“The Essential Qualities Needed to Succeed”
Written by Rick Trottier – RJT Images
“I thought that I would just stand around and look pretty. I thought modeling would be easy”.
It is quite surprising how often I’ve heard those statements out of the mouths of women who have jumped into the world of modeling. And as anyone knows who has tried to be a model (whether they have succeeded or not), Modeling is HARD. It takes all manner of strength, skill and sophistication to succeed in one of the most cut-throat of industries with more competition out there than almost any avenue of pursuit. Many thousands of girls dream of modeling and being in the limelight, of fame and a chance at an exciting/exotic lifestyle. But beauty by itself is rarely enough in this Industry. Just as the most talented baseball players CANNOT get by on sheer skill, they have to amass a myriad of abilities to succeed, a model needs to sharpen her claws when it comes to her knowledge and her skill set so that she can tackle every aspect of this Business.
Most people would never imagine that there are expectations when it comes to modeling and that the better prepared you are, the more likely a girl is to achieve some semblance of success, but that is absolutely the case. And when it comes to climbing any ladder of achievement, a handy-dandy guide goes a long way to insuring that the progress is measurable and sustainable and that the stumbles are fewer and farther between. While this is not the end-all-be-all of modeling guides, it is a worthy list of some of the most important prerequisites for the aspiring model on her journey to making something of herself. Models need to KNOW some things, DO some things and CREATE some things to get to where they hope to be and this syllabus has some useful places to start.
Physical Fitness – For quite a long time, a model HAD to be thin to find success in the Industry. And while the Criteria of Beauty has changed and shifted over the years, for far too long, being exceedingly slender WAS a modeling prerequisite. That isn’t quite the case anymore. High Fashion models are still expected to be very lean, but for the rest of the spectrum of modeling, muscular, curvier/thicker looks have become far more accepted. What a model needs to have now rather than being skinny is very well-managed physical fitness.
Physical fitness means many things to many people, but as it relates to modeling, there are a few important aspects that a girl should keep on top of. Flexibility is one of the most important. A flexible, lithe build is a body that can find and attain a wide variety of compelling poses. Adopting a stretching regimen is important to improving flexibility. Just as with athletes, it is amazing how many models who are flexible are into Yoga. Whatever path toward physical fitness a model takes, flexibility has to be a component. Another part of being a superb poser is maintaining muscle tone and power, especially core strength. Firm, capable muscles in the core, the back and legs can allow a model to hold difficult poses with greater ease. Strength training of some sort helps to improve muscle tone and most of the very best models adopt it at some point. Finally, a model must have significant amounts of stamina. Shoots tend to be 2-4 hours in length, sometimes longer. Cardio vascular exercise can help a model to stand up under the demands of a shooting schedule. A well-managed physical fitness regimen also allows a model to fit into a wide variety of garments without “issues” cropping up. Firm curves are a wondrous blessing to a model. Soft curves that can be pinched by straps and other tight accoutrements in an outfit cause problems visually that have to be fixed in some way, shape or form. There are many different types of fitness regimens and adopting one that is married to healthy eating habits, stress management and good sleep practices helps a girl shape her appearance to be its very best.
Emotional Fitness – One of the most grueling qualities of the Modeling World is the emotional toll that this business takes on a girl. From every single angle in a girl’s life there will come emotional challenges when she steps into the realm of being an aspiring model. The ups and downs of this industry, it’s frenetic nature so very much akin to battle situations, the drama and constant rivalry and backbiting added to the need to constantly be as professional as possible, all create a constant drain on the resources of the spirit and test a girl’s personal mettle to the utmost. Most people on the outside looking in would assume that the life of a model is charmed in the extreme, but that isn’t remotely the case. Models are constantly thrust through a gauntlet of unrelenting pressure and scrutiny, not to mention misery.
