If you’re interested in being a model, let alone a successful one like Arlenis Sosa (pictured), it’s easy to overlook this aspect of Modelling 101. We’re told with some regularity about the physical requirements the modelling industry demand of its new recruits.
Height, good proportions and photographable features all play their part in getting you signed, but paying attention to what you bring to the mix will mean the difference in getting hired and getting left behind.
Modelling is all about perseverance, but patience, discipline and self-confidence are the qualities that can turn your career into the stuff that dreams are made of. Modelling is for tough cookies, and if you’re not fully equipped to deal with the rejections that come with the territory, the climb to success will be made that much longer.
You’ve all heard that patience is a virtue, but nowhere is this more applicable than in the modelling industry.
Having ambition – and plenty of it – is certainly no crime, but it is important to realise that there’s no such thing as an overnight sensation in modelling. Fashion moves fast, but the process by which a newcomer becomes established is somewhat slower.
Think about your favourite models and research their back stories. The one thing they have in common is that virtually all of them started their careers from humble beginnings, and that’s no bad thing. Learning the ropes in a smaller, less pressurised environment can often be the making of a model’s career. Getting to be comfortable in front of a camera or walking down a runway takes time, no matter how much of a knack you might have for posing and strutting. It all takes time to learn the basics, and once you’ve mastered those, doing the trickier stuff will seem that little bit easier.
When working on the smaller jobs, it’s crucial to treat every booking with the same elation you’d normally reserve for Italian Vogue. Treat every assignment – and client- with respect because that’s how one booking leads to two, and two lead to four, and you get the picture. If you’re a delight to work with, word will spread. The world of modelling is smaller than you think, and people do talk. Do yourself a favour, and wow every client because great things can come from those humble bookings.
Ambition is a great tool to have: knowing where you want to be in five years is brilliant for keeping you focused, but if it gets in the way of how you perform in the here and now, you may have a problem. Reel it in a little, apply some smile and charm, and watch those bookings roll in.
This may seem like an obvious point, but bear with me on this one. Being self-confident is pretty much a non-negotiable when starting out. You may not be convinced your walk rivals Carmen Kass, but having a solid grounding in the basics of projecting self-confidence is a must.
Head up, shoulders back: if you walk into a casting and get a case of wobbly knees, faking good confidence really does work. Look at how a confident person walks and stands: good posture, relaxed shoulders and plenty of eye contact. Making that first impression only takes seconds, so if you have to, grit your teeth and go for the Oscar in pretending to be self-confident, because it’s worth it.
If you find the call of the wobbly knees too much to ignore, however, just switch off that inner voice that tells you you’re never going to get this booking in a million years, and pay attention to what’s going on around you. If you’re asked to show your portfolio to a client, being able to have something to say (eg: a favourite photo, why you liked working with that photographer), will fill that awkward void. Listen and participate: if a client wants you to walk and you’re not sure what type of walk they want, don’t be afraid to ask. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness – far from it. It will show that you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you. Also when you’re paying attention, your quaking knees soon get forgotten. See how that works?
Projecting confidence is crucial. Don’t listen to that little voice in your head: if you’ve booked a casting, let alone a job, you’re there for a reason. You’re in with a shot and it’s up to you to make the most of it. Rejection will happen, of course, it does to everyone. You may receive knock-backs for jobs you thought you were perfect for, and by the same token, you could get booked for a job you assumed you’d never get. The key to accepting rejection is to not see it as a personal slight against you. Casting directors often have very specific criteria and you may meet 10% of the brief, or 90%. If it’s not 100%, it’s unlikely you’re getting the job. It seems unfair, but it shows that rejection boils down to box-ticking rather than your hair being the ‘wrong’ colour. There is no ‘right look’ in modelling anymore: don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your failure to scoop a job is because you don’t fit in. Modelling is a game of numbers: if you have what it takes, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself at the right casting at the right time.
Not the most thrilling of topics, but discipline is probably the most important quality a model can possess. Those who succeed don’t do so through random flashes of brilliance; they win contracts and editorials because of consistency. Again, not a word that gets the pulse racing, but in a business where time is money, being reliable is music to a client’s ears. They want someone who turns up on time, ready to work. Someone who turns up late, bleary-eyed, grumpy and none too co-operative will not get a second chance with that particular client.
Modelling can often involve long hours (unsociable too: some of the best light for outdoor shoots is at the crack of dawn). To survive travelling, long demanding shoots and endless go-sees requires you to be in peak physical and psychological condition. To get to the top, some sacrifices have to be made. Foregoing a wild night out before a major casting or shoot = good idea. Getting wasted and hoping breath mints and Touche Eclat will hide the evidence? Not so good.
The first mantra a model learns is to be on time. If you know you’re someone who always arrives 10 minutes late, adjust your watch back 15 minutes and go by that. Being constantly late isn’t cute when you’re representing not only yourself but your agency. If you’re going to unfamiliar locations, get yourself a smart phone and download navigation applications. Make that first impression a good one, by respecting that the client’s time is precious.
If you’re lucky enough to become a little more established in the industry, don’t fall into the trap of becoming complacent. Top model Kate Moss nearly lost her entire career when her partying became a problem. As big a name as Kate was, winning back clients still took her a long time, because restoring a damaged reputation is a lot harder than building a good one.
Discipline, however dry it sounds, is probably the thing that separates a good model from a great one. If you’re serious about not only making it in modelling but sticking around, this is the quality it pays to master. Don’t be fooled into thinking that modelling is the soft option: it may take discipline to make it to the top, but it takes even more to stay there.