Welcome to Think Like A Model Teen! This is a great place for teens, and parents of teens who are interested in the modeling business, to learn some tips and tricks of the trade. While there are things that apply to models of all ages, this section of the blog will be catered to you! Of course, you can still read all of the other posts but if you are only interested in the posts directed towards aspiring models ages 13-17, simply click on the “Teen” tab in the menu above.
So what does modeling mean to you? If you’re a teen, what are the reasons you think you would be good at this profession? What drives you to pursue the fashion industry for a current or future career? These are important questions. Many people see the glamour and fame and focus on that, not realizing that there is a lot that goes into being a top model. The truth is, most people who model professionally never become famous. And while there is a lot of fun to be had, it is a business. In order to make any money you have to put in work.
To be a professional model you’ll not only need the right looks but also dedication and passion so strong it keeps you going when you feel like quitting. Of course, you’ll also need your parents’ support. Your legal guardian will need to be willing to sign off on everything you do whenever an opportunity comes along. And on top of all of that, there’s still your education to be considered.
They say that a model retires at 25 and while there are definitely many exceptions, you might not even last that long if you don’t give it your all or take care of yourself. The business requires a level of professionalism that a lot of young people just haven’t learned, yet. There will be a lot of exciting challenges thrown your way, should you choose to go for it.
If you’re one of those people who doesn’t give up no matter what then I encourage you to keep learning here at Think Like A Model. If you just love the modeling and fashion world, this blog will also be a fun read for you. If you’re a parent who is seriously contemplating getting your teen(s) into the business then I urge you to bookmark this site. Whatever your reason for reading this now, there is something on this blog that will help you in your pursuit of modeling.
So I welcome you and am so glad you stopped by. Until next time!
Recently, African model Nykhor Paul posted a rant on Instagram about her frustration with MUAs not knowing how to do her make up. This caused a lot of controversy mostly due to the fact that her complaint began with, “Dear white people,” contained profanity, and was very direct (read: truth with no sugar-coating). Comments found in response to this ranged from people understanding and being frustrated for her to people suggesting that as a model she should trust the vision of the designer and if make up is done on her a certain way it is because it is what was desired.
The first problem here is that the people making those comments (at least those I saw) were neither black, models, designers, or involved in the fashion world in any way. They were speculating. Their views about the issue, made apparent with subsequent comments involving negative and racially-driven verbiage, were very narrow. While I definitely would have expressed myself in a more diplomatic way, I agree with what Nykhor said and will explain why.
Having modeled for over a decade I have had plenty of experience with make up artists being dumbfounded when they see me walk through the door, realizing they were in for a challenge. At least half the time I have gone to a booking, be it a fashion show, photo shoot, or event, the make up artist(s) assigned to me clearly did not know how to tend to my dark skin and to top it off, they didn’t even have my color on their palette!
When the mixing of colors has been needed, about six out of ten times the end result has not matched my face so I either ended up looking like a drag queen or a ghost. I often have had to discreetly find a mirror and do extensive damage control, using the make up that I always brought with me in preparation for this very type of situation. On one occasion a designer actually complained about the horrible job the make up artist did seeing that she obviously did not follow the vision described to her. The MUA in question actually covered my neck and forehead with red coloring to deflect from the fact that she had no dark foundation or powder with her at all.
But most of the modeling I’ve done has taken place in the predominately “white” Southern California. I use to think that, surely, this was why this happened so much and it must be different in other markets, especially in the fashion capitals of the World. So young. So naive…
The more I have learned about the fashion industry the more I realize just how much racism, even subtle, plays a huge role in its execution. Just last year I was booked to be a model on an episode in the comeback season of a popular TV show only to find out the day before the shoot that I was taken off of the booking. The reason? The booking manager said the network told her she had, “booked too many ethnic models.” I’m not exaggerating. This is what she told me, verbatim.