So, just as a young woman is in need of physical fitness, she must also display reasonably stable emotional fitness. Sadly, this situation is often in direct contradiction with the tendency of models to be somewhat emotionally brittle and high-strung. But often times, the models who rise to the top of the food chain and garner the most success are those young women who are able to conquer demons and learn coping strategies to address the challenges they must face. Learning to honestly embrace both strengths and weaknesses physically and emotionally is one of the best places to start. Coming to terms with a model’s past and what her true reasons are for getting into modeling is another important part of developing emotional fitness. Understanding the landscape of a girl’s emotions and what creates stress, anxiety and unhappiness and HOW to address these problems is critical. Having reasonable, achievable goals in modeling and a plan to get there is also an essential element. But most important of all is the ability to manage the highs and lows of this industry and how the modeling world will interact with a girl’s life outside the studio is the keystone in the arch that needs to be as strong as granite. Without emotional fitness, a model is certain to be ground to powder by the unfeeling wheels of the modeling industry, and cast aside by the hordes of girls just waiting to step over her.
Support Systems – One might lump the need for a support system in with emotional fitness, but they are two very distinct categories. Emotional fitness is best achieved by a girl on her own personal “walkabout”, a journey of personal discovery that hones strength and self-esteem. A support system is a collection of people who will “have a girl’s back” during the roller coaster ride of modeling and who are dependable, trustworthy, HONEST folk that won’t run when the going gets tough. Going into any modeling experience, a young woman needs to understand that there will be a surprising number of people who will come out of the woodwork and attack her decision to pose for pictures whether those photographs are conservative in nature or wildly sexy. More than many choices a woman will make, modeling produces some surprisingly strong reactions in people and the resulting attacks a girl must weather require more than just personal emotional fitness, it requires a stalwart support system.
Developing that support system takes a degree of courage, probably more than is required for a girl to step in front of a camera naked. Sitting down and having a frank conversation with family and friends, a little at a time, to ascertain their position on the choice to model will likely create the possibility of some confrontation, but it is absolutely necessary. Most people consider modeling to be a whim, the need for attention surfacing in a girl who has a lack of self-esteem, and for many unserious models that is precisely the case. But for the young women who feel the passion and the joy of modeling, having a discussion with potential allies, so that they can SEE the seriousness of a girl’s intent is crucial. Winning over supporters to your cause takes deep devotion and a willingness to wear your heart on your sleeve, but as I’ve said for many years, “REAL models’ souls burn for this business. Take it away from them and you take away a large portion of their reason to live”. Displaying that passion for modeling to the people who you want as part of your support system is a vital step in the process. And as a support system is established, people who are NOT supportive will be discovered and adjustments as to how a model interfaces with them are made. Most of the time, all that is needed is screening them from various forms of social media and avoiding certain discussion topics at get-togethers. Sometimes more drastic decisions have to be made like cutting ties, but knowing who is there for you and who is not is an inevitability in the modeling world.
Posing Skills – Practice makes perfect. We have all heard that saying many dozens of times in our lives. Musicians practice. Athletes practice. All forms of vocations and avocations practice, especially when there are specialized skills involved. The majority of lay-persons would not think of modeling as requiring skill. In fact, a well-educated, highly intelligent friend of mine once doubted that models have any skills. But those of us who have worked with MANY models over a long career in photography, have honed our own ability to direct models and work hard at getting the best out of them, KNOW that there is a world of difference between a girl who has talent and skills and one who does not. While everyone is born with cognitive predispositions towards certain talents and skills, all pursuits need to be and must be refined through practice and modeling is no exception. The most basic modeling skill is “Posing,” which is a combination of attaining vibrant body forms and creating emotive facial expressions.
