It’s no secret that the fashion industry has its own definition of “old”. If you plan on being in the modeling field, the younger you are the better. The longevity of a modeling career is extremely short for the majority of models. Agencies sign girls as young as 13 years old and tend to hesitate if a model is over 18 and just getting started. Middle-aged in the modeling world is 25, not 45.
This isn’t the case for every model, but a common “good run” career trajectory is only about 10 years.
It begins at 16 when they’re signed to their first agency, followed by a few magazine editorials, runway shows and commercial ad campaigns. Once they turn 18 and are legally able to work without a guardian, they’re often sent overseas to live in tiny model houses and work the European and Asian fashion markets.
By 21, they have either made a name for themselves internationally and move to New York to shoot their shot there, or get burnt out and call it quits. Castings all day, every day, and parties at night to network and meet clients. By the time they hit 25, they’re starring in numerous campaigns or are still attending casting after casting, being looked at as the ‘older model’ in a sea of teenagers.
The biggest question many ask, is why do agencies prefer such young models? Aside from the perfect skin and tiny bodies, most people that age aren’t mature enough to properly handle the stress and sometimes difficult situations models are put in (cue the eating and mental disorders), so why would they want them so young? Honest answer, is that it’s better business.
To an agent, models are a business investment. If an agent is going to put time, effort, and money into promoting and building a model, they want the highest return on investment possible, meaning many prime working years ahead before wrinkles appear and marketability declines. An agent is more likely to sign a model at 16 than one at 25 because the 16-year-old has a good 10 years of work ahead of them where the 25-year-old may only have a few, especially if starting a family and settling down is in their near-future plans.
The good news though, is that a lot of that is changing. With the explosion of social media, many models have been able to prolong their careers by landing sponsored social media content instead of the traditional fashion ad campaigns. You now see many of the ‘older’ models who previously might have reached their expiry date now tapping into different markets entirely, such as lifestyle brands, homewares, and travel companies, and giving it a fashionable spin.
Agencies are also getting more accepting of a wider age-range as more consumers are pushing for more relatable models in ad campaigns. You may start to lose out on some of the edgy fashion and runway jobs as you get older, but in turn you’ll gain more commercial jobs- which is where the best money is anyway! Also, with age comes more experience and overall industry knowledge. I’m making more money modeling in my 30s than I ever did in my 20s, and I feel that my quality of work is also so much better because my confidence and skill level is so much higher.
Now, it’s not all over at 25, and you can still have a family while conquering the modeling industry. If anything, it makes you more relatable to ‘regular’ people and can open doors to new things. Look at supermodels like Coco Rocha and Gisele Bündchen, who are still booking campaigns while raising children and exploring other endeavors. Maye Musk has been a successful model for over 50 years, and still continues to book big beauty campaigns.
The bottom line is- companies, products, and agencies need people from all races, sizes, and ages. Will it still be competitive and will you have to work a little harder than the younger models? Of course. But knowing your expiration date may not be as near and final as you thought it was should be all the motivation you need to keep pursuing your modeling career for as long as you want to keep it going, not stopping when you’re told you’re “getting too old”. Age is nothing but a number, after all 😊