So you want to be a model? Lots of readers have written me to say that reading about Axelle and her world has made them feel super inspired about fashion…more specifically, many of you have me asked if I have any advice to share about becoming a model. So if you’re one of the readers who has asked me that very question…then this blog post is for you!
Just keep in mind that everything you are going to read below is based on my own experience of over a dozen years as a fashion model living in New York City and Paris, and working all around the world. I can only tell you about my own experiences – all of which for the most part were pretty good! Regardless of that, though, there will probably be some things you won’t want to hear, and others things that will surprise you. Right. End of intro. Read away!
Typical question: Hi Carina, I’m fourteen and I want to become a model. Do you have any tips or contacts?
You bet I do…
1.) First of all, many of you who ask me about becoming a model are under sixteen. My answer to you is always the same and that is, Great! Super that you’re interested, but fourteen is very young and there are laws that the fashion industry has to respect when working with underage employees! So I’d suggest, if you are under sixteen, that you concentrate on your studies and treat fashion as a hobby. Follow your favourite models on Instagram and read the fashion magazines as much as you like – but keep your school grades up! Then, if you are still keen on modelling when you are sixteen, ask your parents or gran or favourite relative to take you to meet with a reputable modelling agency (more on this below). Working with underage girls is complicated for agencies because of the laws protecting children, so they will prefer you to be a bit older. But if they think you have real potential they will probably want to keep in contact with you and your parents. They might even start asking you to work, providing they have your parents’ consent, and you can fit modelling into your school schedule. This is what Axelle does.
2.) You shouldn’t pay for anything! Sometimes readers ask me if they have to pay for photos for their portfolio. No, you don’t! If an agency is interested in representing you they will take on all of the initial costs of organising photos for your portfolio, getting your hair cut, etc. You might have to pay them back later for some of this but a reputable agency will be the one who splashes out – not you. After all, if they really believe that you have potential as a model, they’ll be excited to get your career started. Think of how Axelle got started – her first agency, Miriam’s (no, it doesn’t exist – except in my books!), in A Crime of Fashion, set up her first test shots and hair appointments.
3.) There are lots of modelling agencies out there, but you should only work with reputable ones! Only the really good ones have the knowledge and contacts you need to build a long-term career – and only the really good ones are taken seriously by the big magazines and fashion designers. So how do you find a top agency? Well, if you don’t know anyone in the business, then go online and start searching. If you’re living in the UK search for London agencies. Literally Google “top London fashion modelling agencies” and see what comes up. If you’re living in the US you can search for agencies in New York City, but if you live far from the Big Apple, you’ll have to search for one in the largest city near you. So, for instance, search for an agency in Atlanta if you live in Georgia, or Los Angeles or San Francisco if you live in California. Check out the different agency websites to find out who they represent. If you find recognisable names on their roster – Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, or Jourdan Dunn, for instance – then you can be pretty sure they know what they are doing! Check out Storm Model Management‘s main women’s board and talent board to see what I mean. As you scroll down the headshots of the women they represent you’ll see lots of faces you recognise. This is how it should be.
4.) Most agencies hold “open call” days. These are days when anyone can walk in off the street and straight into an agency without an appointment. Check on the agency’s website to find out on which days and at what times an agency holds its casting. Here, for instance, you can check out details for Storm’s open call day. Sometimes you can also apply online (again, check out Storm).
5.) There is one last piece of advice I need to share…Although the fashion industry is slowly (too slowly, if you ask me) trying to embrace different types of women, the fact is, you still have to conform to an industry standard in terms of height, weight, leg length, etc. That’s because the fashion designers believe that clothes look best on women of a certain size and build. In this case, modelling is like ballet or football – no matter how much you may dream of being a prima ballerina or a high goal football champ, if you don’t meet the physical requirements of the job (i.e., footballers need to be able to run fast and have outstanding eye-ball coordination and ballerinas need to be light enough to be lifted by their dancing partners and flexible enough to do the movements required of them) then you probably won’t be able to do it at a top level. That’s the truth, tough as it can be to accept. Having said that, even if you do get taken on by a top agency and start working as a model, there will always be clients you’ll meet at castings who will tell you straight out that your skin is the wrong colour for the job or your lips look funny or you’re too big or too small. You’ll have to develop thick skin – something incidentally that you have to have as a writer, too (trust me – literary agents and editors can be very critical of a manuscript!).
Now for some good news! You might feel that you really, really want to work in fashion…just NOT as a model. Well, guess what? You’re in luck because the fashion industry has oodles and oodles of really interesting, glamorous jobs – such as magazine editor, fashion designer, fashion journalist, in-house PR for a major fashion label, buyer for a department store, etc. In part two of this blog post I’ll write a bit more about these jobs. You might find that one of them is the perfect way to combine your passion for fashion with, say, your love or journalism or talent for math. I’ll post it next week so check back!
And in the meantime, if you want to find out more about how my personal modelling experiences inspired me to write Model Under Cover click here.