Two and a half years ago I decided to venture out and pursue modeling. It has definitely been a ride to where I am now and there is much work remaining to be done. Every now and then I am approached and asked questions regarding the modeling industry. I am no expert but I have my many experiences and tales of my journey thus far. I have always been the type of person to give advice and honest opinion when it comes to anything. After being asked the same questions several times I figured it was time to write a blog telling aspiring models what I wish someone would have told me and what I feel you should know.
1. Your image is everything.
Often you will be approached by "photographers" asking you to work with them. Most of them will be just starting like yourself and can only offer TFP/CD (time/trade for print/cd). This was how I started my portfolio and learned my angles. I had the opportunity to go back in those cd's that the photographers gave me and I could see my mistakes, weaknesses, and what I needed to work on. As I progressed and gained experience I learned the importance of quality in the work of the people I chose to work with. Lighting, angles and chemistry are very important on a set. There is nothing more grueling than seeing several pictures of yourself looking awkward and ugly on Facebook because the photographer posted EVERY shot from your shoot, good and bad. The photographers you choose to shoot with should be concerned about their image and yours. Any self respecting photographer will not post multiple pictures of you looking cross-eyed and pigeon toed because that is a reflection of their quality of work. Once people view those images of you they are now the representation of you and you're capabilities. It's ok to be picky with who you shoot with. If you're approached by a guy with a camera and you know they won't give you the results you need for your portfolio... it's ok to kindly say "No thank you. I'm looking to take my portfolio in another direction."
2. What are your deal breakers?
What do you want to be known for?
Starting out I wanted to do EVERYTHING! Runway, print, commercial, glamour, acting, etc. I quickly learned that if you don't set your boundaries you will be asked to do EVERYTHING, literally. On Model Mayhem I had photographers asking me to model for nude projects left and right. Once I posted "I do not do nudes but all other creativity is ok" I had people asking for partial nudes, bondage shoots, etc. Needless to say I declined BUT I learned the lesson. So here comes the time when you need to ask yourself... what kind of model do you want to be? Do you mind nudity? How about lingerie? Swimwear? Know your boundaries. If you are uncomfortable with something that is fine. I highly recommend that you don't participate in any shoots that you are totally against because it will read on the camera. If I'm butt naked and exposed to the camera I could see me freaking out lol. On the flip side implied nudity isn't hard for me.. I'm actually rather comfortable. Those are my personal feelings and I know myself well enough not to take it to where I wouldn't be comfotable and confident with what image I am putting out of myself.
3. You never know who knows who.
I've seen many models miss out on a booking or job because of something they did publicly. It could be your tweets to your portfolio that turns a designer off from you. The word of mouth plays a strong part in making decisions on who is chosen to work on a project. The industry is smaller than you think and the mention of your name can either be your biggest or worst enemy. Be mindful of the things you say and the images you choose to represent yourself. Half naked pictures in your bathroom mirror aren't always the thing that makes someone say "I NEED HER" lol.
Also utilize networking! The man you're sitting next to on the train could know the agency director of Ford or Elite. If people ask you who you are and what you do .. say it with confidence. If you find yourself at an industry mixer pay close attention to the people in the room and try to find out who people are. There is nothing wrong with meeting new people.. they lead to new opportunities. The daughter of Ralph Lauren's booker could be in room! Just to think you could have the chance to meet someone who has the potential to change your life in an instant just by one conversation. You may not meet someone major every time but you could meet the one person who opens the next door you need.
4. The smallest seed can grow into the strongest tree.
Starting off you will quickly learn that modeling isn't all glamorous as you thought. It involves a lot of waiting, sacrifice and caffeine at times. There will be many unpaid shoots and fashion shows that you may see as pointless. Although they may seem strenuous and the lack of potential can be overwhelming you never know what can come from the smallest planting of a seed. Example: I auditioned for a show over a year ago. I was doing this a favor for a friend of my mothers who owned a boutique and needed models. After having to pay $20 for registration and hours of torture backstage I deemed the show pointless and a waste of time. A week or so later I was contacted by a designer who I walked for in that same show. She was in need of a model for a shoot in a few days and I happily agreed to her offer... and that my friends is the beginning of the seed growing. I didn't know it at the time but there was much more in store. I am now the muse for that very designer, Latasha Hall of Lillie Designs. Had I not agreed to attend that show I'm not sure if I'd have the opportunity to meet her.
5. You will make mistakes... and that's fine.
A lot like life, in your career you will make mistakes. I want you to drop the idea that you will always be "the best" and will kill it every time. Of course I want you to always do your best but there will be photo shoots when you think "Yea that wasn't my best shoot" and that's ok!
There may also be times where you are left high and dry. You may find yourself working with someone who didn't fulfill their end of the bargain but there is no contract saying they must complete the agreement. I had that happen to me and now when I deal with an agreement I need something signed so both parties are clear as to what is expected and if the jobs aren't fulfilled legal actions can be taken.
6. "Where do I start?"
I think this is the most frequently asked question..
I don't feel as though there is one specific way to say how to begin modeling. Every model has their own story BUT the ultimate goal is to be signed to an agency, working and making major bucks ;) I started off on my own. I called a local photographer I knew through a friend, got a few outfits together, went to his house, did my hair and makeup and shot away! This was my way of starting to build my portfolio which is very important. Your portfolio is your way of showing what you are capable of. Soon after I googled agencies in New York and found out their times for open calls and went to as many as I could. This was a great experience because I had the chance to speak to a few agency directors personally and they informed me on how to attend open calls (what to wear, no makeup, bring snapshots). Model Mayhem also opened the realm of modeling for me. Designers, photographers and makeup artists are always looking for models and I found many shows and photo shoots through this site.
7. You are you.. OWN it!
As a model you will experience a lot of poking and proding. Many people will say the words "I'm sorry you're not what we're looking for" and not care what you feel after that. Others will criticize you to your face and say you need to change things about yourself. I've learned to accept who I am. It's easier to live with that than spend time trying to change myself to what others expect me to be. I'd love to be the typical high fashion model but my body type doesn't allow that. I've been told to get a breast reduction, I need to lose weight and that I need to lose my hips. These things can be pretty disheartening to hear at times but I found a way to make those very things what I love most about myself. I can change my bust size by going under the knife but I love them just the way they are. You will have to develop this same mentality because the people in this industry can and will try to break you down. It's ok if one person doesn't like you because there are 10 others waiting for someone JUST like you!
I pray this helped some of you. If you have any other questions please ask.. I will make a part 2 :) Until next time...