Break into Modeling for Under $20

Judy Goss

St. Martin's Griffin

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the World of Modeling!

You are about to be walked through the simplest and least expensive way to enter into the modeling world, the way to break into the business preferred by modeling agencies. This book will show you how to be your own manager. These techniques are the ones used by modeling scouts and managers who place new models with agencies all over the world every day.

The information I give you has never before been published in such simple detail for the general public. Why not? One reason is because modeling conventions and schools would lose money if everyone tried to break in the real way—then they wouldn’t be able to charge you for making contacts that you could otherwise make yourself. And I’ll show you how to make many more connections in addition to what they could provide. Plus, conventions and schools make money off workshops that off err the same information I provide right here in this book (such as how to dress and what questions to ask when you go on an agency open call, and about the modeling industry in general). This book will teach you more than a weekend modeling convention with workshops and a semester of school about modeling combined, and for a fraction of the cost—not to mention advice on how to make valuable contacts on your own. People who work at modeling agencies are incredibly busy, and they simply don’t have the time to explain this process to everyone who walks through their doors or sends them pictures. Now, all you need to know to break into the modeling industry has finally been condensed into four easy steps—preparation, pictures, promotion, presentation—that you can follow at your leisure, along with all of the extra know-how about the industry that is crucial to your being a part of it.

I come from twenty years of experience in the fashion industry: I worked as a high-fashion model for several years with Ford Models in New York City and have also had several years of experience as an agent at two of the top-ten high-fashion agencies in the world, including New York Models and Ford NY (yes, I became an agent on their celebrity board long after I was a model with them). In addition I have been a casting director, bookings editor for two national magazines, art buyer, producer, manager, and scout—all in New York City. I also worked at a modeling convention company at one point, so I can let you in on the secrets from every angle possible.

In addition to my easy four-step process, I will also give you tips on how to pose for the camera, common insider scams to stay away from that do not get publicized enough, valuable leads to reputable modeling agencies around the world with specific e-mails and marketing advice, and interviews with and quotes from some high-profile casting directors, models, and expert modeling agents to help you on your way to becoming a model. Some of the advice may even prove useful after you snag an agency for representation: how to present yourself at an open call or casting, how to request financial assistance from an agency ahead of time (especially if you are traveling to a different city to live), and so on.

At the end of the book, I’ve also included important business tips you can apply to your new career, an explanation of insider industry terms to help you speak the lingo, important advice for parents who may be considering a modeling career for their children, as well as follow-up advice—whether or not you find an agency to represent you.

If these techniques do not work the first time, do not give up, but just repeat the whole process in eight weeks. The modeling business has certain "looks" that come and go, and you could be the next type they are looking for at any given time! If you don’t get in the first time, you have a better chance at getting in with another attempt by building on your experience and creating your look to work for you by following these simple steps.

When I started my career in modeling, I approached Ford Models five times at their open calls in New York before they finally accepted me. Plus, as a manager I have personally placed girls without any professional pictures or experience in the industry with agencies around the world, sending only the types of pictures I will show you how to take. In one case, an agency advanced—to more than one girl—overseas plane fare, hotel accommodations, photo shoots to start a portfolio, plus composites! And it’s not that agencies gave me the time of day because they knew who I was; I just was aware of what specific pictures I should send to get their attention. I have also placed a fifty-year-old woman with white hair at one of the best and biggest commercial print agencies in New York City. She then moved from North Carolina to start her career as a model, and became very successful, so the spectrum of the business is probably broader than you think.

My four-step process of breaking into the modeling industry is described as follows:

1. PREPARATION: how to prepare yourself mentally and physically for breaking into the world of modeling, how to realistically figure out what type of model you are. I also provide an overview about how modeling agencies work.

2. PICTURES: how to take the proper photos—including poses, dress, angles, and lighting—that all modeling agencies are looking for.

3. PROMOTION: tips on how to sell yourself to modeling agencies all over the world, and how to find those agencies, for your specific look.

4. PRESENTATION: the optimum way to present yourself at a modeling agency—what to wear, what to say, what questions to ask whether or not they want you to, and how to act, as well as a glimpse into exactly what happens on an open call or a request meeting with a modeling agency.

Please follow these steps precisely, one by one, for maximum efficiency. There are no guarantees, as with any business, but following these steps exactly will give you an edge in breaking into such a highly competitive industry. And make sure to read the entire book before starting the Four-P process, then go back through and focus on the four steps meticulously.

