What is a Model? A Complete Guide for Beginners
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In the fashion industry, a model is a person who is used in advertising to show off items for sale – whether that is clothing, accessories, make-up, jewellery, holidays, events and more.
But what does it take to be a model, and how do you get into this infamously tricky industry?
What is a Model?
Models have only been around since the mid-1800s. Before, a mannequin was used to show off clothing or products. It wasn’t until 1853 that a designer called Charles Frederick Worth used actual live humans to show off fashionable garments.
From there, live models became incredibly popular. Still known as ‘mannequins’, models would soon find themselves inundated with work. The 1920s saw the first modelling agency and modelling school open, and modelling became more of a visible job choice for women.
In the 1940s, photographers had all the power; they had the ability to affect which models were in demand. Models were usually paid around $10 to $25 an hour. This is also when big-name models made an appearance, and models could become household names.
The 50s saw the emergence of BIG name models. That means models who were known outside of the fashion industry. Barbara Goalen was one of the biggest; her wedding was mobbed by the public. Models could now earn a lot of money.
The 60s finally saw black models become more visible. It also saw how models could represent the larger aesthetic that was fashionable at the time.
Twiggy was one of the first models to branch out of just modelling. Nowadays, it’s incredibly common for models to have other businesses or ventures. But in the 60s, models stuck to modelling – until Twiggy launched a tights collection. The 80s further saw models as businesspeople.
The late 80s and 90s saw more famous names – Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer to name a few. Models became like Hollywood actors; they were just as famous and made just as much money.
What Does a Model Do?
Today, a model’s job is to help advertise products. That can be anything from clothing and accessories, to cars and holidays. Their job is to make things appear aspirational; as viewers, we should either want to be them, or with them.
There are lots of cross-overs nowadays in modelling. Lots of models have ventured into business and have “side hustles”. They understand that their influence sells; their looks have the ability to make both them and other companies lots of money.
Many people aspire to be a model because it looks like such a glamorous job, but this isn’t the case. Modelling can be a lot of hard work. There is a lot of travelling, often with little sleep. Models must stick to strict diets and exercise routines to maintain their physiques year-round. There is a lot of pressure to look young and stay relevant. Models also face a lot of negativity, particularly since the rise of social media.
What Do You Need to Be a Model?
To be a model, you need a lot of confidence and self-conviction. You also need a strong support network of friends and family who can be there for you when things get tough. Modelling is notoriously tricky to get into and its important that you look after both your physical and mental health.
You’ll need to be fairly tall, as most modelling agencies require a model to be a minimum of 5’8″. You will also need an attractive face. There are no set rules to what makes you attractive, but agencies are usually looking for someone who stands out from the crowd with defined features, a tight jawline, straight nose and bright, sultry eyes.
They will also be looking for an hourglass shape in female models. A smaller bust and hip size are desirable, particularly in high fashion. Men need to be tall with a swimmers body.
Rules differ according to the modelling category you’re applying to. Lingerie/underwear and swimwear models may get away with having more curves, while a high fashion model will be expected to be tall and lean.
What Does the Average Day of a Model Look Like?
The average day for a model differs hugely. High fashion models are regularly travelling and may be up as early as 4 am to make a show.
A model’s day usually features three healthy meals, along with some form of exercise. Many models like hiking and running as well as resistance weight training.
Nearly all models also have a regimented skincare routine to keep their skin soft, blemish-free, youthful and hydrated.
Is Modelling a Full-Time Job?
Most models work part-time. Finding full-time work that pays well can be tricky, so many models do modelling alongside other jobs.
It’s a good idea to enter the business with a smart mindset. You’ll be doing modelling as a side-job for a while, and this is completely normal. Only quite your normal job and model full-time when you are sure you can make enough money to pay the bills.
How to Get Into Modelling
Modelling can be a tricky business to get into if you don’t know anyone or have any prior associations in the industry. However, it’s not impossible – it just takes patience, time and dedication.
You will need to apply to lots of modelling agencies in order to get signed. Getting signed to an agency is the best way to find modelling work – though it doesn’t guarantee it. You will still be expected to attend interviews and casting calls.
You will also need a strong modelling portfolio. A modelling portfolio is a lot like a model’s CV; it needs to showcase your absolute best modelling photos to show off your experience and potential as a model. If you don’t have any modelling photos to include in your portfolio, don’t worry – you can hire a photographer in a proper studio for a photoshoot, where you can purchase images to include in your portfolio. As you gain modelling experience, you can replace these photos as you progress. Your portfolio should constantly be updated.
You should also think about having a social media presence. Building followers online isn’t easy, but it can often help to get you in front of the right people and provide opportunities that could otherwise be missed. Many people use Instagram as their sole modelling platform. Known as ‘influencers’, these models can make good money getting paid or endorsed by brands to promote their products.