The simplest and most effective way to practice both body poses and facial expressions is to STUDY the very best, most compelling images of models in magazines and on the internet, to commit those poses to memory and then practice them in the mirror. Aspiring models MUST be willing to look beyond the beauty of a professional model in an image, look past the lighting and editing of that image and see the components of what makes the poses dynamic and the facial expressions captivating. Like any pursuit in life, this doesn’t happen doing it once or after a very short period of time and effort, it takes dedication to learn what makes a pose great and a facial expression fabulous. Then, an aspiring model HAS to practice what she has studied in the mirror, over and over, understanding full well that her body is hinged differently than the girl in the picture, so the practice pose WILL be different. In the same manner, a facial expression of a professional model might not be easy to copy because that woman in the picture has had professional makeup and hair styling applied, changing the aspects of her face. But after significant amounts of practice, a “style” all her own forms in the body poses and facial expressions of a model as muscle memory accrues and the “feel” of what looks good becomes part of the very being of the aspiring model. Practice should be done regularly and in the privacy of one’s own home. A shoot is NOT a time to practice. Shoots are great places to learn certainly, but it is AT a shoot that a model puts into play what she has practiced.
Refining the Look – Models need to amass a lot of attire, accessories, tools of the trade and gadgets to look their best. More importantly, they need to UNDERSTAND what looks best, why it looks best and how their look can and should evolve over time. Serious models make a very important transition at some point in their career; otherwise they never become serious models. Girls care about what they like when it comes to their looks. MODELS understand what looks make them successful and sublimate their personal tastes for creating a look that brings accomplishment. So when it comes to attire, hair and makeup, jewelry, footwear, accessories of all types and whatever other elements of beauty and sex appeal need to be mastered, a model finds the path of blending her personal tastes with what makes her a hit with fans and supporters. This is akin to the process of creating Emotional Fitness, for it is a journey of self-discovery and one that never ends. Successful models challenge themselves to try new things, are willing to accept that not every look they try will work and that some things are going to be a boon while others will be a bust. Serious models are not just up on the newest fashions displayed at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, they are aware of all the new styles at the stores they frequent and are willing to look at garb and shoes in places that are not their regular haunts. Serious models are always trying new ideas for makeup, hair and accessories, allowing their look to subtly and carefully evolve. Fan bases are formed because girls find a vein that works and they mine it. Giving people something new is always a good idea, but the majority of people reject dramatic change. Smart, successful models know how to expand their fan base by bringing along long-time supporters and acquiring new ones through carefully managed knowledge of her strengths and weaknesses resulting in a steady evolution of style and beauty.
Professionalism – Any person who wishes to rise to the top of the totem pole in their field must adopt a professional demeanor and professional ethics when dealing with colleagues. All of the simplest and most time-tested qualities that your teachers, parents and bosses have ever preached to you are in full effect here. Being on time, being courteous and honest, being dependable and resourceful, being prompt in communication and being someone who stands up for the best of a solid belief system when it comes to business ethics, all of these are the hallmark of a Professional Model. Being professional requires a combination of simple common sense and a more highly developed understanding of one’s place in the scheme of things. Self-centeredness, self-absorption and immaturity are sure-fire ways to short-circuit any promising modeling career. Even worse are models who are ethically bankrupt and lie, cheat, manipulate and create drama. What models sometimes fail to remember is Industry Colleagues TALK. A girl who creates a terrible reputation has cut her throat in Modeling, often times forever. But a girl who creates lasting, strong, stable professional ties is someone who gets called on time and again, because she matches her exterior beauty with a Heart/Brain of Pure Gold.
Do your homework – The final piece of the puzzle involves acquiring even more knowledge and understanding. Who knew models had to know so much? But what most people outside the industry are totally unaware of is that the best models are savvy, smart girls who are constantly thinking, doing and exploring. Just as first-rate doctors and lawyers are going to seminars and workshops to expand their knowledge, great models are students of the Industry and are constantly learning.
