How to Become a Model

By TACP Staff on July 15, 2019

The world of modeling is much more than travel and excitement. First and foremost, it is a business that requires dedication, craft, and hard work. In this ultra-competitive industry, newcomers must learn to work hard, work smart, and avoid the pitfalls of the industry if they want a chance to fulfill their dreams.

1. Getting Started as a Model

If you ask a little girl what she wants to be when she grows up, there is a good chance she will say “I want to be a famous model!” When she becomes a teenager, the childhood dream accelerates as pages from Vogue, Glamour and Elle decorate the walls of her bedroom. And for the very determined, the fascination will gain momentum and ever so gradually, a sense of urgency will emerge. At its pinnacle, her fantasy will ultimately beg the question, “How do I go from dreaming about being a model to actually becoming a model?”

2. Three Types of Modeling in the U.S.

The first thing to understand about becoming a fashion model is there are different types of modeling. The type with which the layperson is most familiar is “High Fashion.” High Fashion modeling encompasses designer runway shows, the advertising photos you see in top-ranked fashion magazines, spokesmodels for glamorous products and of course, the “Cover Girls (boys)” who grace the front pages of elite fashion publications.

The second type of modeling to which one might aspire is known as Commercial Modeling-National. Commercial Modeling on a national level includes advertisements for everyday household products, restaurants, chain stores, adult beverages, food items, and the like. These print images are found in down-to-earth magazines such as Good Housekeeping, People Magazine, Redbook, as well as hundreds of others. Opportunities at a national level also include catalogs for major department stores, brochures, and online-marketed goods and services.

The third type of modeling is Commercial Modeling-Local. Local commercial models will do photo shoots for photographers intending to sell photos online as stock inventory or in need of models for other purposes. Sometimes the shots will be for smaller businesses, a local line of products, tea-room modeling or fashion shows in a variety of events, such as a bridal fair or car show. Models also work for national brands in need of local talent to promote their products i.e. energy drinks at state fairs, military bases, special events, conventions, and sport’s games.

3. Why Do You Want to Become a Model?

If you desire a career in modeling, the most important question to ask yourself is, “Why do I want to become a professional model?” If your reasons include, “It looks fun!”, “My friends all say I should be a model!” or “I want to be on magazine covers!” you will need to brace yourself for a strong dose of reality. While those reasons are all valid explanations for wanting to become a model; the only answer that matters in the real world of professional modeling is “I have what it takes to be a model and therefore, I am marketable.”

Modeling is a unique career because it is all about your physical appearance. Unlike other industries which offer advancement for working harder, attending higher levels of education, or earning additional certifications, the world of modeling is not flexible. Ironically, the modeling industry will take you and your appearance, literally, at face value.

4. Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Successful Model?

It has never been easier to ascertain your suitability for a modeling career than it is today. Historically, the industry mandated jumping through expensive and arduous hoops before an aspiring model could make their way up the chain, only to find out that they stood no chance of succeeding as a model.

Today, each category of modeling mentioned above, High Fashion, Commercial-National and Commercial-Local, has a distinct standard for acceptance and success. If you are taking the first steps towards a career in modeling, it’s best to investigate the specifics of each category so that you can make the best use of your time, money and energy.

5. High Fashion: Standards & Requirements

High Fashion Is Highly Competitive & Rigid

Of all the types of modeling, High Fashion has the most rigid and easily determined standards. Although there are always exceptions to the “rules,” there are some basic truths about the industry that are indisputable: you must be tall and thin, period. You may have read about or heard interviews with models who have defeated the odds, but the cold, hard reality is that for every single exception there are literally thousands and thousands of hopeful individuals who failed. And, while the world of fashion has seen an influx of plus-size modeling, the demand for models who break the mold has not yet permeated the traditional model.

While this may sound both discriminatory and cruel (muck like the world of horseracing and jockey selection), there are reasons for the rules. For fashion designers to truly show off their work, those wearing the pieces must not detract from the lines and subtleties of the clothing. Further, the taller the model, the greater the material exposure and the sleeker the fashion will present and cast itself as finely proportioned.

World-famous expert, Paul Fisher has demystified the world of High Fashion modeling in two television shows: “Remodeled” and “I Can Make You a Supermodel”. His journey began in 1987 when he founded IT Models. His career and notoriety in the industry grew to remarkable highs when he represented supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Carol Alt, and Stephanie Seymour. Fisher recommends that anyone interested in the world of High Fashion take a measured approach when assessing their own chances of success in the industry. Anyone who is serious about a career should begin by taking the following steps.

