I just got a phone call from a friend and she asked “my daughter is thinking about going to this Powers Modeling Schools, she is interested, and very beautiful, her mother modeled for Nordstroms… What do you think?” Since I have been asked this question a MILLION times, I thought I would do a blog about my experiences.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MODELING SCHOOL.
If someone “made it” because of one, it was in because they would have made it regardless if they went there or not. More like, then went to it, got ripped off, but really had the talent, went to a normal agency and got picked up.
DO NOT TAKE PROFESSIONAL PICTURES OF YOURSELF BEFORE GOING TO AN AGENCY.
People think they need amazing shots before they step foot into an agency. NOT TRUE. I took pictures of me at my sister’s wedding. In fact, my “full body” shot was with all the other bridesmaids. They just want to make sure you don’t have one eye shut, have six chins or something of that hideous nature when a camera flashes on you.
They make their decision based on your look in PERSON and in the pictures. Your look in person is MORE important. They need to make sure you have good skin, are the size you say you are, and that you are LEAST 5’7’’ before signing you. They know the photographers that will produce the “best look” of you – something they need to sell you to clients.
YES, YOU HAVE TO BE 5’7’’ or TALLER!
Unless you’re a celebrity like Eva Longoria, or have the hooks ups with an up-and-coming company, or have the PERFECT face for a personality style campaign, your career as a commercial model does not exist. Do not waste the agents time and yours.
TEST SHOOTS – THE ONLY REAL EXPENSE
In my experience, I walked into the agency with pictures from my sister’s wedding. The agency was low on Plus Size models and the market needed them, so she took three polaroids of me and placed them on company letterhead and I starting working the very next week.
However, plus sized models only compete against very few other models, and if you want to become a straight size model, you must get a comp card done right away. This is the only real expense you should incur. I used a photographer recommended by the agency, but you can use any modeling photographer you like. The price should not exceed $400 for everything. Maybe a little more if the photographer is really outstanding.
The comp card layout and print production should run about $1/card. CLICK to visit Phoenix Media for online comp card printing (5.5×8.5 card stock, full color, both sides, matte) for .70 a card, not including shipping. Let the agent choose your pictures from the shoot. They know what their clients are booking. Do not get emotionally attached to your photos (you may feel a certain shot is prettier/better), keep in mind your agent only gets paid if you get paid, and they KNOW the client. Trust them.
GO-SEES ARE GOOD
After your comp card is produced its time to meet the clients. Sometimes your agent can book appointments for you all in one day, sometimes they are staggered throughout the first month. Don’t be too pushy about getting all your appointments right away. Some clients wont see you unless they are casting. Expect to have a picture taken of you, by the client. Have your stance ready in your mind. There is nothing worst than meeting a client and being hesitant (lacking confidence) in your first pose.
BOOKING YOUR FIRST JOB
Be over prepared. In a bag, take your hair & makeup basics (your makeup artist may get in a car crash on the way in). Take three different shoe options (their stylist could have gotten the wrong size). Take a nude, white and black bra and a strapless bra & underwear. Take nylons & lotion. Bring a slimmer for dresses. Bring a hand towel! (you may break a sweat getting into a tight outfit, and you need to come out of that fitting room perfect).
NEVER FORGET THAT YOU ARE BEING JUDGED
I cannot tell you how many times I have overheard the photographer, art director, makeup artists and stylist talking about who they liked and did not like. Everyone gets a say if you return or not. Always be on your best behavior, always get there at LEAST 15 mintues early, and always have a smile on your face.
Yes, you will be nickeled and dimed to death. Yes, it will be unfair. Yes, everyone, even the top models in the world, always somehow have to pay courier fees, online fees, and a mysterious Misc. fee. on top of the percentage the agency takes. You can respectfully inquire about them, but do not piss and moan. If you become high maintenance, they will “encourage” the client to go with this great “fresh face” newbie. You have to determine what its worth to you to work. I do not take bookings less than half days anymore. Its just not worth it to me, personally. Also, if you work overseas, expect at least SIX MONTHS before you get paid. If its for the Germans, maybe even longer!
EXPANDING YOUR LOOK
The first agency you sign with is your principal agency or “mother” agency. Heffner is now my “mother” agency (I started at a smaller agency and moved on after my contract was up). The mother agency always take a cut (10%) of what other agencies book me for. There are good and bad issues around this. Bad: some agencies will not rep you as well as other, because they dont get the full cut. If a client is trying to decide between you and another model, where they get the full 20%, you will loose out every time. Agents really do have a lot of power in helping clients decide which model to use – so remember to always be on and dressed to impress when visiting your agent. Don’t forget to send your agents small holiday gifts, cards, etc.
When a secondary agency does book you, it can be directly with you or through your mother agency. Good: I like having heffner, because they are always someone I can call. I have a good relationship with my primary booker and I can call her if anything bad happens on the job, no matter what - even if its not their booking.
It is NOT taboo to get other agencies on your own. But, I would always, out of respect, speak to you primary agent about it first. Say, “I am getting the itch to travel, I would like to do it modeling if I could, I have heard ________ agency is good, can we send them my stuff?” One of the BEST PLUS MODELS IN THE WORLD (I love to brag about her) said to me: make a digital portfolio CD of your book, and always have a lot of copies ready, and when you hear about a good agency, send it off with a letter introducing yourself, with all your contact info and experience.
If you are just starting out, I would go to an agency like Options Model Management in Portland or Seattle Model’s Guild (SMG) in Seattle. These agencies do work with a lot of the same clients as the Top Tier agencies, but its in a different capacity. OptionMM and SMG book a lot of the “smaller jobs”, typically the hourly and lower end jobs. For example, your first job may be one outfit at Fred Meyers. Which is PERFECT if you are just starting out. And, the clients know this and are more willing to help you learn, then expecting you to be great right off the bat.
Agencies like Heffner, Ford Plus, Willy Plus, Hugh Plus, LOOK, and Brigitte are Top Tier agencies; requiring twice the hourly rate, and can book LARGE jobs like a catalog shoot out of the country – on location. I can safely say, it would have been much harder, or even a NO, if I went to one of these top agencies right off the bat. To be a model here means you are a professional. Its important to get your feet wet with smaller clients and work your way up. HOWEVER, you can be “just that good” and walk into a large agency and BLOW THEM AWAY! More power to you, if you do!