Your First Reality Check

Almost everyone has heard or read stories about the modeling industry. The press covers both extremes—not only the glamorous side of modeling, such as travel to exotic lands, getting paid thousands of dollars for one day’s work, and the benefits of fame and fortune, but also the pitfalls of modeling, the stories of tragic drug addiction and extreme eating disorders. These sensational stories may attract readers and sell tabloids to the public, but they do not give you any idea about how to actually get yourself into the modeling industry, or better yet, what is the best way to attract the attention of people within the industry. The gossip and stories are fun, but modeling is still a business, and should be treated as such.

Before we start my 4-P process, there are several things I can teach you that will not only help you get ready for this business as a newcomer, but that can also be used after an agency or manager selects you and you are well on your way to a successful modeling career. The way to pose for a picture and prepare for castings (which are some of the things I cover in detail) does not change after you actually start working in the business. If you are already working in the industry but are with a modeling agency in a small town or city and want to expand your search for a modeling agency beyond your agency’s capabilities, if you need to change agencies and don’t have a manager to market you, or if you simply want to know the marketing concepts and lingo of modeling so you can keep tabs on how your agency is marketing you, this process will help you. You will always be coming back to the basics I’m going to teach you because they will become the base of everything you eventually are involved in as a model.

Let me first tell you about the number one rule in the modeling industry, a rule that I will keep repeating throughout this book: no one should have to pay money up front to be in the modeling industry. Sure, it will cost you money for the pictures in your portfolio, the pictured composites you give to clients, and other business expenses (which I show you how to get help with from the agencies later on in this book), but these expenses are all incurred after you are in the business and have representation at a legitimate modeling agency or with a model manager. (I explain the difference between agencies and managers in chapter 7 under "Agency Versus Manager" in "Terms You Should Know.")

If you doubt this, just pick up the phone and call any legitimate modeling agency worldwide and ask them if you need to send professional pictures to their agency as a potential new model. The answer will always be no. If you are still skeptical, then keep reading, because I am excited to show you the real way to break into modeling for hardly any money at all!

Are you thinking that you have already gone down that road and paid money for someone to "market you" who did not work at a modeling agency? These fees are bogusly called "registration" or "consultation" fees. Or perhaps you paid for "photo packages" from someone, or had a credit card submitted for an automatic monthly fee for a Web site that did not get you any castings or contacts. If so, just move forward from here with my advice. To try and save your money you should immediately cancel your "subscription" on any Web site that isn’t directly affiliated with a reputable modeling agency, or get a refund from a photo package that you purchased if you haven’t gone on the actual shoot yet. These are not legitimate ways to break into the modeling industry. Actually, paying someone ahead of time is never a legitimate way to get into a modeling agency. This is very well known within the modeling industry, but most outsiders do not understand that you can get proper exposure to agencies worldwide for virtually no money.

Plus, the way I will teach you how to dress, have pictures taken of yourself, and then how to send those pictures out to modeling agencies is preferred by the agencies rather than you spending your money. It’s as easy as taking a picture with the family camera in your backyard, printing it on your own printer, and then sending it in the mail! I go into further detail about unnecessary expenses (which more often than not are scams) in chapter 6, but for now, just realize that you should not pay any money up front to anyone before you acquire representation from a modeling agency.

If you do not get into a modeling agency directly, a manager or scout could propose you. A manager is someone who not only oversees a modeling career but also places models with agencies, as opposed to a scout, who solely places models with agencies. The manager or scout still shouldn’t charge you, because the modeling agency you sign with will give them a fee for their services (for the scouts) or a percentage of your earnings (to the managers). Model managers may not charge you, but agencies have to split your future commissions with them. So modeling agencies prefer to take on new faces without any previous ties, so they can manage the person’s career directly themselves and not have to share any commissions. So if you can get started without a manager, why shouldn’t you?

There certainly isn’t anything wrong with getting a model manager to help you get into a modeling agency. Along with agents and scouts, model managers are also suitable channels for getting yourself into the modeling industry. But though managers are great to help develop and guide a career in modeling, at least try the process I teach you first, to see how far you can go without a manager. Then if you don’t get the response you want and you catch a manager’s attention along the way, he or she can take you a step further and help develop you appropriately for representation. But don’t be surprised when a manager uses the same tools for marketing you that I mention in this book!

Your Advantage to Breaking into This Industry in the Twenty-first Century

The era of the "supermodel" has been gone since before the turn of the century, and this helps you immensely. Why? Because the whole spectrum of the modeling industry has changed, allowing more room for all different types of models to make more money. Back then, only a handful of girls were "supermodels," and other than the supermodels, only a small group of girls made notable salaries. A typical "model" had to fall within a few very specific requirements (similar to those who were supermodels) to be considered a model. All of the "big" money used to go to the chosen supermodels of that particular decade, and no one else. And very few chosen models (besides the supermodels) used to grace cover after cover after cover in the high-end fashion magazines, which left barely any work for the rest of the models. Plus, there weren’t nearly as many magazines being published (or advertisements being shown) as there are now, so the odds of getting attention as a model were much smaller.

