How to Handle Criticism in the Modeling Industry

It’s no secret that the modeling industry is a harsh business. It’s a profession where being judged and evaluated by your looks the minute you walk into a room is just another day at the office.

Those who've been in the industry for a long time have developed the thick skin needed to get through, but for those just starting out, it can be quite a surprise just how insensitive people can be. Even the vets can sometimes get worn down by the constant criticism.

Photo by Neal Troester

Before I dive into how to handle criticism, I want to point out that there are two different types. First, you have Constructive Criticism, where certain faults, flaws, mistakes or shortcomings are brought to your attention but in a more positive manner by following up the remarks with well-reasoned opinions and advice to back up those criticisms.

The second type of Criticism is the one that really stings- and that’s just straight up judgement. This type of criticism points out faults, flaws, mistakes or shortcomings with no reasoning or feedback, and often comes across in a disapproving tone. It can often be hurtful and is sometimes intentionally so.

Obviously, what all models want to receive is constructive criticism. It may still be harsh and not something you want to hear, but when it’s followed with feedback, it serves as a valuable teaching moment that you can use to your advantage. Unfortunately, not everyone in the modeling industry will use constructive criticism. There is an overall impression that models know what they’re signing up for so if you want to make it in the industry, you just need to "deal with it" and learn how to take negative feedback without batting an eye. You will run across some people in your career that will even use this consensus as an allowance to be blatantly mean and hurtful, so it is something to be mindful of as you navigate this complicated industry.

What is important for new models and models that have been in the game for a while to remember is that any feedback > positive or negative < isn't a direct reflection of who you are as a person or how talented you are at your work. Below I give a few pointers on how to not take criticism personally and instead use it to your advantage & better your craft.

It’s not always negative: Agents & bookers tend to get right to the point and are often pretty blunt in their criticism delivery. If they bring certain things you did wrong to your attention or point out some things you need to work on, don't immediately take that as negative criticism. In most cases, they will offer advice or tips for how to correct the issues they've pointed out. I love getting feedback from my agents because they really know what they are talking about and often point out changes I can make to help me elevate my game.

Don’t let it throw you off: Getting judgmental criticism can be really difficult to handle, especially if it happens while you’re on the job. Don’t let this throw you off your game! Instead of reacting or getting defensive, take a moment to think about what's been said and simply ask what you can do to improve. If they have no answer for you or just criticize you more without offering constructive feedback, you know that they are just being catty and it’s not you that’s the problem. Don’t let it bother you and keep pushing forward. On the flip-side, sometimes people don’t even realize they are coming off as judgy and it’s not their intention, so by politely and professionally requesting feedback or instruction when you receive criticism could turn a potentially negative situation into a better one.

Remain Professional: I’ll never forget the time when I finally got booked for a big runway show by a booker that for whatever reason would never book me. I had casted for her countless times, and she would never pick me nor offer my agent any feedback as to why. I was so excited to finally walk in one of her shows, and when I arrived at the venue I made sure to go out of my way to say hello to her. I was a little disappointed when she completely blew me off, but chalked it up to her being busy with production things. As the day went on, it almost seemed like she went out of her way to criticize me. From how I walked at rehearsal to how I slouched when I took a drink from a water fountain (I mean, really?!). By that point, I knew she was doing it just to be mean and had no actual constructive feedback for me, so instead of popping off on her like I so badly wanted to do- I remained professional & polite, and did my job to the best of my ability. Giving her a piece of my mind would have only resulted in making me look bad & be cut from the show- losing my money and making my agent mad. Always remain professional!

Don’t take it personally: Using the above story as example- don’t take criticism personally. Had I taken everything she had to say to me that day to heart, I would’ve quit modeling on the spot. Take a second to think about what they are saying to you and decide if there is really any merit to it or if it’s just cattiness. I knew that she was calling me out just to be mean, because if she had really thought those things about me then she would’ve cut me from the show- but she didn’t. Clearly, I wasn’t as terrible as she was saying I was, and by not letting her cut me down with her comments I was able to kill that runway and continue on to do even bigger and better shows.

The same thing goes for when you feel like you’re constantly getting rejected for jobs. Remember that the client you are casting for is running a business and trying to find the best model to fit that particular job. You may not be the right fit for that job or maybe even the next three, but you may be perfect for the fourth one. Don’t let the constant “no’s” discourage you. I know it’s much easier said than done, but keep going, you don’t want to miss out on that “yes” that is coming!

Use it to better yourself: Getting feedback about your modeling skills, whether positive or negative, can be tough to take and it’s so hard to not let it discourage you. The best advice I can give is to take every bit of it in stride. Absorb it, reflect, ask questions and apply what advice you've been given. This is obviously much easier to do with constructive criticism, but even negative criticism and situations can turn into a learning experience that you will ultimately benefit from.


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