When a model first steps into the Industry, she is as naïve as it gets, even if she is experienced and wise in all the other ways of the world. Any pastime with an arcane nature means that there is going to be a learning curve that is connected to pretty obscure information. There is an emotional component to this as well that often times hinders, even damages the potential success of a model. The Need to Feel Beautiful is a deeply engrained, almost instinctive construct woven into all women’s essences. And when a photographer reaches out to a model asking her to shoot (so MUCH easier today due to social media-which isn’t necessarily a good thing), most girls feel intensely flattered by the offer. And most photographers reach out, offering TF shoots for a myriad of reasons, some altruistic and many deeply nefarious. So aspiring models tend to accept, not realizing the damage they might and often times ARE doing to their chances of finding success, just because they often give into that fawning blandishment and a desire to feel lovely.
One of the oldest sayings in this Industry is “you’re only as good as your worst picture”. An addendum to that saw is “you’re only as good as those you associate with”. Too often girls will jump into the arms of a “photographer” who reaches out, offering a TF shoot, making a girl feel attractive and sexy and her choice to shoot with that “photographer” has already put her behind the Eight Ball. Girls HAVE to do their homework before making that decision because sometimes all it takes is one serious mistake to shatter a girl’s spirit, causing her to step away from modeling forever. Some of the things a girl should familiarize herself with are the following.
What is good art/photography?
Being offered images from a shoot sounds so very nice and promising, but if the pictures are of low quality (poor lighting, poor composition, poor editing, etc.), the result is looking amateurish at best, at worst a girl is branded a “social media model”, just another one of those lost souls who wants pics for the Facebook or Instagram popularity contest. Studying the work of well-respected photographers and understanding what makes a great image will help a girl to make a good choice and avoid the hordes of GWCs (Guys with Cameras) out there.
What is the reputation of the photographer?
When choosing a dentist, a doctor, an auto mechanic, a lawyer, a general contractor, even a college, people ask about the reputation of the person, the business and what can be expected if you work with them. Approaching a shoot with a photographer needs to be handled in the same manner. Certainly there is the fear that one COULD fall in with a predator and be assaulted, and while things like that happen, all it takes is asking around and bringing escorts to a shoot to avoid that trouble. Far more likely is the possibility of shooting with someone who has a miserable reputation, one that can spread a stain across how you wish to be perceived. Ask for references and accumulate as much information as can be done.
What value does shooting have?
In the very beginning of modeling, getting some good quality images has some benefit. But before long, accruing scads of pictures has little value. In fact, over time shooting and shooting and shooting, just to be in front of a camera, for no real apparent reason or gain can have a deleterious effect on how a model is perceived. Asking the good and reasonable question “why do you want to shoot” is something a girl needs to get in the habit of doing. All too often, photographers don’t have an answer to that question. Most will glibly spew out “for your portfolio”, which is a simplistic euphemism for “you’re hot and I want to be near you”. What most models fail to consider is that even a TF shoot costs her money in time, travel, wardrobe and makeup/hair products. If all you are getting are pictures, evaluating whether the shoot has value to you is essential. Models DO need images to promote themselves on social media, but there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”. A torrent of never-ending images causes fans to tune you out after a time. Images should have purpose and reasons for existence. As such, when a “photographer”, even a talented one says “Let’s Shoot”, ask yourself why he has extended the offer and what do you have to gain from accepting. If the gain is minimal or dubious, it could be a colossal waste of time, potentially a mistake waiting to blow up in a girl’s face.
There are so many other things for a model to learn so that she can navigate the currents of this Industry like “are all modeling agencies created the same”, “what is the difference between a real modeling agency and a talent management company”, “what is a promoter and which ones are trustworthy”, “do I need an agent or should I freelance”, “what is Intellectual Property Law and how does that dictate who owns the rights to images and how they are used”, “what are TF shoots and are they worthwhile” and so MANY other topics and issues worth exploring. Certainly, here at GlamModelz Magazine, there are a lot of articles and interviews that explore these subjects and merit reading. Study is always a first-rate choice when it comes to laying the foundation for success. Asking questions of honest professionals and establishing mentor relationships also helps. In the end, an aspiring model needs to be armed with as many skills and as much knowledge as she can acquire if she is to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of this Industry. Otherwise, she is likely to be as chewed up as any hound’s favorite toy.