I’ve been asked a few times by friends or perfect strangers about how to get into the field of modeling. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but if I’m being asked it must mean that I’m doing something good, right? I’ve been blessed with some amazing opportunities and I’d be a liar if I said I got them all on my own. God has definitely placed some inspirational and talented people in my path that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I’ll explain my journey and you can glean from my experience to make it your own. I’ll also give a break down at the end of this post to recap a few of my points.
Back in 2007, I went to support one of my friends who modeled in a fashion show for a monthly event titled “genuineHI’s The Next Movement“. I saw a few designers showcase their work and after watching the girls work the catwalk, I was confident I could too. Fortunately I was in Hawaii at the time where my 5’6″ height was considered tall and perfect for runway. The fashion industry in L.A. looks at you funny if you’re below 5’8”. I contacted the event coordinator for the fashion show I saw and told him I would like to model in his future shows. This was going out on a limb for me because I really had no hook up. This was simply MySpace messages being sent to someone I never met. To my surprise, he said he was looking for new models for his next event and asked me to be one of them and to look for other models as well. In my career I always consider it a blessing to be able to get my friends involved in things that I’m doing, so I contacted my girls and got us all into the show.
From your first event, you’ll notice that all kinds of doors start opening up and it leads to more work than you could have imagined. Through networking at this show and events like it, I teamed up with the producer of The Perfect Median who recorded my first song and booked me my first singing gig, met clothing designer Matt Breuning who helped me book a spread in HawaiiRED Magazine, developed a working relationship with the owner of Stylus Honolulu that wanted to feature me in the local newspaper representing his boutique, and was introduced to a few other designers that allowed me to do runway in multiple senior shows for a fashion program in the University of Hawaii. Keep mind, this all happend in a matter of months!
As far as building my portfolio, there were a few ways I was able to do that. Another MySpace connection came around the same time as my first fashion show where I stumbled across the page of Harold Julian. I noticed his amazing fashion photography and absolutely had to meet him and work together somehow. Fortunately, he had an art showcase coming up so I met him there and he promised we’d get together soon after. From that friendship, we co-produced two artistic music videos featuring designs from Andy South. I’ve also had the pleasure of being in front of his lens as I was featured in a spread for DISfunkshion Magazine. My FIRST magazine ever!
Not everyone will be fortunate enough to actually come into contact with a photographer they admire, so that’s what a handy little website called Model Mayhem is for. I was a little hesitant to set up a profile and be seen by millions of perfect strangers, but something I kept in mind was to work with creative minds who had tasteful images and a good reputation with other models I knew. Things to avoid if you’re seriously trying to put a professional portfolio together are: newbies (unless their work is amazing), perverts (you can kinda tell who they are), and those who ask ANY and EVERYone to work with them. A good sign from a photographer is someone who wants to set up a meeting before your initial shoot. This is done in a public place and you can bring someone along if you feel safer that way. After your first shoot, you’ll find out pretty quick who you like to work with and bounce ideas off of.
One of the hardest things sometimes is getting your images. I’ve been on a LOT of shoots where I didn’t get my photos, and they never responded back to me when I asked about them. Most likely, this will happen to you. Sad to say, it’s very common even with high-end super talent photographers. Unless you are paying this person, it’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll ever see those images. This is why it’s good to have a trial period and keep working with the relaible photographers you find. Even if they aren’t the best of the best, wouldn’t you like to have something to show for your hours of shooting?
Model Mayhem is also a great source for finding runway shows to work the catwalk. You’ll quickly be able to find castings on the site in your local area. They will hardly ever be paid, but it’s worth it for the experience. I’m at the point where I have enough “exposure” and “networking” under my belt and I refuse to do anything that’s not paid unless it’s a favor for a friend. You get used a spit out quite often with fitting days, gas money, and time really starting to add up fast. Keep in mind I’ve been doing this for four years and I have yet to be paid for a fashion show. Yes, even a BeBe show for Fashion Week…nada zip nothing. By paid I do mean monetary compensation, but sometimes you’ll get free clothing or a gift bag (and that’s rare).
These ideas are only to get you started, once you want to take it to the next level, I’ll recommend other tips for you that deal with posing, building a team, and working on your runway walk. I’ll try as best I can to describe those things in text, but it’s better to have someone show you in person and coach you after seeing what you can already do. Here’s the breakdown I promised for today’s “lesson”:
1. Contact event coordinators from events you’ve attended that you would like to be a part of.
2. Set up your Model Mayhem account.
3. Look for local photographers, stylists, and makeup artists that you feel would help build your portfolio.
4. Make sure to network at every shoot, show, and project that you’re involved in.
5. Follow up with the designers, models, magazine owners, photographers, etc. that you’ve met.
6. Keep working with reliable people.
7. Don’t compromise your ethics.
Part II of this will be available soon. I look forward to hearing from you. Please leave comments with any questions you might have!
❤ K. Love