Updated: Apr 5, 2021
If you’re already a model who’s just beginning, welcome! If you're not a model, but wish to be one, I can understand why you want to – It sounds so glamorous and fun and exciting. And it is those things, some of the time. But it’s an aspiration and a career in which not just anyone can be involved. If you want to be almost anything badly enough, you can go to school for it, become someone’s apprentice, practice it, or otherwise get some training in it.
But there’s no degree in Modeling.
There is so much to know about the world of modeling, and the only way to know HOW to be a model is by doing it. Interesting, huh? It’s learning backwards. Most careers begin with prior training. Models don’t learn how to model unless and until they’ve been selected to do so. I can think of very few other careers for which a person – a very young and beautiful woman, at that – begins less prepared.
I was fifteen years old when I began modeling. I looked much older than I was – like a young woman - even though I was still just a young girl. Someone from a local modeling agency approached me on Career Day at my high school. Within a week of being discovered, I had some professional pictures taken by an agency-approved photographer, and soon began booking modeling jobs (catalogs, local magazines) while in still high school. During the summers between my junior and senior years, I went to Europe to model. I went to there all by myself. I was told by my agency that I could bring my parents, but I didn’t want to do it that way. Fortunately, I was a very responsible teenager and was focused on my career - not experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and men, like some other models I knew. However, most young women who are introduced into the world of modeling do not have enough self-confidence, self-respect, or boundaries with which to navigate safely or maturely.
When models sign with an agency, they get booking agents, or ‘bookers’. A booker’s job is to book models for modeling jobs. They don’t have the time to keep up with every model’s life. These days, the majority of the communication between a model and her booking agent is done via text and email. It’s brief and to the point, letting models know the addresses and contact names for their go-sees and photo shoots for the week. Phone conversations and lengthy, in-person meetings are rare. Even when I began modeling in the late 80’s when there were no cell phones or internet with which to communicate, contact between models and their bookers was brief and to-the-point. Not that they weren’t friendly. They were! But I longed for more support, information, and encouragement – especially when I was far from home, in places like Milan or Tokyo. And having made friends with other young models at that time, I can tell you that they longed for it, too.
Bookers are busy making models and the agency money. It is not in a booker’s job description to teach models how to:
Pose for catalogs
Walk the runway
See themselves as “living art” in an editorial shoot
Behave at 'go-sees' (interviews with potential new clients) and bookings
Practice good hygiene
Discuss inner dialogue awareness / self-talk
Discuss body image awareness / eating disorders
Manage their money
Get to know the model as a person / find out what she likes and dislikes, etc. / be a mentor and a support system, or even, necessarily: to make sure the models are safe.
All of these things are ultimately left up to the young and inexperienced girl to figure out for herself, often on her own. If they’re lucky, maybe one or two other equally young and inexperienced fellow models. This can be like the blind leading the blind, however.
When I was in the first few years of my career from ages 15-20, I saw many young girls’ careers come to an end very quickly. There were a few reasons for this, but often the main reason boiled down to the fact that they simply had no guidance or supervision. And when young people of that age are left to navigate their lives by themselves, they often get into trouble. Especially in a glamorous, grown-up business such as modeling.
When I was 21 and in Paris, I went to my agency one day. While I was there, I saw a well-known, successful, ‘older’ model - a Supermodel. To me, she looked kind and motherly. I wondered if she was. I longed to talk to her and ask her questions about the business. I wanted to know what she thought about it, how she felt in it. I wanted to know if she ever felt inadequate sometimes, like I had. I wanted to know what she thought about when she was being photographed. I wanted to know if she even enjoyed being a model at all (most models I knew did not enjoy being a model. That's a story for a future post!). I was hoping that she, or SOMEone in the business who understood what it was like to be in this very exclusive and often strange and intimidating line of work, could be a support to me.
I didn’t end up approaching to her. I was too shy, and too afraid that she might dismiss me.
It's easy to lose one's sense of 'True Self ' in this business. Young, beautiful girls are placed into a very grown-up environment in this career, with little-to-no preparation. Unlike in a college community, each girl is essentially on her own, with the added conflict of being led to believe that she is in competition with her fellow models. This does not promote friendships or connection.
I have had a career as a model for more than three decades. Many people in the general public don’t realize that a person can have a career as a model and not be a Supermodel. In actuality, MOST professional models are NOT Supermodels. The models I have known for decades who have had successful careers each have their own unique stories about how they've navigated their way through this business. I believe that models could have more longevity in their careers with more support, and someone who merely takes the time to address their concerns. A fellow model who can teach them the trade and answer their questions.
If you’re a beginner model reading this, or if you’re the parent/guardian of a beginner model, what are your questions and concerns? I’m here to offer support and answer questions for you. Models need support, and to be heard. Comment below, or otherwise send me your questions and concerns.