How to Become a Fashion Model

How to start your career as a fashion model…(REVISITED!)

There are several things to consider when you begin modeling. Every young girl grows up thinking she wants to be a model (well, not ALL). The fashion industry is put upon a pedestal by many and it is one TOUGH industry to break. Modeling is extremely rewarding if you are passionate, but you won’t get anywhere unless you ARE passionate and give your all (*see disclaimer below).

Girls start in the fashion industry very young, which is a very popular topic for discussion these days. Many models I know and know of, however, are very smart and not only make sure to finish high school, but they go above and beyond and attend college. I myself have completed my Associates degree. I recommend a lot of thought to be put into the decision of pursuing a start in modeling.

So. How passionate are you?

Research
First, you have to do your research on local modeling agencies (or the agencies in the area you wish to be) and decide out which one would represent you best and which one would want to represent you. There are three main agencies in the Seattle area: Seattle Model Guild (SMG), TCM Models, and Heffner Management.

If you want to know more about a particular agency, many well-known and established agencies are listed on Models.com, which also lists the top ten agencies.

Most local modeling agencies put the basics you need to know on how to get started on their website. This can include what kind of looks they want to represent, requirements in regards to age and size, what Polaroid shots to submit to them, and when to come to the agency for open calls. It’s different for each agency. Some of the top agencies don’t even have information on open calls or submissions. To them, time is money.


It never hurts to submit your beautiful face to all the reputable agencies in the area, even if there are a few you don’t like that much. This increases your chances of being signed with an agency. Sometimes one will work better than the other.

How do you know that the modeling agency you’re submitting to is reputable? I’m sure you have heard that agencies that charge you upfront are “scams.” I don’t believe in modeling schools (because that’s what that is), but they can be for some people if you feel like, ya know, spending money and not being serious about this as a career. Just understand that it is a school and they are going to tell you everything to make you believe you will “make it.” They tell everyone this.

The most direct way to “make it” and begin your career, is to find a modeling agency that will take a commission (typically 20%) from your paychecks. This type of (legit) agency will send you to casting calls to meet with their clients in order to book a job. Their earnings come from getting YOU work.

Submissions
Get a list of the local agencies you are going to submit to and read their website and guidelines. Many of the agencies will have you submit photos online or through mail. Others will ask you to come in directly for an open call to meet with them in person. Ultimately, before they will sign you, they will want to meet you in person anyways.

You will almost always be asked to have snapshots: head shot, profile head shot, one smiling, and some full body/shoulder shots.

Have your mom or friend to take some snapshots. They do not have to be professional. Wear a form fitting top and skinny jeans. Pull your hair up for some shots. Then get some shots in a bikini so they can see your body type.

If they reply and ask you to come in, do it! It means they’re at least mildly interested to see your look in person. They don’t reply to people they’re not interested in. If you don’t get any replies and you strongly believe they’re making a mistake, stay persistent. Go in to the open calls. Take new snapshots and send them in often. Keep in touch with them. If they flat out say “NO,” then you should back off.

Remember, these agencies are going to be harshly honest with you. Before I got signed, I had been told I had too much baby fat in my cheeks and to come back in 6 months. That’s exactly what I did. Don’t take anything they say about you and your body personally. This is their business. If they don’t think you’ll make them money, they’re not afraid to say so. It doesn’t mean you’re “ugly,” “too chubby,” “not defined enough,” or “too short,” because you are you! And that’s beautiful.

Know your boundaries if they ask you to lose weight. Typically, measurements are what matter and a model’s waist should range from 23-25 inches (not taking plus size into consideration, as I am not familiar with that aspect).

Open Calls
What should you expect at an agency model open call? Expect a lot of young girls and no place to sit, unless you are early. Everyone is going to be nervous, but don’t be! Some agencies are less personal and more efficient, but I know many local agencies have some really nice people. I know that SMG has a very friendly new-faces director.

Ok, confession time! When I think back to my first open call with SMG, I am embarrassed for my 15-year-old-self. I showed up wearing a cheap interview outfit: too-short slacks and a tacky green blouse. I looked bad!

Please, this is not an interview and it is not high school. Don’t show up dressed like it is one. Wear something pretty and pulled together, impress them with your taste in clothing. Look like a model. Skinny jeans, leggings, form fitting tops or dresses, and nice, sturdy heels. This is going to be your first impression. Look like you just walked out of Nordstrom if you want to be taken seriously. Clearly though, if they like her, they’ll still sign the ill-dressed girl. Clay for them to mold.

