Are you trying to become a model in New York City, or any other market for that matter? Here are some simple tips to help get you started:
- Know your market
Are you a fashion model (5’11″+ for dudes and in great shape; 5’9″+ for ladies), a commercial print and lifestyle model (basically everyone else), a fit model (try on clothes for designers and give feedback; maintain very specific measurements), a fitness model (ripped and models for athletic brands and such), a parts model (pretty hands, legs and feet), a plus-size model (curvy deliciousness), an artist’s model (model for painters, sculptors, etc), a promotional model (hired to look good and hang around and/or directly sell something), an erotic model (no explanation needed), etc? Research which market’s you may qualify for before pigeon-holing yourself.
- Focus on long-term success
Most “overnight successes” put in years of work behind the scenes – and I mean years. Years of “no’s,” let-downs, almosts’, close calls, etc. The thing about being a professional model is — now don’t run away from me now — it’s not personal. Think about the business side of the gig: designers/advertisers/brands are looking for someone to make their stuff look good. Maybe you have the right look, but the next dude/chick who walks in fits it just a little bit more, or maybe you’re gorgeous and perfect, but you look like the client’s ex-wife… how can that be a reflection of your worth? Sounds like a lot of issues on his end, but that’s a whole other Top Ten List. So, if you go to 200 castings a year and only book five jobs in your first year, that’s great! Maybe the next year you’ll go to 250 and book 10. The point is this: let’s not sit here and pretend there aren’t those annoying 6′ tall, perfect Australian teenagers, who are “on holiday” with their parents and an agent from Ford Models just so happens to be eating lunch next to them, and the rest is history. Don’t you just hate those stories? For the other 99% of us, modeling requires day-in-and-day-out hard work and persistence to slowly build a career, thus placing ourselves in the lucky position to maybe get the job of our dreams someday, but even that won’t guarantee long-term success. Bookings aren’t always so linear. Think about a client who needs a badass dude with tattoos on his face; maybe there’s a model who has said face tattoos and books a huge, worldwide campaign – woohoo! A perfect example of this is the Spring 2017 Fiverr campaign that was released in New York City subways showing many different types of models from a 300+ lb Puerto Rican man to an older Anna Wintour-esque lady. I don’t know anything about these models’ careers, but this was a huge opportunity for alternative models to get an awesome tear sheet, and these folks — particularly the Latin American gentleman — did. Hang in there, my fellow model brothers and sisters – your big break really could be tomorrow.
- Understand the changing landscape of advertising and the “real people” phenomenon
Many casting breakdowns today call for “real people,” meaning basically lifestyle models – models who look like the best version of a certain type. Of course these models are not one dimensional, but with casting breakdowns being very specific at times, many models have made great careers being the “mom next door,” or the “friendly Latina grandmother.” Advertisers sometimes want real, relatable people, whereas 20 years ago they wanted more of a models-model. Also, many campaigns call for non-models; just regular people, whether it’s the hipster tech company marketing dude or the shaved-headed lesbian tanner. (Most of these “non-models” are usually models in hiding, but that’s OK as long as the job gets booked and everyone’s happy – sometimes less info in the casting room is more). All of us career models get no love sometimes, but that’s OK, we can go undercover or play up our survival job to fit the clients’ requirements for the gig.
- Get a survival job
Now, I hate the term “survival job” just as much as the next sensitive artistic flower child, but the bottom line is even models with top agencies like Ford and Wilhelmina Models will oftentimes keep a side hustle as a bartender, real estate agent, personal trainer, etc. If you’re lucky and at the top of your game, or just one of those annoying models who books all the time who the rest of us secretly hate, or have rich parents who finance your life, please skip this part. But for the rest of us, having a steady side-gig can really be a life saver, and in all honestly should be a part of many models’ careers. Some years you may not need one, but there will be draught, and when that booking pool dries up you’re going to want something else to fall back on. A key to longevity as a professional model can be having a “survival job,” which I like to call a “thrive-al job.”
- Be easy to work with
It’s sad how many careers are stopped short due to personality issues: diva-like attitudes, tardiness, entitledness and the like. Let’s remember, being a model is a privilege and a highly unusual job. You’re being paid to sell products with your looks and personality. It’s important to be nice with and try to connect (in a non-desperate way) with everyone on set from the make-up artist to the photographers 3rd assistant. Aside from just in general being a good human being and treating people with simple respect, you truly never know where your next job will come from. I’m not a huge fan of “fake network whores” aka transparent people who solely want to connect only for career opportunities; call me a hippocrite or idealistic, but if every conversation you have with someone is from a me-focused agenda, people will see right through that shit. Try to genuinely care about others. I think that’s a great place to start every human interaction. You may be hired as “talent” that day, but if you see an area where someone may need a hand, I personally think it’s polite to offer to help. Now, 99% of the time the answer will be a polite “no,” and I don’t recommend getting in the way of others’ work to try to help, but common kindness and courtesy go a long way. So, on one hand I am saying essentially be nice to everyone so you can get more work, but also look at it from the human element; you never know what’s going on in another’s life, so maybe you not being a stereotypical self-involved model will create a new friendship or expand your support network in some other positive way.
- Take care of your health
Many models choose not to smoke, drink very little and take care of their body with a nutrition and exercise regimen. Not only is keeping yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually fit just plain good in general, you should understand that your overall health in all these areas will get you ahead of the pack.
- Switch it up – try new things
Do you know 100% that you couldn’t get work as a hand model? A voiceover actor? How about a fit model? Do your research; the modeling industry is way more vast than the media exposes.
These are only a few tips that will help a beginning model get started. The most important thing to remember is this: if modeling is something you really want to do in life, be persistent and don’t let anyone rain on your parade.