"Things" to consider if you think you wanna be a model...

Why do you want to be a model?

People get into the modeling business for all sorts of reasons. Some people want a career, some people want to travel… some people just want to make some “money on the side” and think modeling would be a convenient way to do that. So the question you want to consider if you think you want to be a model… is “why?” Why do you want to be a model? Your answer is important because it will shape all of your business decisions and help you to focus on what it is that you want.

For example, a friend of mine’s seventeen year old son Dan… we’ll call him Dan, because his name is Dan… came to me recently for advice on “how to get into modeling.” My first question was “Why?” His answer was… “I want to buy a car.” So Dan’s motivation for getting into modeling was that he wanted to earn some money in the short run. He didn’t envision himself being featured on billboards, or traveling around the world (at least not yet anyway) he is a high school senior and is in need of some wheels. Luckily for Dan his mother was in full support of his need for transportation and was ready to support him. So, they made a few phone calls, Dan shot a few head shots and he went in on some open calls. Three weeks later he had an agent, his first print booking and $2,500 down payment for his car.

The reason it occurred to Dan to get into the modeling business was that he’s one of those very attractive people that has often heard in his life “Hey, you should be a model.” As is often the case some people are prompted or nudged and at some point they decide “well, maybe I should give it a try.” It could be that you are one of these people. Maybe you’re really tall or you’re often told you’re very photogenic or maybe you’re very outgoing or expressive.


My “I think I wanna be a model” moment:

In my case, my “I think I wanna be a model” moment came the summer before I graduated from college. I was a textile design major and I had been hired to intern as an assistant designer for a swimwear company in Manhattan. I was lucky and grateful to have been given the work opportunity and admired the designer I worked for, but I couldn’t envision myself doing her job for the rest of my life. That left me with the huge question of “what to do?” and after many teary discussions and frozen margaritas the answer came to me… “I needed more information about the fashion industry.”

During my summer as a design intern we hired many models to do everything from “fit” modeling, to “runway”, to shooting glamorous pictures for the companies’ advertisements. These women were coming in and out of our office regularly. They were all tall, they were attractive, they had impressive portfolios and they came in and out with a kind of confidence that I totally admired but I wouldn’t have described them as all being “beautiful.” They also made in an hour what my take home pay was for a week!

Near the end of the summer we did a photo shoot where we had cast two models. One was Kathy Ireland, who years later went on to do the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Magazine and the other model was someone I came to recognize for years to come but don’t remember her name. She had a wonderful body for swimwear (which basically boils down to having a very long torso) but had a slightly odd looking face unless it was turned just off camera. Her book was filled with incredible pictures that looked nothing like her. She was amazingly photogenic but again, not what I would call “beautiful.”

At this point a window opened in my mind. I was the right height, right weight and right size to become a fashion model. Who cared if I was “beautiful” or not? I loved New York and wanted to move back to the city after I graduated from college. If I could get an agent and do what these women were doing I would learn an enormous amount of information about the fashion industry. I could get in and out of showrooms, ad agencies and manufacturers. Armed with such inside information, I figured I could decide what I wanted to do with my design degree and the rest of my life.


So, that’s where I started about twenty five years ago. I made a few phone calls (this was before the instant age of the internet) went on a few “open calls” and found an agency that was right for me. Was it that simple? Well, almost…

When considering a career as a model it’s important to remember that the common sense rules that you would follow when interviewing and starting any new job, apply to starting this one as well. So brush up on your interviewing skills and arm yourself with as much information as you can.

What different types of modeling are there?

Companies use models to share information about their products with people who are interested in buying or selling their products. The type of model hired depends on who is doing the buying and who is doing the selling and for what purpose the product is being bought or sold. Got it?

Fit Modeling:

For example, a designer of women’s clothing develops a new line of dresses for the upcoming season… let’s say “fall.” As the dress designs are being approved, the patterns are being made and the mock-up dresses are being sewn, the designer will bring in a “fit” model to check to make sure that the dresses fit well, are sized correctly and are comfortable to wear.



Showroom Modeling:

After the patterns are finalized, samples of the dresses are made and sent to the manufacturers’ show room where buyers from different stores around the country will come to decide which dresses to order for the upcoming fall season. The designer or manufacturer will hire “showroom” models to try on and model the dresses to the buyers.

Runway Modeling:

To “market” the dress line to the industry a designer will usually produce a “runway” show or a “press show”, during “market week” or “fashion week.”  These sales weeks happen in many different cities, all over the world throughout the year. There are specific market weeks, for instance, for specialty items such as bridal wear or intimate apparel but in general fall market week happens in the spring and spring market week happens in the fall. This gives store owners or magazine editors several months to prepare for the “new” season. For these shows designers will hire “runway” models to show off their
designs by slinking down the “catwalk”.


