Alright, here’s what this is: a summary on what it takes to become a model, some quick tips on how to do it, basic vital information that you absolutely must have, and then a couple of interviews (on video) with fashion model bookers and judges that will definitely interest you if you want to become a model.
First, let’s dispel the most common, and also the most harmful, myth about modeling that’s out there and I’m sure you’ve heard: “being discovered”. In short: you will NOT “get discovered”. This is something that’s extremely rare, and the problem with it is that it does actually happen on a very, very, very rare occasion, and there are actually a few now very famous fashion models who got started by “being discovered”.
But this is not how well over 99% of all models in the industry (including the great majority of now famous high-fashion models) got started. Just get it out of your head: if you want to be a model you’re going to have to take the initiative and make it happen for yourself, and it’s not going to be easy.
Different types of models and what it takes for each category
There are several different types of models: fashion models, commercial models, glamour models, and specialty type models (plus size, petit, etc.). Of course, when most people think of models, they think of fashion models (aka “editorial fashion models” or just “editorial models”) such as Giselle, Heidi Klum, Adriana Lima (she’s the girl in the picture above), Twiggy, etc.
They only actually make up a small portion of all the working models out there–the majority are what’s called commercial models–although they are the most famous and well-paid (and consequently the toughest ones to become). I know, you want to be a fashion model, right?
Ok, well let’s see: I’ve got a list of absolutely required (no, really, it’s not negotiable) criteria, and if you meet all of these then you’ve got about a 1 in 100 shot or so of fame and fortune and catwalks in NYC and Milan, ok? Here you go:
- You are between 5’9″ and 6′ tall.
- You are between 15 and 19 years old (there’s a tiny bit of wiggle room here, but not much).
- You are thin, and I mean very thin (I didn’t say skin and bones, no that won’t work). You should be around 105 to 115 pounds, except for maybe plus-size models, who can be wear sizes around 10 to 20 or so, depending on market conditions.
- You are beautiful, and frankly drop-dead gorgeous wouldn’t hurt 🙂 . Not necessarily hot, but beautiful and unique-looking. An interesting, unique, and beautiful face is at least as good for a fashion model as is a normal ‘hot girl’ look.
- You do not have really large breasts (34C is about the upper bound of what’s acceptable–Adriana above is a small C-cup), lots of stretch marks, tattoos, piercings or overly tanned skin. Dark skin is perfectly ok, too much tan is not ok.
- You’ve got the personality for it: you are extremely committed to modeling (not just interested in it), you can take rejection (something most beautiful girls are NOT very good at–you will stand out, in a good way, if you can handle rejection with grace, and you will get rejected along the way no matter how beautiful you are), a thick skin, and you’re not modest at all (nobody gives a damn what you don’t want other people to see, we have a show to put or a shoot to do, move your ass!) and you’re very self-confident (or at least you really good at acting like it).
- You’re willing to travel to any foreign location for a shoot or a show, with no friends there to support you, not much money, little help, and plenty of opportunity for both good and bad things to happen to you (and they will).
- You’re willing to relocate yourself to wherever is necessary, with a major market like New York City strongly preferred (honestly: you have to go to New York if you’re serious about being a fashion model, that’s the only option in the U.S.).
These are the majority of models: they’re not famous (by name anyway), and they’re normally found in local or national print ads, television shows, catalogs, plus they can work in local fashion shows and trade shows and similar kinds of work.
Fashion models will often do work as commercial models, but never the other way around (commercial models won’t do high-fashion stuff). You won’t get paid millions of dollars a year like fashion models often do, but you can still make very good money doing this (well into six figures is possible if you’re very good).
The requirements for a commercial model are much more lenient than for a fashion model. It will definitely help if you look like a fashion model, but there is plenty of work available in lots of markets for many other types.
