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Modeling schools were first established in the thirties and forties when professional modeling began to rise with product-association sales. John Robert Powers saw the need to educate the totally naive girl on how to present herself to the client as a desirable image to be copied by women and as a status symbol to a man. Hundreds of modeling agencies have since jumped on the bandwagon. In the smaller cities, you can find many a school-agency that introduces the totally green model to the basics of the business as well as gives the first work as the agent.

Modeling schools do not offer the promise of any success. Their job is merely to show a little of the inner workings of the profession. As far as becoming a model with or without a future, it is merely a chance endeavor on your part. It would be unfair to assume that the modeling school can make you into a model any more than any school can produce a graduate with a guarantee of success. Carefully investigate the benefits of the modeling school before you enroll. It could be a complete waste of money and time if the agency of your choice wants to provide its own instruction, leads, and guidance.

Depending on your actual limitations as far as modeling jobs, you may find it very beneficial to take a modeling school course that is given in conjunction with local contacts and known work.

Familiarity with how you appear on film and video can give you insight into your potential future in the varied areas of modeling. Mock-ups of actual "shows" will prepare you for work with commentators, as timing is an essential in this work. Every modeling situation will be different, but the more aware you are of what may occur, the more confident you may feel.

There are modeling schools in every major city where you could inquire about the courses given, the time allotted, and the cost. Some of the schools are strictly charm instruction and will simply give the student a little polish. In really rural areas, exposure to self-improvement courses is valuable simply as an introduction to basic fashion.

In very small towns, modeling work is generally limited to department store shows and social events where models might provide the entertainment for a ladies group. The school may work as a small agency and may or may not collect a fee to arrange these modeling shows. But the model is usually compensated in some way and at the very least is gaining experience and exposure to the public.

The reason for attending any school is to learn to do something that you did not know how to do beforehand. There are many hundreds of people who have all the raw qualities mentioned in Chapter 2. For people who already have great self-assurance and all the needed physical attributes, attending modeling school would be superfluous.

A modeling agency that wants to put you under contract though you are completely inexperienced will undertake your training or see to any needed instruction. Many agencies see to your development in a European arena because those photographers are better known for taking the time to work with a very young and inexperienced model.

With European training, it is easier to land the higher paying jobs in the United States. Some models become enamored with not only the modeling work in Europe, but with the lifestyle there. For many, what started as an education in a new field turned into a career in itself. Modeling in France, Germany, and Italy has been the highlight for many young models whose careers started there. (See Chapter 5 under "Modeling in Other Countries")

The modeling school is an avenue by which you can glean a little polish, savvy, and a rough idea of the many areas of the work itself. The schools will not let you observe a class in session (as a rule). Therefore you will have to weigh your own abilities and decide whether you think that you would benefit from this type of school. If you know of someone who has attended a particular school and that person is willing to tell you about it that might be very helpful.

Fees are commensurate with the area where the school is located, the curriculum, the actual facilities of the school, and the length of the courses taught. There is no guarantee that you will emerge as a model or even that you will get a single job as one.

What might an established modeling school really do for you, and what does it cost?

A school in a rural area gives modeling instruction, charm classes, pageant preparatory courses, and general self-improvement instruction.

The modeling course should include:
  • posture, carriage, and walk

  • diet, exercise, and figure control

  • nail care

  • skin care

  • hair care and styling

  • wardrobe coordination and fashion

  • etiquette and social graces
Classes should familiarize the young person with all the terminology and some of the equipment needed for the modeling trade.

In the New York City area, the tuition for between forty-five and sixty hours of instruction would be about $1,200 to $1,600. Techniques for the various areas of work are stressed. In a very rural area, it is often through this one channel that the completely naive youngster gets started. One of the biggest models today was introduced to her profession through a modeling/charm school in the rural Northeast. She was spotted by a teacher there who recognized her potential. She went through their program, armed with a small amount of self-assurance, and was then on to the big city. She was a supermodel in about a year's time.

