I get asked almost weekly from you lovelies on Instagram and FB about the first steps in getting signed with a modeling agency and turning your love of modeling into an actual consistent job. I LOVE helping out newbies because I had people give me advice early on and I want to pass it forward. There are other times I had to learn things the hard way and make crazy mistakes…so I want to make sure you don’t have to learn the hard way!
From a VERY young age I wanted to perform in one way or another. It fueled my fire unlike any other thing I did. My heart was always pulling towards modeling. But I grew up in a small town in Kentucky and had no idea where to even start. The only people I knew who actually made money modeling were supermodels in NYC. That definitely wasn’t me.
My journey to modeling for a full time job (for 10 years so far! Whaaattt? Where does time go?) was not a quick nor an easy one. And it will be way longer of a story than you want to read (I may save that one for another day!) And I don’t want this to be about me anyway, so I will summarize the first few steps you need to take to make your dreams become a reality.
First off – find a good local agency. If you live in Kentucky or surrounding states, feel free to message me or comment below and we can discuss the ones that are around here. Be very selective! Even if you do live in a small town, you can still sign with agencies elsewhere. I did live in Chicago off and on in the summers over 6 years as well as in Miami. But I’ve mostly been able to travel out of Kentucky for shoots which I’m forever grateful for #ILoveKentucky. So you can too!!! Don’t let that stop you one bit. So I’m happy to help guide you through what I know about the different “markets” including LA, Chicago, Miami, and NYC etc because they are all SO DIFFERENT.
Most people ask me about agencies that charge for representation…. I completely understand the frustration and hesitation. And many are not legit for sure. But I will say in modeling it unfortunately can cost money to make money at first. Not every successful model has had to pay for classes - especially if you sign with a big agency at first because they almost never charge for classes. However, I had to do my share of ONE round of classes (don’t do them at each agency you sign with!) to establish my skills in different areas of modeling, acting, lessons on how to turn my accent off (y’all know it!), styling, tips for shoots, and much more. But I promise you can make the money back quickly. However, not all “agencies/classes” are legit. I don’t want to mention specific agencies here of course - but there are some which I’ve known so many girls to take classes with, and all those girls literally NEVER get a job or even a casting. Yeah… sure this industry can’t promise any jobs - but they should at least provide castings! So just message me if you’re considering any that are charging. Other than that, sometimes big agencies will charge if they print your comp cards for you or images for your book - but things are almost all digital now so this is extremely minimal.
Sometimes that smaller, local agency will ask to be your “mother agent.” A mother agent is usually a smaller agency that places you with bigger agencies. My mother original mother agency out of Nashville took me to a convention called AMTC (Actors Models and Talent for Christ) to meet with agencies - which is where FORD Models scouted me (and which is what made modeling go from a hobby to a career). I highly recommend having a mother agency because they are the middle man and can really protect you and help launch your career (if they are good!). And don’t worry, you won’t make less money having one. The client (who is the company such as Nike, Pantene, etc) pay the agency, and then the agency takes 20-25% out of your check. The mother agent and the bigger agency that got you the bigger job split the 20-25% fee. So you’ll make the same amount! I know losing any percentage sounds like a lot, but agents work a ton submitting you to big clients, fighting for your day rate, and even tracking down usage fees for jobs you shoot forever ago (Usage fee=a client pays to use your image for a certain amount of time, and if they go over, they have to pay extra. Ex: I shot for Pantene like 5 years ago, and received checks from them for several years because they kept using it past the paid contract timeline. Best. Job. Ever!) It’s always ideal to sign with an agency because tons of big companies only book through agencies instead of directly. All checks come through the agency which got you the job.
All agencies have what they call “open calls.” You can call them and ask when open calls are. Or, if you have a mother agent, they can set it up for you. During your open call, you go in to meet with the agents/bookers. There are often several aspiring models there meeting them as well. This is not a time to be perfect and wear tons of makeup. Just be fun and be you! If that is quirky, silly, simple…however God made you, USE that! And just dress casual. Even if you live in the south where we love getting all done up, you should still go into an agency with super natural hair and makeup. If you’re one of my pageant girl sisters- you know I love the big hair too, but let’s keep it super simple for agency castings ☺ Most agents suggest skinny jeans, heels, and a tank top. But if that doesn’t highlight your best features and shape, wear what does!
Once you are offered a contract, take your time and really look over it. Let your mother agency review it too if you have one. A lot of people ask me about being exclusive with one agency nationwide. Usually this isn’t the best idea because even if it’s the same agency all over, each market is very different and so one agency may not always be the best fit in each city. (EX: I am with FORD Models in Chicago, but I signed with Wilhelmina in Los Angeles years ago because those were the best fits for me in each city- opposed to signing with FORD in LA as well.) You can mark out things on the contract and make edits. Just review those with the agent. If you have questions – comment or send me an email about the contract you’re considering!
Once you do sign (yay you!) you are often put on the agency’s board of “new faces.” This starts your development stage. Be willing to learn. Be willing to listen to the agent’s advice (as long as it fits your morals and values- be open with them about that…I can talk about my struggles with that in another blog post if you all want? Let m know in the comments!). Be willing to do COUNTLESS photo shoots to build your portfolio. These are called “test shoots” and I can’t even begin to count how many I have done. And it’s something you must keep doing to keep your book updated. Usually the agency will schedule these for you with photographers they trust - which I recommend because It’s more likely they will use the images and won’t be a waste of time or money. Sometimes you have to pay for these shoots on your own, and sometimes the agency may cover them or at least put them on your account within the agency (so that future checks pay for them). But think of these photos as your business card. You have to have a wide variety of high-quality shoots to show a range of looks and photography styles. I always try to have a stylist on hand for these shoots because they are simply way better at knowing interesting looks that shoot well instead of just every-day, realistic outfits. Even if you have a portfolio of shots, when you sign with a big agency I can guarantee they will most likely start completely from scratch with new images. Trust their vision!
This is getting way too long so let’s just hold tight right here with my preaching for now! I’ll come back soon and chat about what to do as a new model during those “test shoots” , what to bring to shoots, how to handle the intense demands on being thin in the modeling world (from someone who is very often the most curvy model on set and my experience with that), as well as tips and advice on how to create YOUR best book that best represents YOU. This career is definitely not as easy as most people make it out to be, so I want to help YOU! YOU are officially a business in and of yourself! And you’re going to ROCK IT.