To be a "supermodel" today, you don’t need to be a house hold name, such as Heidi-Klum, Naomi Campbell, or Christie Brinkley. Nowadays, there are so many various kinds of models in all different categories (including age, size, height, and ethnicity) who have the ability to make upward of six figures, as well as being touted as a "super-model" by the press. There are even some models making solid six-figure salaries, and the public may never even know their names. They may never even appear in front of the camera! Yes, you can technically be a "model," and not ever have your picture taken for public use. Fit and showroom models (explained in the "Categories of Modeling" section in chapter 1) rarely have their pictures taken for the public eye, though they are both bona fide categories of the modeling industry. One fit model that I interview later in this book, Helen Powers, has been making upward of $300,000 per year for many years, and the public doesn’t know who she is, because she works behind the scenes at various designers’ and manufacturers’ offices. Don’t worry, these different types of modeling will all make sense after you read this book, and I will show you how to access these jobs if you are the appropriate type.

The types of work available for models have recently increased dramatically. There are of course the typical megafamous models, such as Gisele Bündchen, Kate Moss, and Heidi Klum, who have arisen over the past decade to grace the covers of magazines and grab the higher profile campaigns for millions of dollars, but these types of models are becoming more and more scarce. Even though Gisele, Kate, and Heidi are examples of your modern-day supermodels, there is still plenty of work left for the rest of you, which wasn’t the case until the past few years or so. The definition of "supermodel" has been broken wide open, for there are now male, plus-size, and runway "supermodels" who specialize in their own categories. Many more people now have a chance at being a part of the bigger picture in the modeling industry.

Julia Samersova, a casting director in New York City for high-fashion print clients (as well as a former scout at Ford Models and modeling agent at Next Models and Elite Models in New York), says that these days the industry is about "spirit, personality, and energy more than a certain type of look. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to be thin to be in high fashion, because at the end of the day the designers want a beautiful hanger, but there just isn’t one specific look anymore—I really do believe that." The bulk of the models today can more easily make six figures and up—even if you are not in the high-fashion arena. Reality shows have also helped make celebrities out of "average" types of people, and in that respect have opened doors for many other types of people to be a part of the ever changing modeling industry, which makes all different types of people more acceptable for advertising in the public eye. In addition, actors, musicians, and other celebrities, like sports personalities, are in advertising campaigns and commercials. This diversity trickles down into the modeling world, resulting in a broader acceptance of the idea that more varied types of people can publicize products. Also, the number of products being advertised is greatly increasing, with actors creating fragrance products, musicians developing clothing lines, and let’s face it—the more marketing that is done all over the world, the more work there is for noncelebrities like you and me!

The Many Types of Models

I like to call the modeling industry just that instead of the "fashion industry" because models help sell everything these days, from couture gowns to automobiles. This industry has exploded, with people of all different sizes and characteristics working as models. For example, in the past the average-size female never had much of a chance at model-ing, because the requirements of modeling only included smaller dress sizes on very tall bodies, but work has substantially increased in the plus-size modeling arena (which starts at size ten and goes up to size twenty-four), as well as fit modeling, which frequently demands a height of five seven or five eight. These two areas alone reel in people who have closer to average sizes and measurements and are not typical high-fashion material.

The commercial print sector has a demand for more and more people that are a minimum of thirty-five years of age. It entails mainly advertising "products" other than clothing. If you set aside clothing advertising, commercial print is advertising for just about every other inanimate object that you can see! This is a huge market for the average person who does not fit under the high-fashion umbrella (either because of measurement restrictions or age). If you look around, it is very common to see "real people" everywhere in advertising. And my guess is that commercial print modeling is going to get even more popular, and the demand for older models will be ever increasing because of the wave of advertising that is going to be focused toward the baby boomer population in the coming years.

Both the men’s arena of modeling along with plus-size modeling have also increased monumentally in recent years, resulting in an increase in catalog and advertising work, as well as highly publicized runway shows.

Finally, let’s not forget that high fashion is not nearly as restricted as it used to be. It is now much more open to heights under five nine here and there, and unique-looking faces and bodies that never would have been considered for a modeling career in the past. I’m not trying to say it’s easy to break into the modeling industry these days, but I am trying to tell you that many more avenues are open to you than before, because of both a shift in the public’s way of looking at models, and the industry’s acceptance of a more varied type of person to sell their high-fashion clothing or products.