So even if the outlay of the tuition is a bit of a gamble as far as your guaranteed return (no one can assure you of even one modeling job from your schooling), it can also be the leg up that will get you into the real arena. If you are totally unprepared for the eventuality of the work even in front of the camera, you just may miss out completely. There are no hard and fast rules on how to come from the rural or smaller areas and make a smooth transition into a trade that so obviously demands a real sense of sophistication and flair. Most natural beauties who are country lasses have a freshness that is very highly sought by the modeling agencies in all sectors of the modeling world, and they are usually happy to put the polish on the naive young lady themselves.

The experience for a prospective model is extremely limited in such areas, but original exposure for most models did not originate in New York City or Los Angeles. It is not too difficult to contact neighboring areas and send a letter requesting an interview at one or two of their agencies. Modeling usually pays a high enough wage to make it worth your while to travel a bit for that necessary exposure. You have to be seen to be in demand, and in modeling you have to make every effort to be noticed in the best way possible.

In larger cities, like Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Boston, modeling schools are more visible. Some of these schools have associated agencies that help students find work.

If there are more modeling jobs available through these particular school-associated agencies, you may seriously want to look into the school itself, even though you may not think that you really need the courses. In many middle-sized cities, modeling school classes are more comprehensive, simply due to the demand for more sophisticated modeling work. Thus the tuition is higher. Though it would be impossible to give an exact dollar value from city to city, the average seems to be around $1,200 for the basics.

A modeling school in New York City should be looked into as carefully as any other institution of learning. Merely the fact that it bears a New York City address does not guarantee that it is good. The sessions offered in most New York modeling schools cost between $1,300 and about $1,500 for the shortest curriculum in all-round modeling. The classes may be spread over as many as nine months or be as concentrated as one month. They are for both men and women and should include the basic knowledge needed to start with any agency. Help is given on how to handle your interviews at agencies, what pictures might be needed, and how to compile a resume.

If you are planning to go to New York City or Los Angeles, remember that your board and room can be astronomically expensive. You should make concrete inquiries and confirm reservations before your arrival.

If you are at all fearful of the legitimacy of a school or agency, inquire about it at the Better Business Bureau, an organization that can provide information on the business history and reputation of the school or agency in question.


Only a handful of people can simply step in front of a camera, not feel dreadfully inhibited, and get on with it. Just look through your family album to see those fishy stares while facing that terror-a camera.

An agent once said that after several months, models start to relax enough to be able to present themselves. There is something just dreadfully inhibiting about finding yourself a few feet away from that critical little eye of the camera's lens.

Most photographers try to elicit the right reactions from you with music, subtleties in voice, directions, and atmosphere. Some of the most interesting shoots are taken "on location"-where the product or the fashions would most likely be used. Usually, you get to film outside. It's not everybody's idea of fun-the wind, rain, heat, or freezing cold can put a damper on things.

The idea of feeling inhibited must be overcome before you will be able to do your best work in front of the camera. Many agencies in New York City that hire you will see to your development.  That often means an internship in Europe with many photographers. These photographers will teach you how to move, how to "freeze," and how to develop your own special attitude and "look" for the camera. They are known for being very patient and will work with you until they can get the correct look on film. The pictures are often quite beautiful and become part of the models' portfolios when they return here to continue their careers.

Another way to acquire photographs is to ask other models who did theirs. You can then call the photographer and ask if he or she is testing. If tests are arranged, the model takes the film and pays for processing. The photographer gets to pick from the slides. Both are responsible for their own printing. This benefits both parties, as both need shots for their portfolios. It is a very good way to make contact with as many good photographers as possible. The photographer is often the one who makes recommendations to the client, and that's a plus for you. If you are a good model for the photographer's work, he or she will be able to promote you.


The portfolio is the most important representation of a model and her or his work. Every time you have an appointment for a potential job, you must drop off your portfolio. The client then studies all of the types of photographs that you have displayed and decides whether you would be the perfect model for the work that will be photographed.

Portfolio photographs currently cost between $1,000 and $2,500 in New York City. Check with the agencies of your choice if you are planning on taking professional shots to interviews. Printing is costly and you should think ahead, or you may find yourself spending more money than you thought possible.

Most photographs using models are accompanied by the photographer's name, so if you find photographs in a style to your liking, you may want to contact that photographic studio. For television modeling, you have to have photographs going in. The head shots for this specialized type of modeling should depict you at your warmest and friendliest; your fashion photographs would be unsuitable.