She apologized and said it wasn’t up to her but that certainly didn’t make a difference to me. I was more annoyed than anything else, mainly because she had previously mixed things up and booked me for the wrong date of another popular show. I was excited about being “chosen” but couldn’t go because I was already booked for a photo shoot, that day. It wasn’t until I told my aunt (pictured on the right), a former model and actress, about the incident that I realized why I should have actually been disappointed. She was appalled and suggested I could have easily made a justifiably big deal about it (you know, laws and all of that), especially since I had all of the evidence in a chain of emails. This hadn’t even occurred to me. I had become so use to discrimination, having grown up being the only black girl in the class, show, fill-in-the-blank… that I didn’t even see it for what it was.
My aunt went on to tell me about things like that happening back when she was modeling in the 70s. She was told she should be grateful to have the opportunities she was being given because it wasn’t usual for a black model to have success (I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea).
As awful as that sounds, I expect to hear things like that having happened not so long after segregation was officially abolished in America. But now? What I don’t expect is for people to be so complacent about the fact that in the fashion industry, a certain level of segregation still exists. And when black models are present they are often there because they are deemed exotic (i.e. nice to have around as a token).
When I say that there is show after show with full lineups of only, or mostly, Caucasian models, this also means there are few, or no, dark-skinned Latinos, Indians, Brazilians, Native Americans, Aboriginal Australians… the list really goes on to include any person of color. So I was initially quite pleased when I stumbled upon a runway show displaying not only beautiful Indian-inspired clothing but model after model who appeared to be of Indian decent. It wasn’t until the show was almost over when I realized that every model in that show was lighter than a brown paper bag, and none of them were African. What other races were represented in this show? Asians and Caucasians.
I am well aware of this seemingly global fixation with light skin and an overwhelming disdain for dark skin. Skin bleaching is a common practice in many different places including Jamaica, India, China, and Africa. In certain cultures and parts of the world, having light skin (at least in ancient history -16th century China, for example) meant that you weren’t out working in the fields, suggesting a certain level of affluence and nobility. Being of this aristocratic social cast was desirable for many reasons, and understandably so. But we all know that the closer you get to the equator, the darker the skin of the inhabitants of the land. And the darker the skin the more melanin, which means a higher SPF in the skin. Yes, folks, I have natural sunscreen built into my body. Jealous?
So if skin pigmentation is directly related to the parts of the world where our ancestors thrived and is not an indicator of true worth, intelligence, or beauty, why do people still look down on dark skin? And why is this stigma and all of its nasty side effects still prevalent in the fashion world? Why is it that we are still stuck in the 70s? Why is it that often when a magazine issue is filled with models of African decent the cover also says something like the “all black” issue or contains articles about the history of black models (you know, because we can’t just fill a magazine with black people and not have a specific reason for it)?
Why are white models still being bronzed to represent African beauties when there are plenty of actual working African models who are breathtakingly beautiful? And why do I still, after 14 years of modeling, have to bring my own make up to a set not because it’s something most models should do anyway but because I know there is a 98% chance that the make up artist(s) won’t know what to do with me? Or why is it that I feel the need to relax, blow dry, and flat iron my naturally curly (read: African) hair in order to be “show ready”? I don’t know… perhaps it’s because I am often instructed to come to set with straight hair?
A few years ago I was being professionally courted by two men from a company that wanted to manage my modeling career. Upon our first sit-down meeting I was actually told that my look was really marketable because I did not have “typical black features” and that was considered to be really good for the industry. This is where my years of training on how to not realize when someone is being racist to your face came into play. But if I were to write about all of my ridiculous encounters revolving around racial biases in the industry, we could be here forever.
What’s probably the most frustrating thing about the issue of race in fashion is that when we, those being affected by the very nonsensical racism that still exists in an industry that is meant to be fun and progressive… when we actually speak up about the lack of color in the modeling and fashion worlds, there are still many people who label us confrontational. There were quite a few people who not only accused Nykhor of acting like a victim, with her rant mentioned at the beginning of this post, but went on to say that black people, in general, often do the same. My response to the first ignorant comment I saw, because I just couldn’t help myself, was the following:
Have we humans reached a plateau in our evolution, when it comes to race and skin color? Is there no hope for us to ever have racial equality? Are we doomed to live in a world where people forget (or are never taught) that we all come from the same place and from the same first humans to ever exist? Or will humans the world over realize that race is a social construct, making racial prejudices extremely illogical?
