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Modeling agencies employ hundreds of "workhorse" models and a handful of supermodels. The masses of the former group go on the thousands of interviews set up by their agencies in the hope of being the right stuff. You must sell yourself as the best model for the money and image to be made. The agency merely makes the contact and you are the sale clincher. Here is where personality and character count. It has become fashionable to depict a sullen, bored, or even a cynical expression in fashion shoots, but the attitude I am discussing here is one of professionalism only.

If you don't appear hungry for the work and thus available for every go-see, your agency will simply not try to get work for you. If you are easily discouraged by rejection, this is not a potential career. An optimistic attitude is paramount, and even if you've struck out for the last dozen go-sees, you'll have to appear fresh and ready to go every time you're interviewed by a client,

Desire to reach a certain goal is the only driver that you will have. The agent is merely there to bridge the gap between you and the patron at a set price to you. How fast you reach your destination in modeling is in your hands only.

Keep your eye on your goal. If you are rejected on a go-see, don't take it personally. If you never made the effort to get there, that's a different story. Your agency will keep trying for your probationary period just as long as you do. Even the most gorgeous person alive doesn't become a model instantly. Hard work derived from your innermost desire to be a model is the only way to make it.

A professional attitude toward yourself and your work is the next criterion. There are few other professions where you are so completely representing the marketable product (in this case you) in total. The client, your agency, the photographers, and even the stylists will be looking and remembering. You need to be remembered for that next job and future jobs. It is of paramount importance that you are remembered for being a pleasure to work with in every way. This means being physically appealing, neat, immaculately clean, clean shaven (women and men), and having impeccable hair and nails. Many jobs are lost by models, which are simply careless about personal care. When a model is not absolutely fastidious about cleanliness, an employer or client probably will not call that person for a job ever again.

Clean and neat clothing from undergarments outward are a real boon. One male model states that (early in his career) he was made very aware that agents as well as clients were scrutinizing his garments as part of his total appearance. The call-backs that he has received have proven him to be right. Even if you don't have an extensive wardrobe, be certain that you appear in fresh-looking garments that are of as good quality as you can possibly afford.

With all the current advertising emphasis on designers' names, you will want to own clothing that is recognizable as chic to those whom you are trying to impress. It's not a must that you have any identifying labels. But you must demonstrate your fashion awareness by a generally "in" look or costume. Observe other models' get-ups as they dress for go-sees. There is such a wide variance in self-sell modes that once you are a little surer of your placement in the modeling agency, you are a bit freer to set differing looks for different jobs. Models-known and not so well established- can be seen on their way to jobs in New York City in everything from really ratty jeans to exquisite suits with a full complement of accessories. Both ends of the fashion spectrum are worn by models. The correct timing is the all-important key to when it's right to wear what.

What is really unique to New York City is the personal mix of what amounts to fashion. Mink and blue jeans, evening gowns and vintage wraps, casual and formal wear in one costume are all part of the current fashion scene, so you are pretty much able to "do it yourself," as long as the final creation is within a certain arena. That arena changes rapidly, and the really avant garde always have the most fun with clothing. In fashion you can't be a follower, but if you get too far ahead of the pack, you're just that. Keep a keen eye on the current fashion trends, and try to dress as you will be expected to as a representative of a specific client of the fashion world.


First on the list is youth! Many high fashion models as young as thirteen years of age are involved in career modeling. Their annual incomes rank among the highest salaries paid to any workers, including corporate executives, doctors, and attorneys. These very young girls are the beauties whose figures and faces are seen daily in publications and on television. All of them are between the ages of perhaps eleven to twenty-three. The really great high fashion model can stretch her career into her middle to late twenties, if she is very lucky. That is truly an unusual phenomenon, though, so the earlier you start, the better your chances are at making a career in this field.

The second qualification is that your height must be somewhere between five feet ten inches and six feet four. A really stunning beauty at five feet eight and a half inches could get by. The idea here is proportionate height with very slender limbs. So, if you are extremely fine boned though shorter, you might still have a chance at high fashion work.