Expect to pay $500 or more for a head shot for television commercials. This would be an 8 x 10 in black and white that you would have printed and leave at all the "possible jobs," accompanied by your resume.

Many times when the selection is to be made, it is only your photograph in a two-foot deep heap of them that reminds the director who was even there. You can see how critical good photographs are to your potential work. There are also times when you may not be selected for the original job that you were seeking, but that photograph left on file has been pulled and gotten you another, totally unrelated job. One male model was very unhappy about missing out on a particular job, only to have been remembered by the director for his dramatic Japanese good looks. When his photograph was pulled several months later, he was handed not one, but three really fantastic accounts. His head shot had portrayed him in native Japanese costume while he, of course, appeared in impeccable western attire for his interview and screen test. The director could see how striking and versatile the model could be. He was just what they were looking for at that future time, and this model had surmounted the greatest hurdle for anyone going on a television audition. Get noticed, and then be the one and only one who's remembered. These casting directors see thousands of hopefuls every day, and there are many who are pretty much the same or could feasibly do the same commercial, so they are impressed with the uniqueness that you can project in the two minutes flat that you'll be viewed initially.


If you are planning to move to New York City or Los Angeles, you will have to have a large nest egg to tide you over, unless you are planning on working at some other job while you try to break into modeling. The rent alone will probably be $1,000 per month, and that would be sharing a one-bedroom apartment with someone. Many models share their apartments with one or more models. The costs are so high that even studio apartments run $1,500 per month.

Food will be the next most expensive item in your budget. Food costs in New York City have doubled in the past few years. It used to be possible to save money by cooking at home; now food is so expensive that it is often just as reasonable to go to a neighborhood restaurant. At any rate, your food bill won't be less than $200 per week.

Transportation costs are rising steadily, too. New York City buses and subways are now $1.50 per ride, and taxis are about $4 a mile in the city, considering the heavy traffic.

Medical and dental expenses should be anticipated. You won't be able to fly back to Kansas when your filling comes out in an untimely crunch. A filling could cost about $300. New York City is really not a place to be caught without medical insurance coverage.

Add all of the above figures together, plus an allotment for personal items, entertainment, household items, telephone ($150 deposit), and gas and electricity, and you will have an idea of what it could cost you to live.

Add the cost of the photographs that you may initially need, the cost of your portfolio case itself ($100), your makeup (which will be extensive if you are a woman), clothing, and any sports gear that you might require. Nobody ever said that New York City was an inexpensive city to live in or that modeling was an inexpensive profession to get into. It is a game to juggle all of the figures; eventually you'll come up with your own solutions on how and where to save pennies.


Due to the tremendous competition in the field of modeling, you will want to be as well prepared prior to your attempted launch into the modeling world as is physically possible. You cannot know exactly what may be the current trend, but you can get yourself in top condition.


Many agents complain that models who are very good in other areas do not move well enough. There is not only a knack to moving well, but the more trained you are at an early age, the more defined are the long slender muscles that are the trademark of the best-looking people. You must choose carefully what kind of exercise will give those extended lines. Ballet, gymnastics, swimming, and tennis are all very good forms of strenuous exercise that give the body a definitive shape. All of the foregoing are suggested in moderation; three to four hours a week would be ample. You do not want to develop an overabundance of muscle.

Wherever your natural forte lies is the best place to put your greatest effort. Many well-known fashion models are simply not graceful to the professional eye, yet they have enough going for them that they are top models. If you watch videos or actual fashion shows, you will see amazing variations in natural grace. Some people move with incredible ease, while others remain visibly uncoordinated throughout their lives.

You can make the best of either possible case by starting early to take some kind of regulated exercise and sticking with it. A child who starts to take dance lessons before he or she becomes inhibited about moving in front of peers will have a much better chance of overcoming awkwardness. If a child reaches the age of about seven and has never been encouraged to develop any natural abilities like swimming or playing ball, that child may well remain ill-at-ease with any request to move when a possible audience might see her or him.


Take excellent care of your teeth! Your smile is a paramount introduction to you-not only for cosmetic reasons, but because bad teeth tell the world that you don't think enough of yourself to take care of them. The male model is primarily noted for his teeth (and his eyes). Men have to have a great smile to sell the product. Women models have to have pretty teeth as part of the whole picture.

