There are three main ways to contact a modelling agency:
- By post
- By email
- In person
Many model agencies specify which method they usually prefer, but note that when you’re starting out and shopping for agencies, cold-calling is a no-no. The odds of being signed to any agency are slim, but bugging an agency with calls isn’t the way to even out those odds. The key to getting seen is to play the hiring game by their rules. If the model agency you’re after prefers emails, send an email. If another agency holds Open Days, turn up on that day ready to dazzle. Persistence is a valuable asset when starting out in modelling, but use it intelligently and channel that determination.
The first step in contacting any model agency is to prepare some photos. This doesn’t mean spending hundreds, even thousands, on a portfolio. All you need at this stage are a couple of recently-taken photos, one head-shot (head and shoulders, facing the camera) and a full body shot (head-to-toe, again facing the camera). Some agencies also like a profile shot to see how your face copes with different angles - it’s worthwhile checking their websites as they will list exactly what they want.
The key to getting good photos is to keep it simple. Your background should be well-lit and uncluttered – standing up against a plain wall is perfect. In terms of posing, resist the temptation to show off your killer impression of Anna Jagodzinska: for these photos, try to keep your face in a neutral expression – this means no pouting or smiling. It’s harder than it looks and it might be worth practising in the mirror beforehand to know how your face settles naturally and what looks best.
Think of the process as a chance to present yourself as someone who could handle lots of different looks. With this in mind, think about what you wear whilst taking these shots. A simple t-shirt or vest with jeans is ideal: you’re looking to market yourself as that perfect blank canvas, ready to be signed.
In terms of grooming, simplicity is the key: over-working your skin and hair is a rookie mistake. A busy agent doesn’t want to have to spend time scrutinising a photo of someone who’s covered in make-up to see what’s underneath. Keep the skin clean and fresh – no make-up is preferable but a little dab of concealer here and there is fine. With hair, swept back off the face to show your bone structure works well, and it will also demonstrate how light hits your face. These photos are very important, and the temptation to hide behind a comfort blanket of make-up and hair product is immense, but any good agent will be able to tell if you have potential from a couple of simple shots. Once you are armed with a set of photos you are happy with, here’s how you go about approaching an agency.
Contacting an agency by post is fairly straightforward. Send your photos, along with a SAE and brief covering letter (outlining any previous experience and your vital statistics), to the model agency marking it for the attention of their ‘New Faces Division’ (every agency has one).
Your vital statistics will be the following:
- Chest / bust size
- Waist & hip measurements
- Hair and eye colour
- Dress and shoe size
When compiling your statistics, it is crucial to be honest. Not only is it good modelling karma, but adding an inch or two to your height, or shaving an imaginary inch off your waist would be a terrible mistake. If you write off to a modelling agency, stating that you are 5’9” when you’re in fact 5’6”, the agent will not thank you for wasting their time when they agree to meet you in person. If you hover between measurements, always state your exact size. There’s no shame in being 5’8” ½, but saying your waist is 24 inches when it’s closer to 25 can make a difference. You want to start your relationship with any agency off on the right foot, and being absolutely honest is the best way to start.
Rapidly becoming the most common method of contacting a modelling agency, many agencies now have their own dedicated page for people who want to be considered for their New Faces Division. If your chosen agency has a page like this, you can directly upload your photos directly onto their website. Many of these agencies will also have an online form you can fill out, adding your contact info and vital statistics. Bear in mind that if the agency likes your photos, you could well be asked to meet with them in person: padding your CV or spinning your stats so they look more attractive to an agency doesn’t work in real life. Modelling is one of the few professions where starting with zero experience isn’t a problem. If you have potential to work in the modelling industry, someone will spot it.
Some agencies have regular ‘open castings’, which anyone can attend and meet with agents to see if they have modelling potential. Usually, if this is an option, it will be listed on an agency’s website with dates and times.
Take this as gospel: if an agency has an Open Day and wants would-be models to attend the agency on Tuesday at 10am, turn up on Tuesday at 10am. Do not assume that the agents will have hours at their disposal to spend looking at new faces; many times the ‘Open Day’ is little more than a couple of hours at most, because time spent away from existing clients and models has the potential to lose the agency valuable income. Therefore, take their time seriously and be punctual. It’s also good training for when you become a model, as time-keeping is as important as having a decent runway walk. If you know you’re one of those people who’s at least 10 minutes late for everything, plan and organise your day accordingly. Adjust the time on your phone so it’s running 10 minutes fast if you have to, and work to that.
If you’re able to get to an open casting, present yourself the way you did during your photos. Think clean, modern and polished. Presenting yourself in this way not only flags up to an agent that you’re someone who’s done their research, but also someone who’s serious about committing to a career in modelling. Don’t forget to bring a copy of your original photos along with you as well, so the agent can see how your features translate on film.
Whatever way you decide to approach an agency, listen to any advice and constructive criticism that’s offered. If an agent suggests you may not be right for a sector of the industry because of your height, don’t automatically give up. If you’re aged 16 or under, it might be worth waiting 6 months before trying again, as you may grow that extra couple of inches which might make all the difference.
However, if you’re about as grown as you’re likely to get, and the issue is that your look won’t fit in a particular section of the industry, you may have to accept that you’re getting advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about. If you’re 5’5” and want to break into high-fashion where 5’9” is the norm, you will have to face the fact that the odds of succeeding are stacked against you. There are always exceptions, especially in high-fashion where tastes and trends change so quickly, but in order to break through those barriers you will have to be truly exceptional.
When you are contacting modelling agencies, accept that rejection is part of the whole experience, and be flexible and open-minded when it comes to looking out for opportunities. If an agent suggests you might be better off exploring another area of the industry, don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations on where to go next. They will know who will be best placed to help you in that search. Don’t give up too easily: it’s a big modelling world out there – if you’re not quite right for one agency, you could well be a perfect fit somewhere else.