Weight is critical. You cannot weigh more than 115 pounds, and that would be on the tallest frame. Most of the models weigh around 110 to 115. Your weight has to stay consistent. This is accomplished by sticking to a highly restricted diet and by exercising.

The weight must be distributed proportionately over your frame. You must not have any bulges or even any visible bumps. Long and slender is the guide. Arms, legs, torso, and neck should be as lean as the proverbial race horse. The bust is usually not larger than a B cup, but you could look into lingerie work if you are larger. Long, lanky, and nicely shaped legs are critical. Much of fashion depends on the height of the model and how the garment looks on the over-tall frame. The desired spot to carry the extra height is in the leg, not the torso or neck.

Another important characteristic is that you must have a very photogenic face. This usually means straight features that are rather small. If you want to do runway work exclusively, you need not worry about being photogenic, but most models in the high fashion category combine all the areas possible to round out their careers, as well as their incomes. If you have some snapshots that look pretty bad, don't assume that you do not photograph well. It may be that all you need is a good professional photographer who will take the time to work with you. Few models photograph the way they really look. The camera can lie, and it's not a sure bet in which way! Sometimes an incredible beauty looks almost ugly and vice versa.

Your face can make a tremendous difference not only in your potential income but in your total life as a model. The right combination of attractive eyes, alignment of nose, and alluring mouth could be the difference between an average model and a million dollar one.

Look in the mirror and honestly assess what you see. Makeup does help tremendously, but the bottom line basics are the aforementioned, plus no visible marks. If you have any scars, beauty marks, heavy freckles, or real variance in structure, they could count against you. Some freckles are considered to be very much in vogue, particularly in cases where the model is endowed with gorgeous red hair and golden or blue to green eyes.

Trying to change your physical attributes through plastic surgery is possible but advisable only if you are genuinely unhappy with part of your face-perhaps a small scar or mark. Modeling can be extremely fickle. What is "in" today could be as unpopular next month as the flu. Many times a model has been advised to have rhino-plasty only to have a worse nose afterward or to discover that the original is now what is in style. Noses with bumps in the bridge, bushy eyebrows, slightly crooked smiles, irregular jaw lines, and ill-matched eyes are just a few of the trendy flaws that come and go in fashion work. Don't outguess the agents; what you consider an imperfection, they may be able to turn into a desirable characteristic.

Hair, teeth, and skin must be healthy, attractive, and vibrant. An all-around complement of appealing good looks is critical.

Some high fashion designers seek out a certain "look" for their collections, a look that is instantly recognizable for their particular lines or collections. If you look at the fashion spreads, you will be able to see at a glance what style is developed by each designer. Some are enchanted with the classic beauty, with fair hair and skin, light eyes, small tipped-up nose, and a generally English countryside appearance. Other designers prefer sultry brunettes to carry off the look of their collections. It is the complete impression of the coloring and facial expression of the high fashion model that is sought after for much live and photographic work.

Different modeling agencies actually specialize in these various looks, and the largest agencies are able to supply everything from cute to sultry-looking models, depending on the client's needs. Some newer models try to develop a single look that they will be known for. Others are as wide-ranging in their look as a chameleon; you would really not believe that it could be the same person from page to page in a layout. Clever makeup, hair styles, and clothing can and do create totally different presentations to the public's eye.

The different looks that you will be required to create are affected by not only the costume, makeup, and scenery, but by a mood you communicate through facial and body expressions. The cleverest models are good at mime; they can represent an action, character, mood, or feeling by imitation. Some articles of clothing lend themselves to a certain feeling on the part of the model. Imagination is critical, as there are often situations in which you are handed an item and are expected to wing it.

Movement is an asset for the would-be model, as there isn't an easy way to learn the actions needed by the fashion world without a little innate grace and skillful emulation. Opinions differ as to the easiest way to acquire the necessary agility. Rhythm does not come easily to everyone, so the earlier that you become engaged in some kind of dance, sports, or music, the easier the art of moving well and with confidence will develop. If you have poise and self-assurance, moving like a high fashion model will be simple enough to learn. But if you have to start from the very beginning even to have ease of movement, you could be in trouble. Even as a young adult, poor carriage and stilted motions are a giveaway that you are really ill at ease, and this is a profession in which your basic job is to convey absolute self-confidence.