Teeth can make or break your career as a model. Many real beauties do not have those perfect teeth and as a result photograph badly. Your teeth could be too far apart, too long, or too irregular. There are many ways to make the needed corrections, and not all of them are even permanent. One famous model uses a spacer between her two front teeth only when certain shots require that look. She often models au naturel, with her space between her front teeth as her very own trademark!


Makeup is a critical factor for all women models. Applying makeup is an art. When you do a fashion shot, a makeup artist or stylist does your face. This can be as time-consuming as two hours or more. If you are doing catalog and other similar types of work, you will have to do your own makeup and do it well.

There are many tricks of the trade. Some of these can be picked up at places where makeup artists work on you, advise you as they go along, and show you how to bring out your best features. You are expected to buy makeup, but you also will pay for the makeup artists' work. Shading and highlighting are two of the most important things that you have to learn.

To do your makeup really well, you must understand what the camera sees and try to correct any flaws that nature has given you. If you have circles under the eyes, for example, you will want to use a small amount of moisturizer and cover those areas lightly with powder. This is a hard area to disguise and the less done the better. As you get older, less and less makeup is used. Heavy makeup only attracts the eye to the deepened facial lines, and the camera is very quick to pick up on all the imperfections accented by bad makeup.

In using makeup, you will discover the difference between what is worn in front of the camera versus what is worn in natural light. There are many tricks that involve shading. Dark colors make the object recede or seem less prominent, while light colors bring the object forward.

Lips, cheeks, and noses are all treated in special ways to make the best possible presentation. It will take you a while to gain the knack of how to handle all those makeup brushes, bottles, blends, cakes, pastes, and wands, but time will make you adept. Eventually you will be confident with your own ability to make your face look its best.


Your fingernails don't always need to be painted, but they have to be perfectly manicured. That means they should be really scrubbed, with no visible cuticle, and either coated with clear polish or buffed to a soft shine. Your nails are right out there, and there is no way to hide a lack of care on your part. Become adept with the emery board, and be able to keep both hands looking neat. Once you've started to make an income as a model, you'll want to head straight to the manicurist and the pedicurist once a week. The pedicurist will do to your feet what the manicurist does to your hands. These services together cost about $40 plus tip.


Leg waxing is critical for a model and is done on an as-you-need-it basis. Most women go to the salon at least once every six weeks, but if you are averse to all this time-consumption you may desire removal of hair from bikini line, legs, mustache, underarms, and eyebrows by electrolysis. In the long run it could save you money and time.

Fashion Sense

Try to develop your fashion sense as soon as possible. Exposure to art classes, sewing courses, and familiarization with costumes in museums and libraries are all helpful. You are not normally expected to create any of your ensembles for actual modeling work, but your own fashion sense will be valuable in your presentation of the clothing in front of the camera and in your presentation of yourself.

If you are paid to be a model, you are expected to look like one. That doesn't mean loads of makeup and thousand-dollar ensembles, but it does mean being clean and neat and giving a certain amount of care to your appearance. You never know whom you may meet, and a model has to be an opportunist. Often a job is offered when you least expect it. Not all jobs are found through go-sees. You are your own best advertisement, and the sooner you prepare yourself for self-sell, the better. So much of modeling is based on merely your looks that the best presentation possible can only help you.


Acting lessons, speech lessons, and voice instruction may be very helpful if you are aiming toward television work as part of your modeling profession. Any plays having a possible part for you should be given serious preparation and an audition.

Every experience that you could possibly have before an audience-choral singing, plays, variety shows, beauty pageants, and even attending social functions-can be helpful in giving you that critical self-confidence. Poise is gained by experience. Though modeling can only be done well by the truly experienced model, your efforts to meet the public and feel at ease in front of lots of people can aid you tremendously when you are asked to "perform" before the cameras.

If you wait until you are actually offered an audition for a television part to start to learn to speak well and dramatize a little, you probably will freeze and lose the part.

Many soap opera stars started as models and now enjoy much more financial security because they added the important talent of speech to their repertory of mime while they were still photographic models. Being prepared and being lucky enough to be there at the right time make the magical combination.
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