Notes on modelling (from a successful runway model who is 6'3")
Tall women are often told they should model. Fashion models (print and runway) are often taller than the average man, so most people assume the taller you are, the better chance you have. I'm a fairly successful print and runway model and have been around the industry for about six years. I get asked about how to get into it all the time, so here are a few notes.
There are many types of modeling. Print, runway, commercial (of many types), glamour,fitness, fine art, body part,event modeling, spokesmodeling etc. I have only done regular fashion and some commercial work and will stick to talking about that only. There are many ways to break up fashion, but it is usually runway, editorial. catalog, print, show room,. lingerie and plus size. I mostly do runway, editorial and print.
The important thing to remember in fashion is that you are selling clothing to women. With the exception of plus sized models what sells is very thin, somewhat tall, good skin and certain features. Size is very important as it would be difficult to bring many sizes of clothing - fitting it to slightly different sized models is hard enough. It is very rare to see models shorter than 5'9 or taller than 6'0 cm. 5'10 or 5'11 is considered "perfect" and most successful models are that height. Out of over 1000 models I'm told there are maybe 20 who are taller than 6'0. (I'm 6'3, but more on that later)
The other measurements are also very important - maybe even more important as it is more difficult to get a size fit than a length fit. Generally 33-24-34 is considered ideal. A smaller is better than larger. Most places have very firm rules about hips more than 36" and a waist more than 25.5" is going to be trouble. If you don't have these measurements it is extremely difficult to get work in regular fashion. For what its worth I'm 33-24-35. I have no idea what the rules are for plus sized modeling, but that area is getting much less important. If you don't have these measurements, but still want to model,. I would strongly recommend another type of modeling. It isn't right or wrong - it is just what the designers are willing to hire. An agency may lie about your height, but never your other measurements - just an indication of what is important!
You don't have to be classically beautiful - I'm certainly not. They do like interesting looks. A clear complexion is very important.
If you have the right "look", the right size, the right height and are maybe 18-22, I would go to a fashion city (NYC in the US, London, Paris or Milan in Europe) and go to open calls at every agency you can find. You can also send two clean photos. A full length body shot without fancy clothing so they can see your shape and a portrait. No makeup and nothing done to your hair. They are looking at bone structure and want to see the blank slate. Different agencies have different tastes and they change with time. Some may be very interested and others won't give you the time of day,
Don't worry about paying a photographer for fancy photos - money down the drain. It might be useful if you are doing commercial work though and you can sometimes get good images for nothing with a trade for print arrangement with a (good) local photographer. You should be very very careful if you go that route., do your homework and take a friend. And if you do it, don't settle for anyone who is offering less than a studio shoot.
I won't go into the homework - the tricks of the trade and things like that because it is different for everyone. I want to stress that you should be naturally thin for this. If you have to diet or smoke to hit size - DON'T DO IT!!! Your health is much more important. I'm a non-smoking, non-drinking vegetarian. I do a lot of serious exercise a day - a fast hour plus run every morning and I use a single speed bicycle to get around. My legs are in very good shape.
I wouldn't sign an exclusive with anyone unless they are offering you an excellent contract with guaranteed work. This is very rare and you need the help of a lawyer if you are lucky enough to be in this position. You need to have a lawyer look over contracts anyway. A necessary expense of the game.
Technically I'm too tall for most modeling. For the first four years (Toronto, NYC and then Europe), most of my income came from waitressing. I got into commercial modeling where a tall model might be needed and spend a lot of time trying to figure out who might need a tall girl like me and then trying to sell myself. I am listed with a couple of agencies for regular fashion and another for commercial work and also promote myself with my own one person agency (I'm the president, model, janitor, book keeper, chief of marketing, etc...).
The reason why I get away with runway is that my walk is good, the rest of my measurements are ok and I have good hair and a fairly symmetrical face. I have lied about my height. I have told agencies that I am 6'1 and they adjust. I have been listed from 5'11.5 to 6'1.5, but no one has listed my real height. I did quite a bit of work with and for fashion students (an excellent way for out of ordinary models to get started I think) and many reviewers call my walk "fierce". About a year ago a designer liked my look and I started do catwalk work for them. A good walk goes a long way and I've been doing fashion weeks for about four seasons now. I haven't thought about waitressing since.
When you are recognized you start doing print and editorial work too. The pay at the low end might sound good per hour, but there aren't many hours. Runway is usually starts at 50 to 75 euros per hour. Print can be more. Editorial is often less as the exposure is considered valuable. If you are sought after it is easy to do more than 60 hours in the fashion week season. I did nearly 120 hours for S/S08 (spread over about three weeks). Once you get established your rates go up. My rates vary by job, but are well above the numbers I mention. The agencies take is usually 15 to 25 percent.
I may have sounded a bit negative. If you have your heart set on fashion, you need to realize the requirements are very very narrow and it is difficult to be a success if you are outside of them. The shorter women on this board are in the right height range though. If you are a bit taller, like me, you have to be crazy but I eventually did get luck and maybe you will. But my walk and ability to pose are both much better than average and that is why I get work.
Commercial modeling is very different. You still need to be able to pose and sometimes acting ability (which I don't have) can be important. The ability to do video is becoming very important and there a sense that modeling is changing. The trick is to be in a market where you are wanted (read - really big city where there is a lot of ad work) and have an agency that believes in you and promotes you. I have not had much luck with good commercial agencies, which is why I made my own. My feeling is that tall women are nature's billboards and should be great for commercial work. It is just getting the message out there. I work very hard at that.
The rewards are great. I have lots of travel, sometimes too much, and quite a few adventures. I have done things that I wouldn't have considered possible when I was a teenager. There are easier ways to make a living, but the travel and adventure is what I'm after. And when sometime asks me if I've thought about modeling, I tell them "yup" and walk on...
But don't get too hung up on it - modeling is very competitive and hard work. If it is between going to college and modeling, go to college. For me it was pretty much between modeling and waitressing, so the choice is a bit easier.
You do have to be careful. I don't list my name because I've had stalkers in the past. If you absolutely need to talk, you can get in touch with the moderator and he will make a decision. I can't make connections for you blindly - I have to know someone very well and be familiar with their work to do that as my reputation in on the line.
One of the most important assets of a runway model needs is a great walk. These are very stylized and very hard to do in heels. The trick is to learn to walk on the balls of your feet and practice practice practice.. But when I had to do it, I found it came naturally and I have my brother Jon to thank.
Jon is my older brother - two years older in fact. When I was 11 and started to grow I started getting close to his height. Girls do this as our growth comes earlier and I found I could *really* annoy him my going on my toes whenever we were next to each other. This became a real game and I managed to get very good at it. I quickly passed his height and still did it because kids love to annoy their siblings. At first mom used to yell at me, but when I passed him she gave up.
He never really grew that much. My family isn't that tall. At 6'3, I'm the only one over 5'9. Jon is around 5'8 and I still go on my toes when I'm around him as part of the old joke.
I did my first runway work at age 15 in a department store. Mostly it was for teens and they only had one section with heels. I had never tried them, but decided "why not" and found I could easily deal with them and was the only girl there with a walk. These days my walk is described by some fashion writers as "fierce" and I have my brother to thank for it.
If you are wondering, I don't like heels. It isn't being shy about my height - I wouldn't mind being taller, but not with heels. I know how to use them, but they make my feet hurt so I only use them in fashion. Most of the time I'm in my running shoes. My closet has eight pair of shoes. One pair of flip flops, three pair of running shoes, two pair of very comfortable business flats, a pair of boots with almost no heel, and a pair of very unstable stilettos that I use for practice. I can run in them if I have to and even run up stairs, but heels are too painful for me to use when I'm not working.
So that's about it ...
Joerg says: Thank you to the mystery model I won't be naming!