To have the winning combination of desire, great looks, height, slenderness, poise, facial beauty, proportionate figure, and youth is to be in possession of the right physical characteristics for a high fashion model. There are, of course, emotional and professional characteristics required as well. These are discussed elsewhere in this book.


Physical good health is paramount for modeling. The stress can be intense, the hours brutal, the positions difficult, the travel wearing, and the weather trying for outdoor work. If you don't feel in top-notch shape, you're simply not going to last as long as you're required to, and exhaustion will cost everyone from your agency to the client.

Discipline is rigid for every model, children included. You must keep a consistent weight, build, and all-around "look." Your diet and exercise regimen must be strictly followed, and eight hours of sleep is critical for you to look and perform well.

Patience is a virtue you will need every time you have an interview, a go-see, or a session. Sometimes there are delays and hitches that make you want to scream. Keep calm. Hysterics will make you an instantly unpopular model, and the others who can hold up under pressure will be the ones asked for return engagements. There is nothing worse than helping to make a bad situation a disaster, so try to remain cool while others lose their tempers. You'll be remembered and rewarded.

Enthusiasm makes the really great models. Sprightly young models are the mainstay of the business. They promote everything from foods to bobby pins with an effervescent quality that often appears to be genuine. It has been said by agents that the person with the greatest charm, sparkle, and passion can compete successfully with the greater natural beauty who lacks fire.

You must be able to take rejection as a daily diet without getting depressed. Every time you are sent on a go-see, the chances are that you only "may" get that job. Many people compete for each job. You must keep a permanently optimistic view toward your career and yourself. This is the hardest part for many models, because rejection does make you feel discouraged. You have to keep trying and trying and trying. That seventh or eighth go-see just may be the plum that you've prayed for.

You need an endless ability to take criticism and work with it. You may be asked or even rudely told to do some-thing like hold a very difficult pose. For all of your serious endeavors, it may not work. After agonizing for some time, the tempers begin to flare. You, as the model, are the target, and you simply have to keep trying to get it right. Criticizing is the only way the photographer is able to elicit the best shots, and if you're not an instantaneous "natural" (and about one in a million is "at home" in front of camera, photographer, and stylists all demanding at once), then you have to give a thousand percent every time you are asked to do a job. The cooperation of everyone is really visible in the final product.

You will be well-advised to have a sense of humor. Things can and do go wrong. A sense of humor can relieve the tension so that progress can be resumed.

You must keep yourself organized. This means being fully prepared for every job promptly, enthusiastically, and professionally. You can never be late to a go-see or an actual job! That is an unforgivable transgression. It keeps an entire group of people (who are getting paid) waiting, and you may never see another job through your agency again. Everyone has a schedule to meet, and your major responsibility is to get there on time! Excuses are unacceptable in this trade. If you are genuinely ill or there is a real crisis, you are expected to call your agency at the earliest moment so that the fewest people will be inconvenienced by the change in schedule.

You will be expected to be congenial and yet not socialize. Everyone there is ready to work, and it is very difficult for some to realize that this is an atmosphere of serious and hard endeavor. You must not get carried away with the idea of being a star, but realize that this is primarily work and that if you let yourself slip into an unhealthy frame of mind, it could have some serious repercussions. One very successful, internationally known model says that it is quite common for new men and women to blow their whole potential career with their attitudes of superiority and subsequent lack of professionalism. They get caught up in the myth that models are glamorous and terrific, and they forget how replaceable they are. Many other models are waiting in the wings.

You must realize at this juncture that you will not be able to have a full social life. When all of your friends are ready to start the night's activities, you will be bowing out for an early night's sleep. When you are expected to look sensational at six in the morning, that means showing up looking rested and fresh, not haggard and with bags under your eyes. The only models who can get by with a normal social calendar are the television subjects for cold remedy and sleeping tablet commercials. Modeling is a difficult and highly disciplined way of life. Before choosing it, you should weigh the sacrifices against the rewards.


