When you are still trying - Some modelling tips

When looking for work, head for recognised agencies, ad film producers, freelance coordinators and production stylists. Research the market and target your clients specifically. Being interviewed as a model is just like being interviewed for any other job - you have to focus on selling yourself.

Keep your clothes clean and casual. They should not be very tight or very loose; just fit you comfortably. Go with minimal or no make-up, clean and simply styled hair, well manicured hands and feet, with your nails cleaned, filed and buffed. Take your latest pictures and a copy of your bio-data. Also, your own stationery - pen, pad or diary- to take down any numbers or other information.

Remember to always be either a few minutes ahead or on time - never late. If, however, you are likely to be late due to unavoidable circumstances, call and request that your appointment be rescheduled at a time that's mutually convenient. If your client is delayed, be patient - chances are, other business activities and unexpected emergencies take precedence. While waiting, don't use agency phones to make personal calls. This is considered tacky, unprofessional and out of line - unless there is an emergency.

Take along a friend or a family member, if that helps. Just make sure you leave your girlfriends and boyfriends at home. Ask your companion to wait in the visitors' foyer while you conduct your business affairs yourself. Minors should be accompanied by at least one parent or a local guardian.


First, switch off your pager or mobile phone. Make your introduction brief and cut out the accent. Smile and be your natural self (we know a fake when we see one). Don't pull out your pictures till you are asked, and, then, place them in the view of the person concerned.

Your personality plays a major part in the final decision. Personally, when I sign on a model, I assume that he or she will interact with clients in the same manner that he or she interacts with me. A model must be able to communicate. In fact, I've signed many models who may not have had a look that I immediately believed in, but because I was sold on their motivation and personality. I'm always on the lookout for that special quality that makes a great face and body outstanding.


Always, but always, be alert and keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground for any opportunity. Let me give you a simple analogy to help you understand the process. As a consumer, there are products you have used for a long time for various reasons - they could be within your budget, easily accessible, durable, beautifully packaged, etc. And there are products you have discarded after the first use, since they weren't exactly what you expected. Similarly, photographers, coordinators, casting directors, producers, choreographers and clients may want to continue with the same models or change them after their first-ever experience. So you can never tell what clients are really looking for. But it pays to be consistent in your behaviour and attitude and approach each professional opportunity positively.

When rejection comes your way, learn to handle it professionally. Treat it as a learning experience and move on. You've got to have endurance, especially because most people in this business are temper-amental. In the early days, I used to cry myself to sleep because I thought I wasn't good enough. But I kept forging on. Like me, you could possibly make mistakes, but the important fact remains that you've made a decision and taken a step forward.

At every step of the way, and especially in the beginning, try to develop an enthusiastic, positive and dependable reputation. For your reputation is closely linked to your attitude in this industry and it always precedes you throughout your career.


Once you start working, your daily diary or date book should be your industry bible. If you prefer to put together your own bible, a filofax is ideal as it has masses of pockets and can expand to fit your needs. The important thing is to have enough room to write on each page (that's positive thinking at work - you'll need lots of room to write down all the things you'll be doing!) This is all part of becoming organised and professional, and the benefits are unlimited.

For a start, it will remind you of your bookings and, perhaps, keep a note of how the client wants you to look for a particular shoot. It will also provide a valuable record, especially for audits - you can always refer to your diary to check queries about receipts, payments and hours worked. If a coordinator is organising an audition, always check the booking date to make sure that you don't have a conflicting engagement. Keep a record of all your interactions and it will help you build up a network of contacts.


If your wardrobe is the packaging for your product, make sure that your package always looks fresh and planned. When you look at yourself, ask yourself if your outfit is consistent with your advertising scheme. Ask the agency concerned what is appropriate for the psychographic profile. Each market has its own require-ments. In Delhi and Bangalore, agencies prefer models to dress up and use a lot of make-up. In Mumbai, however, models tend to dress down, wearing minimal accessories and make-up. But do use your common sense. Don't imitate others. Everyone has his or her own style and if it's not you, and you're not comfortable with your clothes, it will be difficult to sell yourself at auditions, video tests, and personal interviews.


The indispensable 'model's bag' carries the tools of your trade, which can vary from city to city. With time and experience, you will learn what to carry and be able to anticipate what clients will want. For me, the fact that models bring their model's bag along is just as important as their looks. If they haven't brought anything to assist the shoot, I consider that a point against them.