I hope one day I will be able to say to younger generations, “You wouldn’t believe the things black models use to experience in the industry. You guys are lucky!”
Tips on what a model should and shouldn’t do to succeed have been, and will be, sprinkled throughout this blog but this post will concentrate on a few of the big no nos every model should know. Find out how not to be that model…
Don’t Be A Diva
Nobody likes a drama queen unless an actor is playing one on stage or in a movie. Sure, dramatic people get a lot of attention and even end up with their own reality shows, but as a model your job is to make a brand or invention or idea look good. Branding yourself to become a famous model is totally okay as long as it is done tactfully and with a high level of professionalism.
Remember, even if your end goal is to become the next Karlie Kloss (read supermodel and household name), drawing attention to yourself by throwing fits is a great way to have clients not want to hire you again and for agencies to drop you fast. Very few models can succeed in the industry while carrying a bad reputation. One such model is Naomi Campbell, the first black model to grace the cover of French Vogue, British Vogue, and Time magazine. Aside from her booming career, she is also known for her many tantrums including the infamous incident in which she threw a cell phone at her assistant and got slapped with a lawsuit. But she had built her career for over a decade before her hissy fits began making waves. Now I’m not saying you should make a name for yourself and then turn into a bratty supermodel. What I am saying is you aren’t Naomi Campbell and you probably won’t get away with acting poorly and still be able to walk the high fashion runway years after the world has become aware of your bad attitude.
Don’t Be Cocky
As a model you are one of the lucky few who gets paid to be a pretty face (of course there’s more to it than that but you get the idea). There will inevitably be people who become jealous of you because your job is exotic and exciting and they only wish they were so fortunate. But being humble and appreciative about getting to do what you love will make you that person more people respect than envy. You will be that person people want to be around and the person people want to book. You might be the “perfect” human specimen, physically, but your personality speaks so much more about you as a person then a thigh gap and eyebrows that are on fleek. Remember, people don’t buy things, they buy people. When you have something that radiates from within and brings joy to the lives of others they will want to subscribe to who you are.
Models aren’t simply hangers, they are physical representations of ideas. If the idea a client has gets overshadowed by your poor sportsmanship and self-centered behavior then you will not be favorable, to say the least. Put another way, if you think you are too cool for everyone and make it known with your body language, by gossiping, and by complaining or with other unproductive and unprofessional behavior, people are going to be much less interested in what you have to offer and they’ll simply unsubscribe. If, however, you can remain personable and positive then clients and agencies alike will want to be on your team and be an integral part of your success.
Don’t Be A Flake
Models are notorious for being flighty. This has always baffled me. You are getting paid to do something many only dream of getting to do. Why would you not show up, not call, and not care? Whether this is your lifelong dream or you just model on the side for extra money, there is no excuse for not taking other peoples’ time seriously. Heck, even if you are doing a shoot for free, you owe it to the other people involved to follow through or at least give them as much time as possible to make other arrangements if you can’t make it or are no longer interested. Time is one of the only things we can never get back in life. Don’t make other people waste theirs waiting on you to show up and do what you said you would. Always follow through with legitimate modeling jobs in one way or another.
Don’t Be Messy
When showing up to a casting, shoot, fashion show, event, or any other modeling gig you should be prepared with your model bag and all of your essentials. Clear skin, well maintained hair and nails, and a groomed face are also very important. Unless you “woke up like this… flawless,” make sure to consistently stay on top of your personal hygiene.
Respond to bookings promptly and keep your calendar up to date and in order. I like to copy/paste my booking confirmation emails into my calendar entries and put the location where it’s needed so that I can quickly access all of the information on the day of a gig with two taps on my phone via the Google Calendar app. I always make sure to include at the top of my calendar entry the contact info of the onsite manager, photographer, booking manager, or whomever else I would need to call on the day of my job if I have any questions or issues.
Bonus tip: Put the dollar amount of what you will be earning that day in your calendar and set up a reminder a month out (or less or more, depending on your agency’s/client’s pay schedule) so that you can follow up and make sure you are getting paid on time for all of the work you’ve done.