Fashion Modeling:

In order to market the dress line to the public an advertising campaign is usually put together. The manufacturer may hire an advertising agency or may produce the ads “in house.”  The print campaign can include everything from consumer ads (in magazines) to “point of purchase” ads in stores, online advertising for web-sites, or mail order catalogs or flyers. The size and scope and creative content of the campaign will determine how many models will be needed. This type of modeling would be considered “fashion print.”


Magazine editors will cast and hire fashion models to shoot “editorial pages” or “fashion spreads.” Editorial jobs are usually exciting to shoot and can boost your reputation and add amazing “tear sheets” to your “modeling portfolio”… or “book.” Just know that day rates for editorial shoots are usually extremely low. The better the magazine the less they pay. 



On the other hand advertising that goes into the magazines, (aka the campaign) pays big bucks. When you get booked to shoot an advertising campaign your agent will negotiate your day rate. On top of your day rate you can make extra money for “usage fees.”  These fees will depend on how and where the ads will run… for instance will they be seen locally, nationally or internationally? Will they be consumer ads or internet ads or point of purchase ads? The larger the campaign the more money you can expect to make.

Fashion model jobs are generally handled by fashion agencies. Depending on where you live there may be separate runway agencies and separate fit agencies but most of the top fashion agencies will have their own runway or even fit divisions.

Fashion model jobs are generally handled by fashion agencies. Depending on where you live there may be separate runway agencies and separate fit agencies but most of the top fashion agencies will have their own runway or even fit divisions.

Who should be a fashion Model?


So, who should be a fashion model? Clearly, the main two criteria for being a fashion model are going to be body size and proportion. In order to show off the clothing you have been hired to wear, it has to fit. While there is some variance within the many manufacturers as to ideal body types (think swimwear… long torso, sportswear… long legs, etc…) there are basic body measurement requirements based on the average manufacturer’s “sample size.” For instance the very minimum height for a female fashion model is going to be 5’9”. Sample size for “ready to wear” is generally considered to be a slim size six or eight. Couture and collection sample sizes are going to be based on a figure that is even slimmer and generally taller. You have to remember when a company is shooting its clothing for advertisements and catalogs or having press shows, the clothing line has not even been produced yet. At this point the manufacturers “samples” are made in very small quantities and are generally treated like gold. 


Another type of modeling that usually falls under the dominion of the fashion agencies is“beauty.” As the name implies beauty modeling is shooting pictures to promote beauty products. Make-up, hair products, shampoo, soaps, even jewelry… these are all examples of beauty products. Some people have faces that seem to be made for beauty and some people have that amazing, heavy, shiny hair that looks like it was grown specifically for a hair ad. If you find out you’re one of these people you will want to take advantage of what nature has given you and grow your portfolio accordingly.


What “type” of model are you?

If you have set your sights on being a fashion model you will need to figure out what “type” you are. “Type” is defined here as a range of looks with “commercial” being on one end and “editorial” being on the other. As you approach fashion agencies you will need to figure out where your look fits in. Are you edgy and unusual looking or are you warm and friendly looking? Each agency usually represents its unique range within this spectrum. Ford Models for instance has always been considered a very “commercial” fashion agency, they tend to have women who are warm and friendly and pretty (think Brooke Shields) whereas Elite or IMG are known for their edgier looks…


Commercial Print Modeling:

Besides fashion modeling the other major type of modeling is called “Commercial”modeling. This is not to be confused with acting in television commercials although the two often overlap or go hand in hand. (We’ll get to that later.) Commercial modeling commonly refers to shooting pictures for advertisements that feature products other than clothing. Pretty much everything else falls into this category. Laundry detergent, paper towels, sinus medication, shoe inserts, pet food… all of these are examples of products that might require a “commercial” print model to help the manufacturer convince the general public to buy their product. Generally speaking this is by far the more common way to work as a model and Commercial print agencies are far more approachable than fashion agencies if you’re not the requisite “sample size” and height.


Lifestyle Modeling:

Commercial print models are often referred to as “real people” in the advertising world but just like in fashion modeling there is a range, with “real people” being on one end and “beautiful but real people” being on the other. Fashion agencies have cashed in on this market by having“Lifestyle” divisions which is another way to say “commercial” division as far as I can tell, but a fashion “Lifestyle” division will have exclusively the “beautiful but real people” category… and the women will all be over 5’9”. Commercial print has fired back by adding in “fashion” divisions… I’m not sure how all of this is working out for the agencies but from a models perspective a go-see is a go-see so why not maximize your working potential?