Research the Industry

At this juncture, you must treat the industry as any others you would consider entering. You must do your homework. Fisher advises, “Find this out: Do they want what you have? What are their clients looking for?” Do a thorough survey of as many agency websites as you can to get a clear idea of industry standards and best practices.

Become a Statistician

Chart the height, weight, hair color, age, shoe size, etc. of the top and up-and-coming models. Find out which agencies are representing each model. Read about what the clients are looking for, what the designers want to see, and who photographers seek for photoshoots.

Analyze Your Data

Make charts and graphs. Then determine if your appearance, thus far, is meeting the profile of the successful model. If the answer is yes, keep going. If not, you will want to investigate other options in the industry.

Take Pictures Without Make-Up

Ask a friend or family member to photograph you. Find an area with a neutral background and without distractions. Wear a bathing suit and include full body shots from the front, back, and each side. Also, take headshots. Do not enhance or edit the photos in any way, shape or fashion. If you have long hair, pull it back in at least one headshot.

Submit Your Photos to the Top Agencies

According to Fisher, the next step is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. You are to send your photos to the nation’s top modeling agencies. Before doing so, review their websites thoroughly – there may be a process you’re required to follow. Be sure and follow it exactly as indicated. They receive thousands of photos, so be sure yours is one they look at because you followed the rules.

At this point, it is a waiting game. It could take some time. But ultimately, you will find out what the top modeling agencies think about you. With regards to High Fashion modeling, Fisher says, “Send them your picture. You will hear back from them. If you do not hear back from them, don’t model.”

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6. Commercial Modeling: National

The wonderful news about the world of Commercial Modeling on a national level is that clients are looking for real people; people who are young, old, tall, short, thin, heavy, etc. The one most important thing about this branch of the industry is that you have an agent.

Securing Representation from an Agent or Agency

To be prosperous as a Commercial Model doing national print work, you must have an agent who is successful; the key idea being–the agent is successful. But how do you find a successful agent?

Scour the Internet

All successful modeling agents have websites showcasing their models and the client accounts they have represented. Scrutinize the quality of the website; as in any industry there are unscrupulous imposters who will take your valuable time and money if you are not careful. Vet the agencies which appear to be of the highest caliber. Google their name; find out if their claim to any fame can be legitimized. Watch any YouTube videos which discuss the agency. Make a list of the agencies you verified as trustworthy and affluent.

Dissect Each Website for Direction

The fact of the matter is this: if you can make money for an agent, they will want you. The professionals in this industry are not trying to make your dreams come true; they are businesspeople working to make a profitable living. But unlike High Fashion representation, agencies will vary in what they are looking for in a model. A good analogy is the literary agent. Some agencies deal only with romance novels or mysteries; others may work only with biographical manuscripts. The same can be said of agents and agencies. They may represent every look or be in the market for only a few particular types. It is your job to find out the agency’s process.

Next, take your list and methodically examine each website. Look at everything. Finally, go to the section on becoming part of their talent roster. It may be entitled “Contact Us” “Recruitment” “New Talent” or even “Become a Model.” Again, before you go any further, make sure you are dealing with a reputable firm. Reputable agencies do not try and sell you photo shoots with “their photographers” or ask for any money from you for representation. Parents should always be the one to contact an agency on behalf of minors and under no circumstances should nude photos be solicited.

Follow Directions

Each agent will have their own method of processing new talent. Make sure you follow their instructions thoroughly. Most will ask for photos and your vital statistics such as age, weight, height, etc. Do not be deceptive. The worst thing you can do is be dishonest about any aspect of your appearance. Remember, this is a business and no one wants to hire a liar.

Website Platforms

You may come across websites which offer to assist you in finding an agent. They serve as the platform on which you showcase your photos. As with your agency search, approach with caution. Find out what is in it for the website. Make sure the service is reputable. Do not do anything which hints at being improper or a scam.

7. Commercial Modeling: Local

This type of modeling is difficult to do at a professional level. “Professional,” meaning the job you do to support yourself to make-a-living. Depending on the town or city in which you live, you may find work doing the following:

  • Working for local photographers
  • Posing for newspaper advertisements
  • Representing local businesses in their brochures, menus or catalogs
  • Modeling clothes for a local department store
  • Modeling for restaurants (Tea-Room Modeling)
  • Modeling or posing for art schools and schools of photography

Local modeling is typically done for fun or as part-time work. If you have an agent, however, you should never accept a job without their consent and knowledge.

Helpful Organizations & Resources for Fashion Modeling

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