A commercial model can be older, shorter, heavier and doesn’t need to be pretty or beautiful – “interesting” often will be enough to get decent work, and â€œgeneric good looksâ€ is the most common look desired (are you a ‘random hot girl’? I’ve got a job for you!).
Commercial models are usually asked to play some sort of a role in the photo shoot: “lawyer, “doctor”, “fashionable college girl”, â€œyoung momâ€, â€œactive retireeâ€, â€œexecutiveâ€, and they’re supposed to look like the idealized versions of these roles. In most of the markets surveyed it’s been found that the most difficult demand for an agent to fill is for good-looking middle-aged men!
Things that will definitely help you if you want to be a commercial model are acting ability, easy availability for jobs, an outgoing personality, and being good at presenting yourself.
Just so there’s no confusion, glamour models have nothing whatsoever to do with Glamour Magazine. Glamour models are the girls that get work primarily because they’re attractive and ‘hot’ looking, unlike fashion models who wouldn’t necessarily be considered ‘hot’ as per the usual standard.
Glamour models typically do promotional work like: walking around in a bikini at a boat show, or in bars or special events to represent a liquor distributor, appearing in magazines which appeal to a male audience (the epitome of a glamour model: the chicks in Maxim and various car and motorcycle magazines) where they’re usually seen with the product which is the subject of the magazine (such as cars, boats, yachts, guns, motorcycles and such) or they appear in calendars.
Most of them do nude work in magazines, videos, and online (honestly, if you’re not willing to get naked, then forget glamour model work).
Other specialized areas
Don’t forget that there are plenty of other areas where a very particular specialty is called for: petit, plus-sized, ink (modeling for a tatoo magazine or ad, obviously you would need some cool ink for this), child models, middle-aged and older, etc. There are just too many to mention, if you can think of it then it almost definitely exists.
This is something I had to mention separately because it’s so important, in fact this is the most important factor that will determine whether or not you’ll be able to become a model.
Most people would think looks, but that only becomes the most important factor once you show up. I’ll be blunt, in short: you have to live in New York City if you’re serious about making this a career, and especially if you want to be a fashion, commercial, or glamour model…in fact, pretty much any kind of model. There’s just not enough of a market anywhere else in the U.S. Yes, there is some work in L.A. and Miami, but it’s nowhere near what NYC has got and frankly, instead of hiring locally what usually happens when someone wants a shoot done in L.A. or Miami is they fly in New York models. If you’re outside the U.S., then the other major cities that are comparable to New York as far as work goes are: London, Paris, Milan, and Tokyo (maybe, I’m not even sure if I’d put Tokyo on the same level as NYC). That’s it. You have to be willing to go where the market is, this is the most determining factor, I just can’t emphasize this enough.
Inside information: video interviews with real live model judges and bookers
Keep in mind that they’re mainly referring to fashion models, not the other types, this guy is a model booker for an agency and has represented models such as Tyra Banks and Christie Brinkley:
Here’s more from Jonathan Phang:
Here’s an interview with an actual judge:
Further Reading and Additional Resources
If you want to get started RIGHT NOW, the first thing I recommend learning is how to pose properly in front of the camera–the best way to do that is to learn some simple poses and techniques, I highly recommend this guide put together by one of the better industry photographers (click here), and then have a friend (or even better, a pro photographer) take LOTS of photos of you in lots of different poses: now, pick the ones that look the best, and then practice those few poses that you do the best until you’ve got them down cold.
THAT is what you’re going to use to wow an agency with when you apply: you don’t want to have a million poses that you do so-so, you want to have a handful that you’re awesome at, that’s much better, believe me.
I highly recommend the forums at models.com, especially the following for girls who seriously want to become models: New Models Modeling Primer, Frequently Asked Questions at the Models.com forums
Another excellent site, and I can’t recommend it enough, is NewModels.com (click here)–read ALL of their articles before you even think about doing anything! Also, they have an outstanding book available called: The Professional’s Guide to Modeling, definitely worth a look.