Falling under “commercial modeling” several other types of modeling:

Industrial Modeling:

“Industrial” modeling generally refers to a modeling job where a company hires a model to help clarify or develop an idea or product “within” the company or the industry. For example, being featured in a pamphlet showing how a new kind of hospital bed works would be considered “Industrial” usage or “Industrial” modeling. These jobs pay less than standard advertising rates because they are not seen by the general public but in my experience they still pay very well.

Promotional Modeling:

“Promotional” modeling is generally considered “live” modeling and is when a company hires a model to drive consumer demand for a product. It can range from representing a company at a trade show to handing out samples at a shopping mall.

Parts Modeling:

“Parts” modeling refers to just that… parts. Hand and foot modeling are specific examples. Foot models need to have the correct “sample size” feet which is tiny… somewhere around a shoe size of 5 ½ or 6. Women with feet this small are generally much shorter than your average fashion model so that is why there is a need for a separate “parts” agency. Some fashion agencies represent “hand” models and “leg” models. A friend of mine, who did a lot of showroom and runway modeling, had these great, long, thin, deer-like legs and used to work as a leg model. I had great legs but compared to a “real” leg model mine were way too muscular.

Plus Size Modeling:

“Plus” size modeling refers to fashion models who work for companies who have a sample size of twelve or greater. Therefore it is possible to be larger than a size six/eight and work as a model… but you still have to be over 5’9” tall. There are separate plus size agencies but most of the major fashion agencies have a plus size board or division within the agency. This category is aged young to very young and is extremely competitive.

Petite Modeling:

“Petite” There is a fashion category called “petite” modeling and while I’ve known and worked with many plus size models over the years I have never known a full time working petite model. As far as I know none of the major fashion agencies have “petite” boards…


Commercial Television:

Another thing to consider when thinking about entering the modeling industry is the connection it has to the “Commercial Television” Industry.

For instance, when I was signed with the fashion agency IMG, I met my current television agent, Tracy Goldblum who was the head of the Commercial Division at Abrams Artists. Abrams Artists is a Theatrical Agency with offices in both New York and Los Angeles and they have a large Commercial Television Department. IMG had an agreement with Abrams Artists to represent their clients for television commercials so I wound up working for both agencies. This arrangement is typical between fashion and theatrical agencies although some of the large fashion or commercial print agencies have their own “in-house” commercial television divisions. Also, some of the large commercial television agencies have their own commercial print divisions. This may seem confusing but don’t worry about it for now. Just be aware of what it is you want to happen with your career and make sure that whatever agency that winds up representing you has the best options available for you.

For the most part people who wind up having a career in television commercials are usually serious “actors.” It is a significant way for “middle class actors” to supplement their income while they are in between television, film, or theatre projects and it’s a difficult career to sustain on its own. However, fashion models are often called on to audition for television commercials, especially beauty products such as make-up, facial cream, or shampoo. Advertisers for products like microwaves, pain relievers, or floor cleaners might want a “real person” and if you are working with a commercial print agency that does not have a television division then you should definitely seek representation from a legitimate Commercial Television agent. Learning to audition for television commercials by taking a class is a good first step.


Who should be a model?

As we discussed above there are many types of modeling jobs out there. If you look at print ads in magazines, on web sites, in stores or on billboards you will see that people of all shapes, sizes, races, and ages are being portrayed. So who should be a model? I think the answer is anyone who really wants to be.


Obstacles to becoming a model:

So before you make up your mind one way or another I think it’s a good idea to sit down and consider what it is you want from this industry and what it is you have to offer. Also, how far are you willing to go to make this happen? How much money and time do you have to invest in building your “model” business? What are the obstacles you can deal with? For instance if you have crooked teeth but see yourself as a commercial model can you afford to get braces? If you see yourself as a fashion model but live in a very small town, are you willing to move? Are you willing and able to travel for a job at a minute’s notice? Also, what are the obstacles you cannot change like, “I am 5’7” and I’ve always dreamed of being a runway model…” that is an unmovable obstacle and it’s important to accept that and move on.

Know your modeling assets:

It’s also important to get in touch with your assets. Do you have a great smile? How about an incredible eye color or a beautiful pair of hands? Are you outgoing? Expressive? Do you love being the center of attention? Do you feel comfortable in your own skin? Do you enjoy portraying different characters? Are you flexible, easy going? Confident? Do you have an interesting voice? Do you love to travel and meet new people? These would all be great personal assets in this business. Whether you work at Trade shows, walk the runways, or portray a grandmother in an applesauce ad… this business is about people, people, people… It’s about showing up on time with a great work attitude. It’s about listening and patience and being willing to take a leap of faith! It’s an incredible industry. I have had the privilege of working in just about every area of it and I encourage those who have a strong desire to give it a try. Just come up with a good plan… that connects your talents and strengths with the appropriate agency so you can be hired by the best clients who are looking for you… and have fun!

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