Don’t Be a Pushover
Though I am signed with various agencies, I still have to stay on top of my pay as sometimes things slip through the cracks and my paycheck is overlooked. Mistakes happen and depending on the circumstances I might give a company another chance, but I don’t continue to work with companies that make it difficult for me to get paid.
A company once refused to pay me, claiming that I never showed up for a promotional modeling job even though I had photos and the store manager’s signature to prove it (and sent all of these items to the promotional company upon completion of the event, might I add). Over a month went by after they decided to simply ignore me until I finally had a representative of mine call them and insist they pay or legal action would be taken. Wouldn’t you know I promptly received a phone call from the president of the company apologizing for the mix up, saying that they were confusing my file with that of another model, and promising to pay me right away? There were so many things wrong with this situation but at the end of the day I got my paycheck and wrote them off forever. Who has time for that?
Don’t Be Foolish
The modeling industry is known for many things including the exploitation of young naive individuals who want to live the dream. One of my previous posts, Don’t Be Fooled, touched on a few of the things models should look out for so as not to get taken advantage of and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.
In general, you should always remember that though you may get lucky and end up signing with an agency (or a few) filled with people who care about your well being, this is a business. There are a lot of shady people out there just chomping at the bit to do horrible things to anyone they can. Don’t shell out money to people who promise they can make you a big time model. Don’t go to castings or jobs alone if they are in obscure locations. Don’t give out your personal information to strangers (someone once responded to my Craigslist post looking for models for this very blog and upon approving him he replied with his home address! I can’t… I just can’t…). Know that there are a lot of photographers, designers, and casting directors out there who are actual predators and will take advantage of young girls (and guys) at every opportunity. You have to look out for yourself… always.
Now that you’ve been briefed on some of the things you should definitely never do, it’s time for you to go and assassinate your next modeling job. Have fun!
Your portfolio is your visual resume; you should never leave home without it. Well, at least you should never go to a casting and not bring it with you. Typically when you walk into a casting call, after waiting your turn and making a brief introduction, a client will take a couple of minutes to look at your portfolio and make an immediate assessment of your skills. Your portfolio gives them an idea of what you look like in different settings, different make up, different hair, and different wardrobe. Your body of work tells more to your story than what can be said in person.
The opener of your portfolio should be your best headshot followed by the next best photos in the bunch. After you’ve gained a bit of experience, make sure to include a few more headshots that show different hair and make up looks, as well (for men, the make up part might not apply). For a model who is interested in getting various types of work, a minimum of a full body shot fully clothed, a fitness shot, and a swimsuit shot are good to include in your book. You might also want to include photos that are taken both indoors and outdoors, a few black and white photos, tear sheets, and runway shots if you have them.
Remember, a client wants to be able to envision you representing their brand. It is easier for them to do this if they have examples of you in settings that are similar to their vision. Of course, there is no way for you to cater to every potential client but having the shots mentioned above is a great start.
A general rule with modeling portfolios, regardless of what you include, is that it’s about quality not quantity. If you do a shoot with a great photographer and end up with ten awesome shots, don’t put all ten pictures in your portfolio unless they show you in different looks. An example of this would be if you got great swimsuit shots as well as great fitness shots from that photoshoot, only include one photo from each look. In fact, the fewer photos in your portfolio, overall, the better.
As you gain more experience, you’ll want to replace outdated and sub par photos with your more recent stellar snapshots. Really, you shouldn’t have any average photos in your book at all but as you grow, your work will get better and photos that once looked great to you will eventually seem inadequate.
While you’re still gaining experience it’s best to have a dozen or less pictures to show. Once you’ve collected enough great photos, 20 should be your ideal maximum number. You’ve only got a few minutes to impress the casting directors so make those few minutes count.
Do What You Want Only one photo per theme is necessary, to start. This does not apply if you want to focus on one type of modeling, however. If you want to be a swimwear model, for example, you should incorporate multiple swimsuit shots in different settings into your book. Just don’t include photos of any type of work you do not feel comfortable doing. If lingerie and nude work are not for you, not only should you not put those types of photos in your book but you probably shouldn’t even take those photos at all. Of course, that is all up to you but remember in this digital age, photos of you taken by someone else can end up virtually anywhere.
