Things to know about the modeling world

Posted on September 21, 2011


I wasn’t sure where I would put this blog. Originally, I was thinking of including this in being a model, then fashion model, then commercial model, and finally I settled on making a blog on its own. These are the things you need to know about the modeling industry. Most think being a model is a “dream” like experience. The reality is much different in that very few people make it as a self supporting job. Even if you are one of the few who make it, there are things that will cause you to drop out of being a model. Some of these things that will side track you are below. Everyone who has become a model has had to face at least one, if not more, of them.

The first thing to know is that most all photographers are perverts. The industry as a whole seems to promote this behavior by tolerating and allowing people like Terri Richardson. If you Google him, you will see he is one of the top fashion photographers out there. What you will also see is that he is one of the dirtiest photographers out, often exceeding model’s limits, inappropriate touching, and possibly having sex with models while his “team” photographs the action. This isn’t anything new. He isn’t the only one. Getting away from high fashion, almost every photographer will want to get “sexy” poses from all models wearing as little as possible or nothing at all. I know several photographers who propagate the premise that you have to do nudes to get started in the modeling world. While this isn’t 100% true, these are the same photographers who sell their images that they create to porn sites. When you model, know your limits and stick to them. Don’t be pressured to do more than you are willing to do. Always have someone with you at a shoot, and know that you can walk away at any point you feel uncomfortable.

Another thing to know about the modeling industry is when you decide to make that jump into the modeling world and move to New York or other big fashion city. You will be spending all your time working on booking jobs for the agency and building your “book.” That book will always be with you, and you will be encouraged to take lots of jobs that don’t pay (frequently called TFP or “time for prints”). It isn’t unusual that models won’t be told which jobs are paid and not paid that the model takes. It is important to know how many of each you are doing and how much money you are spending. The more jobs you do at TFP, the less money you make. This is important because frequently, the model agencies will front you money as a draw to pay for your living quarters, food, transportation, and other expenses that occur from you being a model. This money is due back to them with interest. If you don’t book enough paying jobs, you will be in the negative, and owe the agency. The longer you stay losing money, the more you will owe and deeper in the red you will be as a model. This becomes a cycle and locks people into the industry. When you get started, you will lose money.

Yet another thing to know is that there are “model promoters” who troll the streets. They are people who recruit models to show up at clubs and similar venues to make a club look like a great place to party, and lure high paying clients (usually males) into the clubs or event. They rarely pay models in cash, but will frequently provide the model with a meal to eat and a place to party all night. These “model promoters” will try every trick in the book to get your name and phone number. Once they have it, they will try to get you to various places to party. What else would someone want to be? A place that will feed you something and let you party. These individuals will often wine and dine the models they recruit. They frequently make well in the six figure income from getting models to show up at various events. If your agents find out, they will often tell you how bad these individuals are. As far as the industry is concerned, these are some of the scum of the industry. Once you start partying, you will meet people who don’t have your best interest in their minds. You will be exposed to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The less refreshed you are, the less likely you will be to land paying jobs. Eventually, if you decline enough or don’t even land free jobs, your agents will kick you to the curb. Are promoters avoidable? Some say yes, others say no. If you want that life, you shouldn’t have started in modeling. Model promoters are the leading cause for the ends of promising model’s careers. A friend in the industry said that many of the models who do the “model promoters” often get the reputation of being call girls.

As a model, the agency will expect you to be in “prime” condition and maintain very specific measurements. Staying in prime condition means taking drugs to keep your skin free of acne, and so it looks the best it can be. You may be asked to do things that you wouldn’t normally do, including taking drugs to keep your weight down, drinking only water, and eating a minimally nutrition meals every day. Know that this is part of the beast, and if you need to do it, you had better be willing to accept all of it.

There are professionals who spot models who are frequently called “model recruiters.” These are the people who stalk places looking for just the right person that will be the next big success. A lot of their job is spending time looking for who they believe the industry is looking. Their pay is typically 10% of your earnings, plus any interest on money they “loan” to you. There are also a lot of fake recruiters. They are recruiting from “agencies” that are clubs, schools, and other people who are out to separate you from your money. How do you know which are real and not real recruiters? If they say they are with a school, you will automatically know who they are. If they require you to go to a specific photographer for images, you will know who they are. Real agents will suggest to go to certain photographers, but the fake ones require you to go to their photographers. If there is a service they offer, it is a scam. Services include acting lessons, modeling lessons, photo shoots, and screen tests to name a few. If there is an upfront fee or deposit to be an agent, this is often a scam. As the economy has worsened, some agencies require a deposit to have zed cards or comp cards created, and other expenses that would normally be charged back to you up front. Read the fine print of your contract, and check out the the company fully to see who they really are. Always ask for a blank copy of any contract you are requested to sign, and review it with people who you trust (a lawyer would be best). If you aren’t allowed to take the contract with you, it should be a red flag that this is a high pressure sales tactic, and the company is not on the up and up. If the company refuses to allow you a blank copy, you are best to just walk out and never look back. If a company tells you how you will be making large amounts of money as a model in your local market, or how you can go to New York or LA and make large sums of money, then be very cautious in your dealings with them. Modeling work may pay a large hourly wage, but paying work is irregular and spotty when you are in smaller markets, and there is a lot of work in a market like New York to prove yourself and make a large sum of money.

There are many pitfalls to being a model. Those pitfalls include photographers who are perverts, going into debt, model promoters, taking drugs to appear in your prime, and an onslaught of people who will try to take your money away. Know these pitfalls and look for them. If you know who and what you are dealing, there is a more likely chance of surviving these pitfalls.

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Posted in: Modeling