If you want to get into the modeling industry, the standard practice is to apply via the agency's website and hope they review and respond to your submission. While this is the most common way for models to attempt to get represented by agencies, another way is to attend an agency Open Call.
Unfortunately, those new to the industry aren't always aware of what open calls are, so in this post, I will explain what an open call is and what to expect at one.
An open call is when an agency will accept walk-ins on a chosen day during a set time frame. This is very much like a speed-interview process where you come in, have a few minutes to meet with agency staff, take digitals and possibly do a runway walk, and then leave. Many agencies have them scheduled regularly, like once a month, and others do them randomly throughout the year. Most are open to anyone and everyone who is a current or aspiring model, but occasionally they will have specific age, height, and/or size requirements that they're looking for.
If an agency you're interested in offers an open call, I highly recommend attending! This is a great way to get guaranteed face time with agency staff instead of being one of the countless online submissions that may or may not get adequately reviewed. If an agency posts dates for their open calls, be sure to check if they require pre-registration, especially if you're planning to attend one out of town or out of state! Most operate on a first-come-first-serve basis (so get there early!), but some have you sign up for time-frame windows, so be sure to check that as well.
If you plan to attend an open call, you should treat it like an in-person job interview. You want to be prepared to answer questions, and you must look professional. Agencies want personable and engaging models, so this is an excellent opportunity to showcase your personality. They will usually ask you a few questions along the lines of why you want to model and what brought you to their agency, so do your research before attending so you can be prepared with a good answer.
When it comes to what to wear to an open call, sometimes agencies will outline wardrobe suggestions in the open call announcement that you can follow. If they don't, it's always a safe bet to show up in the "model uniform", consisting of a fitted black top with fitted black or dark jeans. Even though the current trend is to wear loose-fit pants, it's key to wear form-fitting clothing to an open call so they can clearly see your body type. Also, avoid wearing logoed clothing and/or lots of accessories, as that can be distracting. Keep hair styling to a minimum and wear little to no makeup (absolutely no glam!). Women should wear heels, and men should wear nice sneakers or boots, and be prepared to do your runway walk. If you are a male model and are also comfortable walking in heels, bring them with you and ask the agency which they would prefer to see you walk in.
If you have a portfolio, bring it with you so they can review it if they choose to. Never show them your portfolio on your phone; it is very unprofessional. Instead, print one out and have it in a large black portfolio book (at least 8x10 sized photos), or upload them onto an iPad and let them view it digitally. If you don't have a portfolio, that is ok! If you're new to the industry, they will not expect you to have any images. If you only have old or subpar photos, it's best to opt out of bringing one and just let them know you don't have a current portfolio. Again, they will completely understand!
Since open calls are open to everyone, the line to meet with the agency staff can get quite long. Arrive early and be prepared to wait. Once it's your turn to be seen, your meeting can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. Once they are through meeting with you, you will be dismissed. Very rarely do they offer any contracts on the spot, so don't go in expecting to know that day if they're interested in signing you. Usually, they get together with the rest of the agency team after the open call to review the attendees and then reach out to those who stood out after that. If there were a lot of models that attended, this review process could take some time, so don't be discouraged if you don't hear from them immediately!