How to Become a Model

Runways, glamour, New York Fashion Week, Vogue…these are all things that come to mind when modeling comes up in conversation. Yes, these are definitely a large part of the industry, and possibly the most lucrative one; however, this is only one of the many types of modeling out there.

If your dream is to model haute-couture on a runway, then you need to be thin, tall, young, and be living in one of the fashion capitals of the world. This goes for both men and women. The average age for this industry begins at 13 for girls, is older for guys, and most models are done before they are 30 unless they become celebrities.

But, like we already mentioned, there are many other options and markets for models. Commercial print and TV ads look for people of all ages, sizes, skin colors, and complexions depending on what they are selling and to whom. This being said, it doesn’t mean that there is no competition or that everyone succeeds at becoming a model only by deciding to do so.

There are many factors, such as location, trends, right place at the right time, the “it” factor, and the correct agency. It is also a career that combines well with other occupations since it’s a great source of income, but it is rarely a stable and reliable salary you can always count on.

Here is an infographic that details the types of modeling you can get into and what the industry is looking like.

WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING

Brittany Hudson

Plus-Size Model

Quick Look Bio

  • Name:
  • Location:
  • Years in the Industry:
  • Company:
  • Type of Model:
  • Twitter:
  • Brittany Hudson
  • Portland, Oregon
  • 1
  • Self-employed Freelance Model
  • Plus-size Model
  • @1BrittanyHudson

I graduated from Southern University with a BS in Biology. Then the National Institute of Health awarded me a grant to do research at Oregon Health Sciences University. During my time as a research assistant, I decided to do a photo shoot with a photographer I met on Model Mayhem. I used those photos for my very first comp card and submission for Portland Fashion Week. I knew I wanted to get into the fashion industry, and I went to the first mixer to network. From there I met everyone involved with the fashion industry, and I made sure I learned as much as I could from each person. Then I walked for Betty Jean Couture, met many women in the industry, and learned about pageantry. This is in a nutshell how I became Miss Northwest Plus USA. My average work day starts with working out, checking my emails, and monitoring all my social media sites. Social media allows me to keep updated on current events, and the interaction with my peers provides inspiration and knowledge about the latest fashion trends. I enjoy showing that curvy confident women can be models, and inspiring others to promote positive healthy body images. Modeling allows me to be artistic, explore the fashion industry, and express myself through my apparel.

Advice

Keep up your appearance
Always take care of your skin and appearance. Health is a very important part of modeling. Make sure you have a daily skin routine, drink lots of water constantly, and eat healthy foods. Never let your dress size or zip code define your success; however, proportions are very important since sample sizes are not generally tailored for that model. A model (standard and plus) must be able to wear the sample size garments.

Follow the trends
The major keys to success are research, practice, network, “it” factor, proportions, and personality. Research the different fashion shows in your area, and figure out when the next event will happen. Follow those fashion figures on their social media sites, and keep up to date on the events in your area.

Be business savvy
Make sure to always be conscious of your budget, because modeling is very expensive. The best way to get around that for photo shoots and wardrobe can be doing trade for print (TFP); this allows you to work with photographers for free and you have access to the photos. Also, search for new photographers looking for practice shots for little to no cost and it will build your portfolio. Whenever working with anyone in the industry make sure to always have a contract signed and rights to your images; if it’s the first time working with a photographer, have someone come with you. Safety first. Also, when a contract is involved, it is best to have someone with your best interest at heart and/or even legal experience to read over contracts before signing.

Danine Manette

Media Model

Quick Look Bio

  • Name:
  • Location:
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  • Type of Model:
  • Twitter:
  • Danine Manette
  • Berkeley, CA
  • 4
  • Media
  • @DanineManette

I obtained my Bachelors from the University of California at Berkeley and my Juris Doctorate from the University of California. I have been doing Professional Modeling for the past 4 years, although my full-time career is in Criminal Investigations. I read over criminal cases and contact witnesses in the morning, attend a commercial casting or submit photos to a casting agent around midday, interview witnesses, serve subpoenas, visit crime scenes or review autopsy photos in the afternoon, and appear as a media pundit on HLN’s Dr. Drew Show in the evening.