For makeup, if you normally wear makeup, wear less! If you never wear makeup, use some. Agencies want to see YOU, not your eyeliner, so leave it at home. Give yourself a fresh face to enhance your beauty, not mask over it. Light foundation, blush, mascara, and some gloss should do it.

If they want to sign you, they’ll let you know. Maybe they’ll have you walk for them and take your snapshot and not all the other girls. They should explain your contract and give you more information.

If you’re the right height for runway, they’ll ask you to practice your catwalk. After an agency decides to represent you, there are some things that need to happen next.

Testing
Most importantly, you’ll now need some professional photos. I highly suggest taking a look at my blog posts on how to start a modeling portfolio. I have specific advice regarding test shoots there.

Your agency will ask you to shoot with a photographer from their approved list. This shoot for your portfolio is called a test. While the agency doesn’t charge you any up front fees or tuition, a few expenses should be expected. This includes buying comp cards, a physical portfolio and prints, and hiring a photographer.

A good testing photographer will average anywhere between $300 and $600. Other photographers are reputable enough to charge more. The ones on the agency list should be reasonable.

When you choose who to hire, make sure you like them. Look at their work and website. Email them to set up the shoot (or maybe your agency will handle this). Call to get acquainted so you know you’ll be comfortable for your first shoot. The photographer for your first test should be able to direct you into poses and will help to make you look your best. The most important thing is to remember to relax!

The photographer should be able to provide hair and makeup. Make sure you ask about it. Usually your expected to provide wardrobe. Hire a wardrobe stylist if you’re not comfortable with this. Or, most efficient, shop and return. Oh did I say that out loud? (shhhh!)

The photographer and/or agency should tell you what kind of clothes to bring for the test shoot. Simple works best to show off yourself. Make sure you have high heels, clean hair, and nice nails! Very important details.

Also, there are some modeling essentials you should bring to every shoot. These items will make up your “model bag” and change and fluctuate depending on the shoot/gig taking place. I have provided links to products I have some of and recommend.

  1. seamless nude thong;
  2. black, and white undergarments;
  3. strapless nude bra;
  4. nude/clear nail polish;
  5. black, white, nude, and other colored heels;
  6. tights;
  7. leggings;
  8. form fitting and loose tank tops;
  9. and ripped/not ripped skinny jeans and shorts.

It is also always a good idea to bring water to shoots, your comp cards and book (portfolio), hair product, mascara, gloss, and lip balm. The list may differ with everyone.

Practice posing before your shoot. A good model always looks in the mirror and learns we every angle, how light plays with the shape of her face, with time. Look at ad campaigns, magazines, and websites for ideas for inspiration. I still do this! You can never stop improving.

Casting Calls
Today is the day. You nonchalantly check your email and, WOAH! Your first casting call email from your agency! You have to show it to all your friends. You’re going to book a job for Nordstrom and be $1,000 richer!

Okay, okay, wait, what? Hold up. Your first casting. Great. Not to be pessimistic, but don’t get your hopes up too much. This company will be seeing 100 other girls, if not more. On average, you might expect to book one job per 7-10 casting calls.

How are you ever going to book a job with all these other girls competing? Well, stand out, of course! Bring personality, bring energy, bring you!

If you don’t book this one, don’t beat yourself up. There was just another face that fit their criteria better. Keep trying, you’ve already got this far.

Extra
If you don’t think an agency is for you, you can’t get signed, or you just want to do some additional networking with other talent, check out Model Mayhem (MM). It is free to join and it’s the ultimate social media networking tool for the fashion industry.

Make sure joining is okay with your agency. Some don’t want you on there doing your own networking (which I disagree with, as I encourage you to have one, unless they are finding you a substantial amount of paid work). You have to be careful with who you work and meet with. Some people on there are pretty fishy, and flaky, oftentimes with ulterior motives. I have been careful, so I’ve never ran into any problems. I make it a rule to have a third person, even if its just a makeup artist, when meeting the first time.

Feel free to add me as a friend on Model Mayhem if you decide to join.

Most of all, stay strong, and stay yourself!

Good luck!

Be Fierce!

Briauna Mariah (:

*Disclaimer: I have found the fashion industry to be all consuming and addictive. You are at extreme risk of falling in love! There’s no going back. No, really.

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