It’s taken me a few years to be comfortable with using the ‘M’ word when it comes to describing myself, but following on from several paid jobs that are actually for brands and websites and not just ‘for fun’, I feel it’s ok to give myself that title!
Despite being a model, I am not one in the conventional sense. I am not represented by an agency and most of the shoots I do are of the pin up flavour or I am at least usually allowed some say over my styling and hair and make up. And so this post will be a little background on what life is like for me in terms of modelling, and then what it’s generally like – because I am an exception in a few ways.
Photoshop is a great tool, and one used to varying degrees by most photographers. And whilst they can retouch skin and hair and nails, it’s more ideal if models arrive at shoots pimped and preened and camera ready. I shoot in a lot of lingerie for the blog, and so I have monthly waxes to keep everything under control in the lady garden. I keep on top of my eyebrow plucking and get them threaded every so often to make sure I keep them a great shape. I get false nails painted with shellac to keep them from chipping and also enable them to be painted over. I also have regular pedicures, and try to keep my feet looking smooth and clean by regularly Ped Egging and moisturising them. I try to make sure I tan evenly and avoid having cray white marks or a patchy peeling tan. Roots are a no no, and so my mousy brown hair gets slathered in red dye as soon as my true colours start to show. My skin is very prone to being dry, and I am sensitive to a few products, and so I stay mainly make up free unless I have a shoot or event. I use a variety of scrubs and moisturisers to try to keep my skin flake free and flawless and ready to be covered in make up! I drink a lot of water and avoid caffeine and too much heavy drinking too often. I had my teeth whitened last year, and so I semi regularly wear my moulds with top up beach in them to maintain my pearly whites. I shave and scrub and moisturise my legs and try to always smell lovely! This may all sound rather extreme and you may be thinking, ” I’m sure that there are better and cheaper ways to do x, y and z” but this is the routine that is working thus far.
Shoots require stamina. You are being made up for a few hours, which might sound dreamy and don’t get me wrong, I love a makeover! But having your face poked and prodded, your hair pulled and back combed and teased, hair and make up changes…well it does require some energy! Don’t you roll your eyes at me! You have to carefully get in and out of clothes without messing them or the aforementioned hair and make up up too much, you have to walk and stand and pose in high uncomfortable shoes, fake smile and laugh and walk and hold various positions and poses…it is full on! It really is! You are drained by the end of the day, and sometimes you have to do it all over again the next day. Plus, you might have driven or gotten a train and lugged a suitcase there for several hours, and then you have to get yourself home. Prior to shoots, you must eat a good breakfast and personally, on most shoots I prefer to power on without stopping for lunch because stopping means changing and destroying make up and time out and then a slightly slower pace when your belly is full! Then after the shoot I am ravenous and ready to eat the world! But as mentioned, I normally still have to travel home and lug my body and luggage with me! During shoots it’s important to stay hydrated – and it’s one of the reasons that I usually carry straws everywhere! Keep that lippie topped up! Dehydration makes you skin and lips wither a little, and it can make you feel a bit bloated. There’s just so much to think of!
In order to have that stamina, flexibility and mobility required to shoot regularly, I do hit the gym a lot. Weight training help in terms of the lugging things around, the cardio keeps my stamina up, and I am forever trying to trim the wobble just to keep me at the ideal size – most brands require me to be their size 16-18 model, and so maintaining my size ensure that I get work and keep clients. This is a personal choice, and of course not all models need to hit the gym in order to find photoshoots a little easier, but it really benefits me.
Aside from the straws, there’s always so much more in my suitcase! Some shoots provide everything for me – the bras, the shoes, the jewellery, the body make up, the water – everything! And some shoots require me to provide everything myself – and do my own hair and make up. And so my suitcase can sometimes be jammed full of shoes and corsets and tights and hair flowers, and sometimes a little less. But the bare essentials are usually:
A spare razor
A spare toothbrush and toothpaste
Body scrub and moisturiser
Face scrub and moisturiser
My Ped-Egg and foot cream
Deodorant and perfume – you can get VERY sweaty under those lights, and smelling bad makes you feel bad and pose awkwardly!
