Not to be a downer but modeling isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be, IRL. Ok so yes, it can be fun and exciting and rewarding… But let’s be honest, there are also many unpleasant truths to the business. If you are thinking of getting your modeling career started because it looks glamorous, consider these realities, first.
Sometimes a modeling job can be quick and painless. Other times? Well, pick a number of hours in the day and there have been plenty of models who have had to endure staying fresh faced for that exact amount of time or longer. A client will often have a set budget and book a model for a specific amount of time. It is also very common, however, for models to find themselves looking at the clock thinking, weren’t we suppose to wrap, already?
As with any artist, photographers, designers, and make up artists all have visions and sometimes they underestimate the amount of time needed to execute their masterpieces. And then there are times when things get in the way such as weather, technical difficulties, accidents, you name it! Depending on the agreement you made upon receiving your booking confirmation, you might be expected to stay longer than the previously established end time. If that isn’t the case you should be free to mention you were given a specific end time and have to leave, if that is the case (or contact your manager or booking agent to handle that for you). This can feel awkward if everyone else is willing to stay but you feel you need to put your foot down. On the other hand, you might want to stick it out and make some extra money, if that is a possibility. But if you decide to put in extra work don’t expect for people to necessarily treat you with any more respect than before simply because they are grateful for your time and effort. You will still be expected to do a stellar job, even though you might be tired, hungry, and exhausted.
You will meet other models who are catty. You may run across make up artists and hair stylists who have horrible social skills and make you feel uncomfortable. You might end up working for a client who is just the worst person you ever met in your life. Granted, you never have to put up with being mistreated but short of that you could end up working for people who won’t want to waste time being polite, like Kelly Cutrone. Although hopefully if you get to work for her you will realize how lucky you are – she kind of knows what she’s doing.
If you are a sensitive person, you’re going to have to get over that quickly. It isn’t about you, it’s about the clothes, the photos, the shows, the events… Your job is to be professional and work it. People aren’t going to hold your hand and constantly tell you you look amazing. Sometimes you will be told things you don’t want to hear and sometimes those things won’t be constructive at all. Sometimes people will be just plain mean. Sometimes you will be treated like an inatimate object or a work horse. And you might even be told you are fat and need to lose weight. Don’t expect for things to be sugar-coated. There are plenty of divas in the industry and if you are going to make this your profession get ready to meet a lot of them.
As a woman you will likely be expected to stay thin, exude sexiness, and always be happy and upbeat (as is life, though. Am I right, ladies?! Can I get a witness?!). As a man you will typically be presented with the burden of having to maintain a masculine and muscular yet lean physique. Oh yeah, that’s if the booking managers are even looking for men for their show, shoot, or event. Yes, it’s a female dominated industry and that doesn’t seem to be changing too drastically.
Depending on the type of modeling you are interested in doing, be prepared to have to deal with expectations of what people think you should be, based on your gender and look. If you are female you might very well be asked (or urged) to pose nude. Sex sells, they’ll say. Photographers may try and convince you that you won’t have a successful career if you don’t bare it all. Whether or not you subscribe to that notion is completely up to you and there are plenty of models who make it without completely exposing themselves. But don’t think you aren’t going to have to deal with the pressure one way or the other because you will if you plan on making this your career.
One of my recent posts, Being A Model of Color, greatly touches on this awful side of the industry and it is very real. If you re not Caucasian and plan to model in the United States, Europe, or in the high fashion world in general be ready to get turned away simply because of your skin tone. Prepare yourself for wondering why you end up often being the only, or one of the few, dark-skinned people at a casting (depending on where you live). Also be aware that you might come across companies mentioning they only need a certain number of fill-in-your-race-here models. It is, sadly, the way of the industry. If you decide to become a professional model, don’t become jaded by this just try your best to be your best and give them a reason to forget about their ridiculous prejudices.
The modeling industry is a business and people will do crazy things for money. These things include putting other people in harms way to make a dollar. The type of situations models are often placed in, especially young models, can be very detrimental to their emotional and physical well-being. If you are the type of person who doesn’t like to make a fuss and goes along with whatever you’re told, this is not a good industry for you. If you don’t know who you are and are easily persuaded, my advice would be to wait a few years until you’ve had some life experience before you delve into the modeling world. If you think that a photographer who says, “You’ll have to pose nude but we’ll cover up your parts in Photoshop and won’t post any photos of you naked,” is telling you the truth, please do yourself a favor and go into another profession, for now, or finish school. People will treat you however you let them. If something sounds fishy or too good to be true, run!
There is a horrible side of the modeling industry that people don’t like to talk about but is something that happens every day all over the world (even in America!); human trafficking. Women get lured into sketchy situations with the promise of payment for modeling, for example, and then get abducted and sold off as sex slaves. Trust your instincts. If you run across a “modeling job” that requires you to ride in a car with people you don’t know be wary. Don’t go into hotel rooms by yourself with a photographer. Don’t go to casting calls that are being held at someone’s house. Don’t assume that because there is a woman on the other end of the phone call that a modeling gig is legitimate. There are plenty of bad people, both male and female, who won’t even bat an eyelash while setting you up to be harmed.
I once drove to a “casting” for a photographer who was looking for models and upon arriving I realized it was in a residential neighborhood. While parked outside of the complex I immediately called and said I did not know the casting was at a house, that I did not feel comfortable with that, and that I would not be going inside. During my drive home I received a voicemail from the lady with whom I spoke insisting that everything was fine and I should come inside anyway… That was after she called me a couple of times and I didn’t answer.
Did any of you get goosebumps reading that? I know I was certainly creeped out, to say the least.
You might wonder why I still do it if there are so many negatives. Every job on earth has negatives. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to navigate your way through it and finding out what works for you. Hopefully the tips in this post will better prepare you for moving forward, should you choose to accept this mission. On the other hand, if you aren’t so sure about it after all, no problem! There are so many different and awesome things to do in this world, just take your pick!
Photo Credit: Lola O Photography