For now, the basic requirements for auditions and video tests are:

For women:
* Bras - skin-coloured, white and black
* Panties - skin-coloured, white and black
* Body stocking - to match your skin tone
* Boob tube - any colour
* Tights - black and skin-coloured
* Hair and make-up bags
Nail care bag - emery boards, clippers, buffer, polish
* Hygiene necessities - tampons, deodorants, razors
* Your wardrobe should include jeans, T-shirts and two basic outfits - casual and formal. Take along saris with matching blouses and petticoats since they are requested for frequently. Pastel shades work best.
* Accessories - scarves, headbands, hats, gloves, sunglasses, prop spectacles, belts and jewellery
* Shoes - high-heeled black and neutral courts, flat black pumps

If the client, agency or coordinator asks for additional items before a shoot, you have time to prepare. If you are unable to supply the required items, notify the client so that the client's company can supply them, instead. You do not need to take your model's bag to personal interviews and casting calls, but do take along a skin-coloured bra and panty, tights (skin-coloured and black), shoes (flat and high-heeled) and clean hands and nails (polish must be unchipped).

For men:

* Underwear - white and skin-coloured briefs with athletic support
* Socks - various colours and styles
* Shoes - white trainers, classic black shoes
* Trousers - various colours and seasonal fabrics
* Jeans - classic blue and black
* Make-up - foundation and powder to match your skin tone
* Hair products - spray, gel, brush, comb, etc.
* Hygiene necessities - deodorant, eye drops, contact lens solution, razors, etc. What men require for editorial and fashion modelling
* Shoes - trainers, black and brown dress shoes, black and brown casual shoes, cowboy boots and sandals
* Shirts - dress shirts, sports shirts, casual shirts in a variety of colours
* Trousers - various colours and fabrics, including denim
* Swimwear - boxer-style shorts and self-coloured briefs
* Accessories - prop spectacles, watch, gold band, etc.


The following information on etiquette may seem obvious, but, unfortunately, is often neglected. Common sense and consideration towards others are vital elements for success in any career. But when you are establi-shing your reputation, it is even more important to begin your new career with good habits.


When you visit an agency, make sure you arrive on time, and leave as soon as your business is over. It can be very disturbing to have a lot of people just hanging around. If you have to wait, try to smile and say hello to the people around. Don't be dismayed if no one responds. Most likely, they are as shy or nervous as you are. You might start up a quiet conversation with someone, but avoid loud conversation where people are trying to work. Also, no gossip! Bringing a book or magazine is acceptable.

You should be prepared to wait anything from a few seconds to an hour and sometimes longer. If you have another engagement or assignment, tell the receptionist very politely about it. You'll possibly be allowed in next. If this is the case, apologise to the other people waiting and say your thank yous.

Make sure you are dressed as the agency has told you to - you'll have a better chance of getting the job if you walk in looking like the photo they have in mind. If the coordinator or production stylist did not make a suggestion on how to dress, ask her for ideas. If she does not know, dress mid-stream - not too high fashion and not too casual.

When your name is called, follow the person who addressed you into the interview room. Smile, greet the interviewers, say who you are and why you are there. Shake hands firmly if you choose to (a limp handshake is very off-putting). Wait for an invitation to sit down. (Some clients will interview you as you stand. Don't worry, this is not unusual). Have a list of things to discuss, so you have an agenda once the conversation gets going. Also, make a habit of taking notes in your filofax. Be prepared to hand over your portfolio for inspection. An interview may last from 30 seconds to 30 minutes; you cannot predict how long or short it will be. Just flow with it.

Normally, when you go into an interview, everyone is under pressure to find the right model(s) as quickly as possible, book them and produce the rest of the advertising campaign while juggling other daily activities. It is not unusual for a client to have a couple of auditions for different jobs on the same day. If time allows, take the opportunity to bring out your personality. You don't have to go into a song or tap dance - just be yourself. At social gatherings, you know when you click immediately with someone; there are others who take a little longer to warm up. It has all to do with personal chemistry. Photographers and clients are like that, too. Sometimes, you get along spontaneously and, at other times, it takes longer.

Your mood and their mood are factors in determining the success of the interview. Regardless of their behaviour, always remain friendly, calm and professional. Don't push too hard. Always be direct. Don't waste the client's time or yours. This is also part of establishing your reputation. Photographers and clients often have incredible memories. They may not book you for that particular job, but they will keep you in mind for the future. It is not uncommon for weeks, even months, to go by before the photographer or client phones the agency and requests to see you again for a new job being cast.


Communication is a crucial element of success. When you are calling a place of business, remember every second you waste is time - and time is money. You'll make quick friends with people if you are direct and don't waste their time. Say who you are and why you are calling. Often, I've made appointments with people immediately just because I liked the way they handled themselves on the phone.