Neutral nail polish
Phone battery packs
And those are the barest of bare essentials. You have to be fresh, clean, polished, smelling good and photo ready, and if your feet ache or your head hurts you need to be able to deal with it – because otherwise it’ll show on your face.
As I mentioned, I usually have to do a bit of travelling in order to get to my shoots. Sometimes I’ll need to go for castings (and I don’t always get the job) or for fittings – both of which can be quite far from home, aren’t always paid and usually take around an hour or two. It involves trying on clothes and heels and then having garments pinned to me for adjustments, and usually photographed just for reference. I don’t always like everything I wear, I’m not always comfortable in everything – my arms may be out, my VBO might on show and the shoes are always a treat to walk in! But I am not there to have a say, I’m there to try to make the clothes look good!
And then there’s the shoots! There can sometimes be huge teams involved to help sort the lighting, tweak the clothes, touch up the make up and sort my hair. I generally throw my own poses, trying to change my body and face between each shot to give the photographer and brand a choice of photos and looks. Sometimes I am given direction or made to hold all manner of uncomfortable positions. Fake smiles, fake walks and Blue Steel are all in my repertoire, as well as trying to show the garment off, not look like I am tired or in pain and generally try not to be a diva!
When it comes to applying for an agency and working as a fully fledged model, things are a little different. MOST agencies require you to be 5’9 and over, have no or very few visible piercings or tattoos and to keep your skin, hair and nails in great condition. Generally, you need to be below 30. You may do and be all of the above and they may still say no because they already have three girls who look a little like you on their books. You might be asked to slightly change your hair or look just to make you more bookable. And then once you’re signed, it’s generally not a great idea to try to change things up too often – or at least not without speaking to your agent. You will be hired based on your consistence – the look seen in your portfolio. So no impulsive hair changes (ahem) or crazy colours!
You will have to travel for castings. It may be a casting on your own or a casting with a room full of other women with a similar look to you. You will be scrutinised by the brand, possibly talked about like you aren’t there, apparent flaws may get pointed out and then you might not even get the job. And that’s not a slur on you – you need to be exactly the right fit and look for the brand for that campaign.
You may be put in shoes and clothes that aren’t quite the right fit, have your hair crimped to within an inch of it’s life and all sorts of make up slathered onto your face. The people you may be working with might be arseholes, you might need to do rapid changes with little privacy. You might not like the clothes, the poses, the final photos – but it’s usually not your place to say so. Your agent might get reports of you losing or gaining weight and they might call you in to have a chat about this and you’ll have to work out what the next step will be. You might start to lose bookings just for making a few changes to your lifestyle. You might get padded out at shoots, or have parts of you photoshopped down or away, parts that you love and thought looked amazing. It can be a cruel old world.
Don’t get me wrong – the travelling, the people, the pampering, the variety – it’s bloody amazing! Getting trains everywhere aint so bad when you’ve got a great book and a 6 inch subway. Being hired because of how you look is a wonderful, vain feeling. It isn’t all doom and gloom – because why would people do it?! But do not see it as an affirmation of beauty. Do not see rejection as the world telling you you are hideous. But also don’t think that it’s all about standing around looking amazing – believe me when I say it can be full on flat out hard work!
If you think you have what it takes then your best bet is to get a friend or family member to take some photos of you – just you. No selfies, no group photos, no photoshop. Neutral hair and make up, clothes that show your figure off and a few smiles and poses. Email these along with your stats (your size, height, eye colour and hair colour) to a few agencies and ask for feedback. There are loads about – some that specialise in plus, some in pin up, some in alternative…just have a Google and see what takes your fancy! But never ever EVER go with an agency that charges you. Ever. Not for photos, not for signing up, NADA! It’s either a yes, we can get you work or a no. Not a ‘please pay us for photos and being on our books’ – that’s not how it works!
And once again – you don’t need to be a signed model to know you are beautiful and make an outfit look amazing. There’s no harm in trying, but there are so many other ways to prove your beauty and that, above all, that you’re a wonderful person.