Keep It Simple
Don’t try too hard. Start with photos that show the real you. Don’t worry about extravagant hair and make up, in the beginning. Unless you stumble upon an opportunity in which you can have professionals take care of styling for you, or you happen to be an MUA, hair stylist, and/or wardrobe stylist yourself, wear what makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. Your confidence will show in your photos and that spark you have will speak to the camera.
Professional casting directors can instantly tell the difference between a seasoned model and an amateur, especially when it comes to photos. This is not to scare you but, rather, to encourage you to practice posing and seek guidance before spending any money on photoshoots. The last thing you want is a book full of contrived photos that make you appear to be more of an aspiring model than one a client should hire. Of course, if you are doing trade shoots, that is your chance to get real-time practice and hopefully your photographer(s) will be able to give you pointers while you are shooting.
Find Your Inspiration If you need ideas on what looks to shoot, check out a few of the top modeling agency websites (such as Ford, Wilhelmina, IMG, Next, Elite an so on) and browse their models’ portfolios. You may not have the resources to get shots that are as professional as those you see online and in print but they will be a good starting point in creating a great port of you own.
Get the Right Book Industry standards vary depending on your market but a safe bet is getting a portfolio that is 9×12 or 11×14. Tearsheets are typically printed on paper that is 8.5×11 so if you have these to include, your book should be a minimum of those dimensions but not exceed 11×14. I use a book that is 9×12 and it has worked for me both in the local market of San Diego as well as in the fast paced city of Los Angeles.
Whatever the size of your book, make sure your photos are placed neatly. If you don’t have access to a 9×12 printer try printing your photos on card stock at FedEx, trimming the edges with a paper cutter, then taping them in the center of black paper. You want your book to be orderly and professional.
A client wants to know that you can be more than just a pretty or handsome face. A designer wants to be sure that you can make his clothes look good from various angles. And a fashion show coordinator needs to see that you can give just the right amount of attitude at the end of the runway where photographers are waiting to catch you in the season’s hottest fashions. But because you are really only in front of a casting director for a few minutes, they need more than just the snapshot they’ll take of you right then and there to be confident in hiring you.
To better your chances of getting booked, make sure your portfolio contains only your best print work as well as shows your versatility. Of course, if you are only interested in doing fitness modeling then that should be your focus. But even a fitness model will get more work if he isn’t just a one trick pony.
Welcome to Think Like A Model Kid! This is a great place for parents to learn more about the modeling industry so that they can help their child(ren) have a fun and rewarding modeling career. Of course, you can still read all of the other posts but if you are only interested in the information directed towards child models ages 1-12, simply click on the “Kid” tab in the menu above.
So what does modeling mean to you? What are the reasons you think your child(ren) would be good at this profession? What type of commitment are you willing and able to make to help your child(ren) succeed? These are important questions. Many people see the glamour and fame and focus on that, not realizing that there is a lot that goes into being a model. The truth is, most children who model professionally never become famous. And while there is a lot of fun to be had, it is a business. In order to make any money they have to put in work.
Your child won’t be the only one putting in work, however. Of course, the child still has to deliver and be a professional but a lot of your time will be taken up just being present. Do you have a schedule that will allow for that? Do you have the patience that is needed to show up and wait quietly while your child captivates the camera? And, more importantly, are you aware of the dangers and are you prepared to guide and protect your child at no matter what?
Some kids are born to be in front of the camera while others just don’t have the right personality for all of the attention. Yet, sadly, there are a lot of parents out there who are willing to exploit their children for financial gain, no matter how damaging it is to their well-being. Before you expose your children to the world, you’ll really need to think seriously about how much of it would be for them and how much of it would be for you.
If your goal is for your child to take some pretty pictures you might want to consider getting a nice DSLR camera and becomming a hobby photographer. This way, your family gets something out of it but you still get to live your lives without the disruption of a packed schedule dedicated to the fashion industry. If you want your child to be the next Baylor Cryder or Lily Chee, however, now’s the time to get serious.
This business requires children to be a more mature than their peers and be great at following directions; people are paying big money for them to work their magic, after all.