I like that every day is a new and different experience for me. What’s interesting and fun about modeling is that it is at times overwhelming yet amazing that a high power entity or corporation has selected me to be the face of the advertising campaign for their product or service. Although modeling might seem glamorous and exciting all the time, the shoot conditions are not always ideal and there is tons of stand around time while you are waiting for the production staff to set up the perfect shot. Also, sometimes outside shoots have to be done when the lighting is best, which is oftentimes in the early morning hours when it’s freezing cold outside.

I wish I would have gotten an earlier start. I never really had confidence that I could do this type of work, as I internalized all of the bullying and negative comments made about my appearance growing up. I would have never in a million years thought I could be successful in modeling because women who look like me were never really featured in media or ad campaigns.

Advice

Consider freelancing
I really didn’t need an agency in order to procure work. Although it was good to start out with one in order to learn the ropes, given the current resources and casting sites available online I really don’t see much need for mainstream agencies any more. I was booked for very few jobs when I had an agent and had to pay them 20% of my earnings. Working for myself, however, I have booked almost 70 jobs in 4 years, and I get to keep 100% of my earnings. That’s not bad at all!

Be confident if modeling is your passion
Never, ever, assume that modeling is not for you simply because you feel you are too short, too fat, too old, too dark… There is an entirely new modeling category known as “lifestyle modeling” which I am a part of. Advertisers have figured out that consumers are more likely to be influenced by people who look like normal, everyday human beings as opposed to people who are rail thin, with sunken cheekbones and are 50lbs soaking wet.

Make connections instead of taking classes
Try to connect with someone in the field. I have taken several children and young women in under my wing and all have since launched successful modeling careers of their own. I do not recommend those so called modeling schools because, from my experience, they simply take your money and schedule you for classes, which seldom lead to any real gigs.

A step by step for first-timers
First step is to locate a photographer and have them take some plain, straight-forward headshots, with minimal make up, and a full body shot taken without posing or trying to look super cute is optimal. Next, research modeling agencies in your area that specialize in your age group, as well as online casting agencies, and determine which ones are the best suited for you. Be sure to read the agency reviews, and if possible, connect with someone in the industry who can help direct you. Finally, submit your photos to the agency, as well as set up a casting profile with an online site. If you end up being selected and signed by an agency then that’s great until you decide you no longer need them. If you are not selected by an agency though, continue to submit yourself for casting projects with the online sites, which, as in my case, actually end up being more lucrative.

Tiffany Bobb

Hand Model

Quick Look Bio

  • Name:
  • Location:
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  • Type of Model:
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  • Tiffany Bobb
  • Central New Jersey
  • 4
  • Hand Model
  • @TVictoriaInc

I received an AAS in Fashion Marketing and Management from Berkeley college. Upon graduating, I worked as a visual merchandise coordinator. I traveled to many department stores in NJ and flew around the east coast for shop installations. I lost that job in 2008 and started doing background extra work on films and television. I researched commercial print modeling and stumbled upon body parts modeling. There are model jobs for pretty much every body part, and I’ve always had nice hands. I took some simple shots of my hands with my photographer and submitted them to agencies. Within a few weeks, I was sent out on castings. In 2011, I began my jewelry company after a few months of making my own accessories. My days are never “average” because I have two very different careers, and every job is different. My agents email castings or ask my availability for certain dates. Different clients need different things. The day before the shoot, my agent emails my call time, shoot location, and any information about what clothing items to bring. Some clients ask me to get a manicure before the shoot. Others have a manicurist on set. It’s much easier to do hand modeling than face modeling, because you can see your hands and have better control of what they look like. I move my hands very slowly, so the photographer can tell me when to stop and hold a pose. I’m sometimes kneeling or laying under a table with my hands poking through a hole. I had to draw a leaf in a commercial for New York state tourism. I had to pull the applicator from a lip gloss for a L’Oreal commercial featuring Beyonce. I have to have a steady hand and a good grip.