Male modeling has come into its own and can now be considered a true career area for men. A few years ago, the major work for the male model was work as a backup to the high fashion model or catalog work. The field has expanded so much that most modeling agencies have opened sections for the men only. The criterion used to be the size 40 regular suit. Now there is a little variation, though not too much in either direction. The main thing that the agencies are looking for in the male model is a really appealing face and slender body. The current look is from clean-cut collegiate, to swarthy unshaven ruggedness.

The photogenic requirement is critical here, as that is the basic bread-and-butter area for men. Runway modeling is a new field for men, and though you might not need to be photogenic for that specific job, most runway work using male models is being videotaped. There is so little work for the male model that does not involve photography that he should not seriously consider a career in the field unless the camera is kind to him.

Agencies are looking for men between six feet and six feet two inches tall who lend themselves to the "look" that the agencies represent. A pseudo-rugged look is currently in vogue.

If you have the basic criteria, send a few snapshots to a local agency or even the largest agencies. If they think you have the potential, they'll advise you. Then if you are in the area, you'll want to set up an interview to confirm that you have what the agent needs. The agency will then set about helping you to acquire really good photographs (testing), so that your pictures will fit the requirements. They will guide you and turn you into a polished model with the look that will be beneficial to both them and you.

The more unique facial features are most in demand. Look through men's fashion magazines and keep an eye on newspaper photographs of the current popular male models to get an idea of the needed features, haircuts, bone structures, and coloring.

Pretty teeth, sparkling or sensual eyes, and a fairly straight nose are required. Smaller features are the most fashionable looking. That lovely combination of perfect proportion in facial features and slender, tall body are the winning criteria for the male model.

Black and exotic male models are needed in all of the various areas of modeling. The ages of male models are more widespread than those of the females. A man in the field could last from his teens through his forties, as long as he maintains his good looks and his slender frame.

Catalogs have been known to show a male model over a span of twenty years! One male model who is still working and is in his fifties looks as if he is in his mid-thirties. His self-discipline has been extraordinarily consistent, and it has paid off. He has been a professional male model for over thirty years and has made a very nice living with his chosen career.


Children are used in modeling for catalogs, television, and print ads. Child models are required to be very well behaved and cooperative. Although you cannot expect adult behavior, absolute compliance is critical since they are working and are being paid for such. Child models must be unique, charming, appealing, cute, or pretty. They must be a perfect size. They must be photogenic, and they must want to work. It's not enough that they have all of the potential, unless they themselves desire to model.

The pay scale is enough to make any parent consider the prospects, but the child is the one who will be doing the sitting, so make sure that he or she really wants to work. If you have a child who you think might make a good model, send snapshots to an agency in your area, and they will get back to you if they are interested. Be sure to include a letter telling the child's statistics: clothing and shoe sizes, age, hair and eye coloring (if shots are black-and-white), height, and weight.

A Word of Caution to Parents

If you are considering a modeling career for your child, be sure to write to your local labor department for any work permits required by your particular state. There are several other permits required by various groups to protect the child, and your agency will advise you of these.

If you or your child is considering a television commercial as a source of income, check with the various unions such as SAG (Screen Actors' Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). You are only permitted to do your first commercial without membership in these unions.


Anyone could be a television model. That covers the entire gamut of physical characteristics from babies to grandmothers. The most often-used models are young, pretty women who promote products. Aside from the high fashion model, whose criteria we discussed earlier, these women could be anywhere from petite to Amazon in structure, and the men could have any look from the innocent little boy to the grumpy insomniac. The variations are endless. There are two distinct parts of television modeling. You must be extroverted, determined, and self-assured to do the modeling, but you must also be capable of speaking for the medium if you're going to be doing the talking as well. You'll want to take lessons if you can't make the second half of the criteria, as the models who talk are the ones who get paid doubly. There is no such thing as being a wrong type for TV work; it's merely a matter of waiting until the demand for your look comes along. There are people who are very talented and appear time and again in commercials. They develop different characters for every advertisement. These models are often professional actors who have the advantage of not only having a look but also a particular chameleon ability. If you are seriously considering TV work, try to do a little acting, and then contact a local agency to see what kind of head shot they require; include it with your resume at your interview.
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