If your child is extremely photogenic, plays well with others, and is overall very happy an behaves well then I encourage you to keep learning here at Think Like A Model. If you’re a parent who is seriously contemplating getting your child(ren) into the business then I urge you to bookmark this site. If you know someone else who might benefit from the information provided here or are simply curious about the industry, please keep coming back for more posts. Whatever your reason for reading this now, there is something on this blog that will enlighten you about the business.
So I welcome you and am so glad you stopped by. Until next time!
Back in 2010 I released my first calendar as a way to promote my brand. This was such a fun project! A friend from high school had recently begun doing photography so we did a trade so that we could both use the photos for our portfolios. Creating printed content for your followers, as a model, is a fun and great marketing tool and sometimes you can even make a decent amount of money.
Generate a Buzz The important thing to do beforehand, however, is to create a buzz . If you don’t already have a following, work on getting one before delving into such a big project. If you already do have a following, start talking about your plans and get people excited.
Social media is key for doing that so make sure you are constantly connecting with people online. Respond to comments, ask for suggestions on what people would like to see in your calendar, and post updates as you go.
Another fun thing to do is to have a contest. On my Facebook page I posted photos from the calendar after it was released and asked multiple choice trivia questions about me. The prize for the first person who answered correctly was a signed copy of my calendar. Get Permission If you’re considering putting together your own calendar, keep in mind that this will likely take months of planning, shooting, editing (if you are able to do that or get someone who can), and marketing.
You’ll need permission from the photographers who shot the photos, of course, and should have a written agreement so that s/he can make a percentage of the profits, if any, that are made.
If you are lucky enough to get a friend who knows her/his way around a camera to get on board and who is willing to do a trade, take advantage of this! It’ll be easier to work with someone you already know since this will be an ongoing project and you’ve already built a relationship with this person.
Ask Why Why would anyone want to buy my calendar? That is the question for which you need to find an answer. Think of why you might want to buy photos of someone you admire and go from there. I happen to be a singer/songwriter/model/dancer and my followers come from all walks of life. Some of the people who support me do so because they really like my body of modeling work. Others found out about me via my singing performances and recordings. No matter why they began paying attention, most of them really love seeing photos of me doing the various things I do.
Putting out the calendar appealed to both my music fans as well as those who were keeping an eye out for my modeling updates because it gave them a different side of me that they weren’t use to seeing. If you have passions outside of modeling and are really good at doing something that might benefit others, you might want to begin to create a following through that first or in conjunction with gaining a following through your modeling career. After that, cross-promote like crazy.
The key to business is to always have something to offer people. When peopole feel like you are interested in making their lives better they will be more willing to show their support. My main passion in life just happens to be singing. Music is a way for me to spread joy to people, thus helping improve their life.
Styling and Wardrobe and Location, Oh My! When you’re driving or are out and about, pay attention to your surroundings and make note of the different scenery in your area that might be great for your shoot locations. Do your research and find out if these locations require a permit for shooting. It is definitely no fun to prepare and show up to a location only to be asked to leave.
Do a Google search for specific modeling themes and save photos that you might want to recreate. Doing this definitely helped me plan and, while none of my photos ended up looking anything like the photos I saved, they were a great starting point.
For this calendar I did all of my own hair, make up, and wardrobe styling. I have to say that shopping for outfits and jewelry was a lot of fun and really allowed for me to get creative.
Start with the things you have first and try to keep your costs low. Check out local thrift stores and borrow items from friends. If you’re feeling really crafty, make your own clothes! I made this dress (above) the night before the shoot. The original look I had no longer inspired me so I got out some wrapping paper and a dress pattern and began cutting and taping. This was my favorite outfit in the calendar, by far!
Family Affair If your family supports what you are doing, get them on board. Ask them to tell everyone they know about it and to even help sell your calendars. Find out if they have access to locations that might be good for shooting or if they can call in favors from their friends to help you produce your calendar. Never be afraid to ask for something you want, you just might get it.
Print! At some point during my planning, I shopped around for local printing stores and figured out which would provide the best service at the most affordable price. I was able to get a great deal and the people were very nice and tech savvy. Aside from searching for local printers, I suggest you also look online to see what else is out there. You’ll want to go with a place that has good customer service, in either case, so that you can get any problems fixed in a timely manner. People are waiting to buy your calendar, after all!