If you are nervous, practise with your friends. It may feel silly, but you'll learn the habit of preparing yourself for all sorts of telephone conversations. Try to get on and off the telephone as quickly as possible - excessive conversation can be distracting to the flow of business at that moment. If you are making an inquiry, be ready to write down the information. Don't call people and interrupt their answers to your questions with, "Oh, can you hold on while I get my pen?" They have many other priorities in their day, have little time to spare and are under a lot of pressure. So try not to irritate them.


It does help to be seen in the right places, but proceed with caution! If not handled properly, it could have a negative effect on your reputation. Now, here's the tricky part - what is 'proper'? Everyone marches to a different drummer and what is proper for you may not necessarily be proper for another person. Numerous business situations will present themselves in restaurants, studios, hotel rooms and so on. Who pays the bill? Should you drink alcohol or refuse drugs? What should you wear? Should you go off your diet to make a client more comfortable? Should you sleep with a client in order to get a job?

Well, if you have issued the invitation - to lunch, dinner or whatever - you should pay the bill. If you've been invited, your host should pay. If it was a mutual decision, each person should pay his or her share. If there's any doubt or discomfort, just ask, 'Shall we split the bill?' It is not considered unprofessional to have a glass of wine or a cocktail with dinner. Only, know how much alcohol you can handle and never drink too much while doing business. Drugs are bad for your skin, your mind, your hair, your body and your general health and well-being. They are destructive elements in a professional model's career. If they are offered, refuse politely .

What you should wear depends upon the situation. If you are dining at a smart restaurant or going to a formal event, dress up; for a more relaxed atmosphere, dress casually. Be comfortable with yourself and the way you look. Clean and simple is always the best choice. Avoid items that are too trendy and do not wear heavy make-up. Always remember that your clothing is an extension of yourself and perceived that way by others. Parties and social gatherings can present great temptations by way of food and drink. Don't feel pressurised by people offering you calorie-rich cheesecake when you are on a diet. They should understand; even if they don't, it is not impolite to refuse.

No matter how old, how experienced or how professional you are, there will always be tricky situations to handle. Whatever your behaviour, be aware of it and accept the consequences.

You will be respected a lot more if you stay professional and don't mix business with pleasure. In other words, no matter who may proposition you, never compromise your virtue or lose your dignity. Don't ever sleep with someone who promises you a job in return. Chances are you won't be given the job, and you will simply get a bad name for yourself.

Modelling has a promiscuous reputation (not entirely unfounded), but the best rule is always to follow your instincts. If you don't want to do something, don't do it. And if you want to, go right ahead. Behave professionally and others will respond in the same vein.

If you are out socialising and a client doesn't remember you, don't be hurt. There are hundreds of models and it's difficult to remember everyone. Defuse any embarrassment by reintroducing yourself. Don't be surprised if some people pretend not to know you - this happens a lot. I laugh when people do this to me - if it makes them feel more important, who am I to spoil their fun?

Insecurity can also alter people's behaviour. And modelling tends to breed insecurity, perhaps because the future's always uncertain. Regardless of your environment and what is going on, insecurity can pop up at any time. It's understandable that you may be overwhelmed by people when you are just beginning your career, but the more experienced you get, the more secure you should become.

Try to cultivate a positive attitude and treat people as you want them to treat you. Yes, this is an old adage, but you'll be amazed how well it works. It's very important to get out there and try. You'll eventually find a system that works for you.


(which are not so common any more!) Who doesn't like a bit of appreciation? Simple things like a card, a rose, a cigar or a basket of fruit, just to say 'thank you' to someone special, are always appreciated and your thoughtfulness remembered. It doesn't have to cost a lot. The small investment you make will undoubtedly come back to you, over and over again. If you have made a faux pas or a mistake you regret, a simple gesture to show your regret can easily persuade someone to forgive your foolishness. If you find yourself in a spot, the least you should do is write a brief letter of apology to the client, depending on how well you know him or her. Don't hesitate to say sorry for your mistakes. A graceful apology can work wonders.


Whether you're new to the modelling business or an old hand, it's important to keep up with trends in fashion photography. The best way to do this is to subscribe to a wide variety of magazines. You will also need to monitor your diet, exercise, sleep, skin care, make-up, hair, clothes... and TV commercials.

Once you get caught up in hectic schedules, you will be immersed in a whole new world which you will have to juggle simultaneously with your existing lifestyle. There will be endless and inevitable changes. Modelling is a very self-centred career and your family and friends may be slow to realise that your time with them will be necessarily curtailed. Certain things, such as going to the movies with friends, become inconsequential next to working out or having a make-up lesson.

Your family and friends will see a dramatic physical change in you as you become more educated about how to present yourself. And they'll see an emotional change as you become more confident.

Often, I've seen models suffer on account of these factors because of concerned parents, jealous girlfriends and intimidated boyfriends.

It takes strength of character to focus on yourself and your career constantly without hurting those around you. So, keep your family and close friends abreast of your daily activities. This way they'll understand your involvement with some of your other concerns.

Because modelling is such a selfish profession and each job could be your last, try to learn from each one and move forward. It takes a special kind of person to be able to live without knowing where the next pay cheque is coming from - if at all there is going to be one! To accept the possibility of never working again, and still feel very positive about yourself, is difficult. In promoting yourself and competing in this industry, people will inevitably misunderstand you and mistake your confidence for arrogance. But, tell me, what's wrong with believing in yourself? Nothing!

I know this can be a frustrating, expensive and sometimes depressing career. But, on the other hand, it can also be educational, lucrative, uplifting and confidence-building. To remain true to yourself, you have to maintain your own ethics and morals. Take care of yourself and the people around you, and always, but always, be professional.


Treat a photographer's studio as if it were his or her home -- very often it is. Remember, you are welcome inside on the understanding that you will respect the property and the environment.

Always be professional. Never forget that you are there to work, no matter how friendly the atmosphere.

Be prepared. You should always arrive with your requested wardrobe intact, pressed and clean. Always bring your model's bag. Don't rely on any other person, such as the stylist, make-up artist or hairdresser, to cover for you.

Arrive promptly at the time specified. You may develop a close relationship with various studio personnel and they might allow you to arrive early. But always telephone first to ask if you can come in early. Don't presume.

Introduce yourself to everyone when you arrive. Be friendly. Shyness often comes across as arrogance. Write down the names and occupations of everyone in the studio.

Always ask before you take or use anything that does not belong to you.

You may offer to bring coffee or croissants to the shoot. You may be told it is not necessary, but the thought will be remembered and appreciated.

Personal stereos do not allow you to hear if someone is calling you. If you want something to pass the time while waiting to go on the set, take a book along to read.

Don't send the photo assistant to run errands for you. If there is an emergency, ask the photographer before getting an employee to leave the studio.

Only use the telephone if absolutely necessary and be sure to ask first. Make your call brief.

Watch your step while walking on and off the set. You could stumble over the cords, lights and other equipment.

Don't chat with others when on the set. This is very distracting for the photographer and will affect his concentration. Also, you won't be able to hear him if you're talking. Excessive talk or gossip is always rude.

Don't ever chew gum in the studio. Not only is it unpleasant, it is also rather offensive in a corporate environment.

If you make any sort of mess, be it from food, drink, make-up or hair supplies, clean it up.

When changing, take care not to get make-up on the clothes you are to model. Get them on and off as quickly as possible and hang them up immediately.

Don't sit, eat or smoke while wearing the client's clothes. They are often samples and have taken a long time to iron.

Ask the stylist about wearing dress shields to prevent perspiration stains.

If you like the garment you are modelling, you may ask the stylist about purchasing it, but only after the photo session. Don't assume you can just take it and don't pressurise the client to give it to you. This will really put you in a bad standing.

If you don't like your client's outfit -- just shut up.

Drugs are absolutely forbidden. They can ruin your career and you.

Respect, courtesy and consideration are essential in a professional model. They make the difference between a short or long term career.


All models are self-employed, which means the model is responsible for their own tax and insurance.

It is important therefore that you keep all receipts from everything that is purchased or any service that has been used in relation to your modeling career.

For example: · Test shots · Photographs · Index Cards · Model Book · Clothes · Travelling expenses · Sun-bed · Gym membership · Hair care/make-up/accessories · Mobile Phone

Once working on a regular basis, you will need to employ an independent accountant to process your accounts for tax and insurance purposes. If you need advice on this, your agency should be able to offer assistance and recommend a reputable accountant.

1. Invoicing

Your agency will invoice all clients on your behalf. Under no circumstances should you do the invoicing yourself. It is imperative therefore that you telephone the agency with your hours immediately after the job as they cannot invoice until they have this information.

NOTE: The time you finish is the time you leave the set, not the time you leave the studio.

You should call into your agency every evening to check if there are any castings/jobs for the next day and to book out times when you are not available.

2. Pay

Your agency will take a commission from you on all bookings - look at it as their pay for getting you the work…like I said, they are working for you not the other way around. A standard commission is around 20%. On receipt of the monies from the client your agency prepare remittance advice for you which will contain details of each job paid, together with a cheque for the total amount.

Be aware that it can take up to 3 months for clients to pay! Any outstanding accounts should be written down and handed to your booker for collections.


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