So You Want to Be a Model? Here's Some Advice from Experts in the Industry

Laura Hanrahan
Photo credit: Frazer Harrison - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Cool, you want to be a model. Congrats on having the guts to shoot your shot in such a crazy industry. Before you start imagining yourself living it up alongside Kendall Jenner on set for Stuart Weitzman, or strutting down the runway at New York Fashion Week, we need to have a little real talk. As my lord and savior Lizzo says, truth hurts, and the fact is modeling isn’t all haute couture and jet-setting around the world going to glam parties.

For most people (read: us mortals with no family connections in the biz), modeling is a full-time grind, and if you want make it to the top, you're gonna have to work your butt off. In addition to streaming an America’s Next Top Model marathon, it’s smart to hear advice from a few bonafide experts. I spoke to two people who can take you from an aspiring model to a full-blown runway star: Nicholas Butts, a women’s agent with the world-famous Wilhelmina, and Olly Innes, an agent with Storm Management. These powerhouses know ev-er-y-thing there is to know about getting started, booking gigs, and the secret to a long and successful career. Read up on these must-know tips for how to become a model before you get out there and werk!

Scouts are *always* on the lookout.

You've heard the crazy story that Kate Moss was discovered at the airport while on her way home from a family vacation. It's real! In fact, Innes says that's actually how most models are found. Modeling scouts travel all around the world finding young people with potential at malls, concerts, airports, and even schools. And now, thanks to social media, plenty of models are being scouted on Instagram. So even though you can't control whether someone spots you on the street, you can still put some fire pics up on your Insta.

Get an agent, like, now.

If you haven't been scouted but still want to give modeling a shot, you need to find an agency to represent you—yep, before booking photo shoots or runway shows on your own. "An agent will do all the work of picking the right images for your book that clients will respond to," explains Butts. Agencies are always looking for new talent, so reach out or submit yourself for consideration.

Photo credit: Daniel SIMON - Getty Images

But you need to do your research.

Before you do anything, and I mean a-ny-thing, you must, must, MUST look into potential agencies and make sure they're legit. Butts says to check out models.com, affectionately known as the modeling bible. They've got a list of approved agencies in each market so you can be sure you're working with the best of the best.

Never, ever, ever get your own headshots.

Both Butts and Innes highly advise against paying someone to take headshots for you to show to an agency. These professional photos usually cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and the agencies most likely won't use them for your portfolio. In other words, they're a total waste of money. Butts says all you need when you approach an agency is your smizing smiling self.

Photo credit: Thomas Concordia - Getty Images

If you are going to take a photo, just use your phone.

If you can't meet with an agent in person and you need to submit a photo online, just snap a quick pic on your phone and make sure you're looking as au natural as possible—as in, no crazy hair, heavy makeup, or outlandish clothes. Just simple hair, some light moisturizer, and a form-fitting outfit to show off your silhouette. "I do sometimes recommend a concealer if you have a little bit of a breakout," admits Butts.

There's no set "look" you need to have.

When Innes is reviewing submissions from aspiring models, he's never looking for anything in particular—not even someone who's classically beautiful. He says you've just got to have a cool look that's striking or interesting and he'll take notice.

Photo credit: Melodie Jeng - Getty Images

There's way more opportunity for everyone now.

We're all familiar with the stereotype of the baby-giraffe-like, size-zero model who isn't a day over 18, and although there's still a huge market for tall, thin girls, both Innes and Butts are happy to report that the industry is shifting to be more inclusive of size, age, and gender. "I would say 10 years ago that wasn’t the case," Butts said. "You would see 14-year-olds walk the runway with undeveloped hips, and now it’s a different story where a lot of clients won’t even book a model until she’s 18. I’ve definitely seen it help the longevity of a model’s career."

Yes, you can eat!

Forget about all those "don't feed the models" jokes. Butts is extremely conscious of helping models maintain whatever weight is healthiest for them. "Say I have a girl who’s a size 6 and she doesn’t want to be a size 2, that’s okay! I’m going to market her as size 6 and I’m going to make sure she stays a size 6, because she could probably get down to a 2 but that’s where you run into the eating issues," warns Butts.

You don't pick the market, the market picks you.

You may have your heart set on making it big in New York, LA, or maybe even Paris, but according to Butts, you often don't get to choose your city—the city chooses you. Butts has managed models who wanted to work in NYC but couldn't land a single gig, but then they booked jobs every single day in Chicago. You should be prepared to go where the jobs (and cash) are!

Photo credit: Dave Benett - Getty Images

Don't hide your personality and be nice.

If you're suffering from a case of what Butts calls "pretty girl syndrome" (um, having a non-existent, or worse, an entitled personality), you're gonna have a hard time booking jobs—no matter how stunning you are. Butts advises the models he works with to go around and say hi to every single person on set, including the assistants and the caterer. Being friendly to the whole crew is going to go a long way and make clients remember you as someone they'd want to work with again.

Treat your body like you're some kind of sacred professional athlete.

When you're a model, your body is literally your job, so you've got to treat 'er right! Models work out regularly to stay in shape (have you SEEN the abs on Adriana Lima??) and they're constantly maintaining their hair, nails, and skin. Don't be afraid to ask for professional help—working with a dermatologist or fitness trainer can go a long way. "This is just part of the job, just like if you want to be a doctor or lawyer, you need to study and get qualifications," advises Innes.

Get ready to H-U-S-T-L-E.

Hey, if you love what you do, it technically won't feel like work. When you're just getting started in the industry, you should take every meeting, go for every opportunity, and always remember that for every job you want, there are hundreds of others hoping to get it, too. There's no time for slacking. "It’s hard at the beginning but once it clicks, it’s like the domino effect," explains Butts.

You’ll have a crazy work schedule.

Private jets might not be in your future, but plenty of travel, living out of hotel rooms, and working long hours definitely will be. Butts says that although commercial shoots tend to have somewhat of a more regular Monday to Friday 9-5 schedule, if you want to do runway, you need to be ready to work basically 24/7. Some jobs can go on for multiple days, and you might end up with a shoot that lasts 12 hours. Schedules can totally change from one gig to the next.

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