In addition, promotional modeling has become a solid part of the marketing industry and provides an opportunity for people to start making money right away, while either trying their luck at fashion modeling, or just looking for some extra cash while trying to jump-start a career. Promotional modeling—which is also called "live" modeling, or "event staffing"—is the broadest area of modeling. It encompasses people of all age ranges and types and promotes a wide variety of products, from cars to liquor to television shows. I describe these very different categories later on in the book, and you will be able to decide what is more suitable for your type of look and personality as we move further along.

Marsha McMorrough, owner of the Diamond Agency in Orlando, Florida, where Mandy Moore started her career as a young girl, wholeheartedly agrees about the increased range of different types of models in the twenty-first century. She frequently books people ages forty to fifty, as well as senior citizens in their eighties! The newest craze that she has observed is agencies booking real-life families for jobs that need families to sell their product. One of her biggest clients is Walt Disney, and they routinely use families to advertise their international travel service, Adventures by Disney. Marsha also gets a lot of requests for real-life couples, and she explains that "people who are really together in their everyday life as a family, as opposed to separately chosen members of a family, have a certain natural chemistry that is hard to find otherwise. Also, when a client sends families on trips, the kids feel more comfortable with their real parents, plus, the client saves money by putting them all in the same room! It’s a win-win situation." Log on to www.adventures by disney.com and check out for yourself all of the various kinds of families they use. Families are now a rapidly growing part of the business! So you see how modeling ranges from one extreme to the other.

If you are in the central Florida area and have a good-looking family, send your pictures to the Diamond Agency! Their contact information is in the back of this book. Just remember, no need for professional photos, please. Wow—we aren’t even through the introduction and I have already given some of you a valuable contact to utilize. Take advantage of it—and there is much more to come for all you other types as well.

Prepare Yourself for Rejection

We’re almost ready to begin the four-step process, but I have to mention one more thing that is really important before we go on... you need to realize that unfortunately rejection (on a repetitive basis) is completely unavoidable. I don’t care what you look like, or who you think you are or can be, someone is going to turn you down for something, and most likely it will happen again and again, because success in the modeling industry is not based on any objective criteria. There is no way to apply specific qualifications to being a successful model, as you can with careers that need certain degrees or licenses. Everyone who looks at you will see you in a different way, as it is only natural for every human being to see each person differently. And thank God for that—can you imagine if everyone saw you in the same way, day after day, and you could never change? We might as well all be robots, it would be so boring. Since the modeling industry is based on subjectivity, brace yourself for differences of opinion every time you start thinking you are "getting it." I am still "getting" things after twenty years in this business!

Since everyone is going to tell you different things about your looks, let their comments fl y over your head if they are not saying what you want to hear. Please, do not take advice or criticism too seriously from just one person. Market yourself by spreading your wings and getting advice from as many sources as you can, so you can make informed conclusions or decisions about your career.

I am warning you about rejection early on, because even before you start the first part of chapter 1, you need to know how commonplace it is. I mention it throughout the book, but you will learn how to turn it around to your advantage by the time it starts happening. I will teach you how to take a comment from an industry professional and figure out if it is constructive, or if he or she is just looking for a way to get you out the door. But to do this objectively, you must have a thick skin and take everything that everyone says analytically, and not personally. By learning from the rejection and criticism, you can make yourself a better candidate for future evaluations of yourself. That’s what modeling is: constant improvement and evaluation on the whole self, of which the product is YOU.

Learn, Learn, Learn

Whether you want to model as a hobby, or you would like eventually to be full-time, the four Ps I have created for you are the best way to get into the business. They are also the standard for being successful in the industry once you get an agency. It is crucial that you also know other information as well, such as scams, business advice, and many other tips. There are so many facets of the modeling industry to learn, and by condensing the most important ones for you, I hope to guide you in the best manner that I possibly can.

Preparation is the most important step for you to begin the process of developing a modeling career. So many people just jump straight into paying for worthless pictures, showing up at modeling agency open calls unprepared, or trying to market themselves to an agency that doesn’t suit them. If they would have just taken the time to learn more about the industry and about how to ask the right questions, they could have saved a lot of time and money, as well as gotten responses from industry professionals that made more sense. The more you know, the better prepared you will be once you start getting those responses from agencies, whether the comments are negative or positive. It’s all about evaluating yourself, then approaching the right people, so you can eventually market yourself in the area where you are meant to be. And the proper preparation puts you way ahead of the rest—which is where you have to be in such a fiercely competitive industry. Good luck, and I look forward to hearing plenty of success stories in the future!

Excerpted from Break into Modeling for Under $20 by Judy Goss

Copyright © 2008 by Judy Goss

Published in 2008 by St. Martin’s Griffin

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher