The Road to the Runway
There are two essential ways to pursue a modeling career—or anything in life, for that matter. You can do it by yourself, or you can look for a person or persons to help you. In the modeling business, this means you either try to become affiliated with an agency or opt to go freelance. In both cases you will need to be prepared with a modeling tool kit.
Like any professional, you have to have your act together and compile an arsenal of accoutrements to present to agencies when you are seeking modeling work. A very important part of this is your portfolio. You can walk into an agency and have every head pop up out of its cubicle like a series of jacks-in-the box, but you had better have with you a series of photographs of what you look like in a variety of costumes and poses.
An ideal portfolio should include modeling work you have done. If you are just beginning you will not have an extensive resume, of course, so you may have to hire a professional photographer take some pictures of you. Do not spend a lot of money on this. It is not necessary, and you probably do not have thousands to spend if you are just starting out. Find a photographer, and have him shoot a few rolls of film. This is called a fashion test. Wear different outfits and hairstyles. Pick the best of the lot and have them blown up into 8 × 10s, and invest in a professional portfolio binder. Now you can go into an agency with confidence.
Composites and Cattle Calls
The composite is a two-sided single page that has a head shot on one side and more pictures and vital statistics on the back. After you get this professionally done—if you have desktop publishing knowledge, you can do it yourself—you can make the rounds with your portfolio and leave the composites with interested parties. If you have an agent, he or she will send your composites out. If not, you will be obliged to do the research as well as the legwork.
Some photographers who are interested may want to see you individually; on other occasions, you may be obliged to endure the dreaded cattle call. It is as unappealing as it sounds. You may feel like a commodity rather than a person, but that is the nature of the business. You might as well get used to it sooner than later. If you want the brass ring, there will be indignities you must endure. If you do not have an agent, you can find out about the cattle calls and other auditions by making cold calls to photographers, ad agencies, design companies, casting agents, and public relations firms. The big modeling agencies also hold open calls. These are cattle calls where the prize is signing with an agency, something that will save you a lot of time and effort in your quest for success.
The John Casablancas Modeling and Career Center (
From A to Z
If an agency does not hold open calls, you can call them and see if they accept photo submissions. One of the ways to do this is to print what are called zed cards. This is a resume and photo on a small card that is an easy reference. It is smaller than and an alternative to the composite. Any printing/copy shop should be able to do a professional job. Bring the photos you want to use, and the staff in the store will advise you on designing the layout. The card should have your name, measurements, and contact information. These resumes are a little different than the format used to get a job in corporate America, where it obviously would be inappropriate to list your bust, waist, and hip size among your assets. If you have computer skills, you could even do your own zed card yourself (using a program like Microsoft Picture It! Publishing). Be sure you print it on quality cardstock.
Send your zed card with a cover letter that asks about opportunities and requests an interview. Be patient about waiting for a response. Then, after a reasonable period of time has elapsed, make your friendly follow-up call.
What agencies should you contact? The most famous agencies are the Elite, Ford, and Wilhelmina agencies, which are based in New York, and L.A. Models in Los Angeles.
Every major metropolitan center has reputable modeling agencies. There are working models all over the country, not just on either coast. As in other forms of media and entertainment, New York and Los Angeles are considered the major leagues. But you can be a working model in many other cities. There are always photo shoots and fashion shows going on. They may not be for the cover of your favorite women's magazine, but there are opportunities. It is likely that you will start out as a small fish in a small pond, and that may be advantageous in that you are more likely to get noticed.
Some modeling agencies sponsor contests. These are good way to get noticed. They are always free to enter. Never enter a modeling contest that charges an entry fee.
The Ford modeling agency sponsors the Supermodel of the Year contest. Information can be found at their Web site (
A relatively new phenomenon, only as old as cyberspace, is the Internet model. There are many men and women who have established personal Web pages with images and vital statistics to pitch themselves to the industry. Most modeling agencies still want a professional portfolio in hand and to see you in person, but more and more models are going the Internet route. It is an inexpensive and easy way to get free publicity.
You still have to personally contact the big modeling agencies. They do not sit in their offices surfing the Web in search of new talent. That talent is desperately attempting to get their feet in the door the old-fashioned way. A model with a Web site may get many hits a day, but chances are they are going to be from teenage boys and not modeling industry professionals.
However, more and more modeling agencies will accept a portfolio submitted by e-mail. A resume is easily sent as a text document and a jpeg is as easily viewed as an 8 × 10” glossy. The Internet is reshaping every aspect of the world, including the modeling business.
Though there are plenty of Web hosts that provide a free e-mail address and a small amount of space to make a personal home page, if you want to make the best impression, you should have your Web site done by an expert. Create and secure a unique domain name and hire someone to create your site. The more professional the page looks, the more seriously you will be taken. With all due respect to AOL, one of their free home pages, though perfectly easy to set up all by yourself, will not quite cut it.
The Web site
There are a lot of geeks and even more menacing characters out there with nothing better to do than surf the Web looking for pretty people. You can therefore expect a lot of sometimes silly, sometimes scary e-mail. For this reason you should not list your home address or telephone number on the Web site.