot.
Almost all agencies are going to want you to do an updated portfolio shoot when you sign with them, and since this can be so expensive, it’s just another reason not to go out and pay for your own shoots when you don’t have any agency prospects.
Digitals taken for my agencies
3. Have a Good Social Media Presence
Unfortunately, these days, having a big social media following influences many scouts & agents. They could be torn between signing two different girls that have a similar look, and they will almost always go with the girl that has a bigger social media presence. Because of this, it is important to make sure you are active on all social platforms, and portray an image that would be appealing to the fashion industry. Your social media accounts are your brand, and agencies look at that. If you’re branding yourself in a way that they see as inappropriate or not the right fit for their brand, you will most likely be overlooked for someone else.
4. Get Exposure
When you are first starting out as a model, it is very important to get as much exposure as you can to scouts & agents because they are the ones that are going to get you the jobs you want & need. The more exposure you can get to them, the better your odds become of getting signed to an agency.
There are many different ways you can get exposure to scouts & agents. The easiest and decently effective way is by emailing your photos directly to the agencies you want to be represented by. Most of the time, if they are interested in you they will set up in-person meetings so they can get a better (unfiltered & unedited) look at you. This is how I got signed with my first agency, and I know many other models have also been signed using this method.
Another way to get in front of them is attending fashion events. Many scouts & agents will attend shows or big events looking for possible new faces. Attending shows will not only get you in front of the right people, but expose you to how things work in the industry.
The best way to get in front of scouts & agents is attending an agency’s open call. Not all agencies offer this, but many do occasionally or sometimes even monthly. It takes a little more work and may require waiting in a long line, but this is your best way to ensure that you get face-to-face with the right people instead of hoping your email gets read or you get seen in a crowd of people. This is how I got signed to my second agency. I knew that they receive so many emails on a daily basis and getting directly in front of them was my best chance at getting signed, so I got up early and waited in line with many other hopefuls for my turn in front of the agents.
Attending KCFW on a night I wasn't walking in a show
5. Don’t Take It Personal
To become a model, you either have the ‘look’ agencies are want or you don’t, and that’s something that you have no control over.
This should have NO reflection on your personal self-worth. Just because you keep getting turned down does not mean you're not good enough. It's an extremely tough industry and you have to have very tough skin. I have had every part of my body criticized and have been told that I'm not pretty enough, I'm too pretty, not skinny enough, too skinny, etc... and you can't let that get to you or tear you down! I have had many tears over the mean words people have said throughout my career, and I have learned through the years that none of what they say has any meaning in the 'real' world.
The world of fashion is a fantasy, and everyone's fantasy is different. You could be drop dead gorgeous and have all your friends, family, & random strangers telling you that you could be a super model- but not turn a single agent's head. You might fit the typical ‘standard size’ to a T or have a better walk than Gisele, but that is still not going to guarantee that they will sign you. That is why you can't let those words break you! Just give them a nod & a smile and move on to the next one. #thankyounext
Every agent has a different idea of what they want in a model, and it is impossible to know exactly what they are looking for, so it just because one agency or booker turns you down, doesn’t mean that another agency won’t sign you or you won't get the next job.
Keep your head up and keep getting in front of them, their idea of the ‘ideal model’ may change in a week!