The work itself is pretty easy. I like being on set and meeting new people. It’s also fun to talk to other models. In my life outside of the entertainment industry it’s difficult to relate to a lot of people, because nobody else does what I do. Most people talk about their jobs and complain about working. My career allows me to have a significant amount of downtime compared to the average job.

The fear of scratching my hand is minor compared to the fear of breaking a nail. Work and castings are spontaneous, so I have to always be prepared. A broken nail could put me out of commission for 2-3 weeks.

Advice

Be realistic
Everyone needs to be realistic about their age, what they look like, and their type. To the average person who thinks “modeling” is strutting the runway and doing editorials in Vogue, there are so many other aspects of the business. Commercial print modeling has room for many types, but you have to have the correct pictures. Go through a magazine and look at the ads. The people modeling for a restaurant or a food product aren’t always glamorous. Either you want a career, or you want to boost your ego. If you aren’t the bikini model type, you don’t need bikini photos. You also need to keep the makeup very light and natural.

What Kind of Education Do I Need to Become a Model?


Experts agree that you really don’t need a specific education to become a model. You need to be passionate about the field and do a lot of research, but a degree is modeling is not a requirement for this particular career.

What you do need is to know what casting agents are looking for and be realistic about your appearance, age, size and the type of shoots you are most suitable for. You should also be on top of where the different industries and agencies are going in the future with their vision and target market, so you can stay relevant.

Another important thing to remember is to take care of yourself. Just because there are casting calls for all shapes and sizes, unhealthy eating or forgetting to maintain your skin will not help you make it in the industry.

Having said this, getting a degree may still be important if you don’t have a previous career. While modeling is a great option, it’s a volatile industry with rapidly changing trends and may not ensure you a lifetime career. Whatever your other passion might be, it’s probably a good idea to look into getting a degree in that or maybe in fashion. The latter will give you a good opportunity to network as well.

WHAT IF I DO WANT TO STUDY MODELING?

There aren’t really degrees specific to modeling. Your options range between getting a theatre or fashion degree from a university or college, or going to a modeling school. Keep in mind that most of the bigger schools target children and teens since they are designed to train fashion models. On the other hand, you can take acting classes or participate in workshops. Here are a few modeling schools that have the right connections, which could help get your foot in the door and offer classes and workshops for adults.

  • John Robert Powers
    With 27 locations in the US and 4 in Mexico, this school offers modeling programs for teens and pre-teens, as well as acting classes and workshops for adults.
  • Julie Nation Academy
    In Santa Rosa, California, Julie Nation Academy has courses and workshops for TV acting, professional modeling, singing, pageant training and personal development.
  • Cinderella Modeling Company
    Located in Hudson, New Hampshire, this agency offers professional modeling programs, as well as promises to connect models with available opportunities if they are signed with an agency.

GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR

As we already mentioned, getting a degree is not the most important part of starting a modeling career. Whether you want to be a fashion, commercial, parts or any other type of model, your best bet is to begin by going to casting calls.

Many advise to try and get signed by an agency first, although they will charge you 15-20% of your earnings when you do get gigs. This being said, they will give you the tips for success and have the knowledge of where to find casting calls when you are starting out. Danine Manette mentions that it’s the best way to get in at first but not to be discouraged if you don’t get signed. You can still go ahead and submit yourself without an agency.

You will, however, need to have professional headshots. This is something you will want to hire a professional photographer for. A budget option is to look for ones who are at the start of their career and will charge you less to get your photos done. It’s important to consider Brittany Hudson’s advice here and always play on the safe side. Bring someone along with you on the first shoot and sign the proper paperwork.

Once you’ve gotten headshots, are signed with an agency or have started submitting your photos for casting calls, be patient. You probably won’t get in overnight. You should also network and get to know people in the industry. They will be able to guide you and let you know when opportunities might come up for your look and style.