“You should be a model!”
A phrase I heard often while growing up, I never thought I would actually become a model. A much glamorized and glorified career, modeling is often portrayed as an easy, relatively stress-free job. And for the most part, it is: attend castings, book jobs, show up on set, have your hair and make-up done, get free stuff and make more money than your average day job…the list goes on.
I’m sure these musings have piqued your attention, and maybe you, the reader, are even thinking about becoming a model yourself. However, like most careers, not everything is what it seems. So, what is the industry really like?
This photo started my interest in modelling
I began working as a model two years ago, initially as a way to support myself through college and graduate school. I was freelance at first, building my portfolio through jobs on Craigslist and Instagram, or reaching out to photographers on various platforms and shooting with friends. The goal was always to submit and sign to an agency, so that I could reach bigger brands. After a year of this, I signed with an agency in New York, and have since worked with brands such as NARS, Creme of Nature, Lululemon and many more. There are so many things I’ve learned about the industry along the way, and am still continuing to learn. Below, I’ve highlighted points that served as guidelines when beginning my career, and that I still use to this day:
Like every other career, I suggest research. Find the brands, companies and designers you want to work with. Create a vision board, and visualize yourself working with them. Look up models you admire, and see the type of work they do. Get familiar with agencies in your city, or photographers you can work with to build your book. This is something I learned early on, and it doesn’t stop: stay on top of trends, and familiarize yourself with the various brands and companies you can work with. In today’s world, we all know social media rules the gamut. It helps to be in the know, but I do not mean you need to be a walking encyclopedia for Vogue, or Harper’s Bazaar. Take the time to really find what you care about. This will often help you when booking jobs, as clients are looking to see the real you.
DO THE WORK
Many think modeling begins when you sign with an agency. Afterwards, the belief is your agent or booker will do all the work for you, and that you’ll immediately shoot to stardom and book the next cover of Vogue. And while this certainly could happen, the process can take much longer. Similar to research, it pays off to do the work. Build your book through test shoots, editorials, or simply networking with MUA, hairstylists, photographers or stylists. Make connections in the industry, as it’s often who you know, not what you know, that’ll get you the job you want.
I’ve learned so much from MUA and hairstylists through conversation in the chair. I love asking what their favorite products are, or learning how and why they use certain techniques. I’ll try and mimic these for myself, which is especially helpful when I’m on set and there isn’t a MUA, or someone who knows my skin or hair texture. And the more and more I shoot, I’ve learned what angles work best for me, and the best way to portray myself for the client or brand I happen to be working with that day.
Cliche. Easier said than done. But it could not be more true, nor could it be more focused on finding the confidence that works best for you. It takes time to build especially when you attend castings with hundreds of other girls. It’s hard not to get discouraged, or feel that you aren’t doing enough. But oftentimes, it’s really not about you. Your look might not be right for what the designer or casting director had in mind, and that’s okay. Knowing that you did your best is far more important, and having the confidence to keep your head held high, will help you nail that next job.
DO SOMETHING ELSE
It’s great to work as a model, but I have not reached the point in my career just yet where it can be considered a full-time job. And for most of us, it isn’t. Modeling full-time can be tricky to rely upon; one week can be booked with jobs, while the following will see it slow down completely. And even when you are working a lot, it can be tough to know or expect a steady paycheck. I’ve found it useful to focus on other things, like finishing college and graduate school, and working as a freelance designer. Modeling will always be there, but it helps to have a reliable income and other outlets to focus on.
Some of the icons I look up to are photographed below. It’s Important to know who has paved the way for models of color today. It definitely has gotten easier, but there is a long way to go.
Modeling is so much more than what is portrayed on Instagram or social media :to actually work as one, well, that’s a whole other story. It can be difficult to stand out, or distinguish yourself from others, especially when competing for the same jobs. The advice above is only a snippet of what the industry looks like, and how it has worked so far in my career. It’s important to remember that everyone’s timing, and path, works differently.
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Taj Cutting is an interior and experience designer who loves to travel. When not exploring the world, she enjoys writing, kickboxing classes and eating more Mediterranean food than she can manage!