Runway modeling is a popular career goal. Fashion shows and news clips might lead you to believe that you just need to be gorgeous and graceful to be a success. However, you have to meet certain requirements, work hard, and have a Plan B in case your original goal doesn’t pan out. Most importantly, you need to take care of yourself because the world of modeling can be demanding.
1. Research physical requirements. On average, you need to be between 5 feet 8 inches (173 cm) and 6 feet (183 cm) tall. However, if you’re short but have a fun-loving attitude and a strong work ethic, you can still succeed. Officially, there aren’t any weight requirements, but the most international fashion models weigh between 110 and 130 pounds (50-59 kg).
• Depending on who you model for, “plus-size” models can wear between a size 8 (UK size 10/EU size 38) and a size 14 (UK size 16/EU size 44).
2. Research age requirements. In most cases, you have to be 16 to 21 years old. If you’re under 18, you’ll need a parent or a legal guardian to sign your contract. Depending on the state you live in, you might also need a work permit if you’re still a minor. If you’re over 21 but look younger, you could still have a chance. However, unless you hit superstardom, you’re “too old” by age 23.
3. Work on your walk. On the runway, you need to have perfect posture. Square your shoulders and straighten your back. Relax your hands, but don’t let your arms swing too much. When you walk, take long strides, and place one foot directly in front of the other.
• Once you get the walk down pat, practice walking in high heels. Start in low-level pumps. Then, gradually work your way up to stiletto heels.
4. Exercise. Dedicate about an hour a day, at least four days a week, to your workout. Work all muscle groups to keep your bones and muscles strong. Add some cardio for heart health and yoga for flexibility and relaxation.
5. Eat right. Focus on fresh, preferably organic, foods. Plant proteins, complex carbohydrates, and monounsaturated (“good”) fats are both filling and nourishing. Good choices include legumes (beans, peas, and nuts), dark leafy greens like kale, and whole grains like long-grain rice and barley.
• If you want to go on a diet, talk to your doctor first—even if you’re in perfect health.
• Never starve yourself.
6. Drink plenty of water. The average adult needs about 64 fluid ounces (1.89 L) of water per day. If you exercise vigorously, you should drink more. Talk to your doctor for specific recommendations. In addition to keeping you alive and healthy, water also prevents you from overeating.
7. Take care of your skin. A healthy diet and exercise program will minimize common skin problems like acne. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, wash your face at least twice a day with an oil-controlling facial scrub. If you have dry skin, use a moisturizing facial wash. Wear sunscreen between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm when UV rays are strong. Too much UV exposure can cause premature wrinkles, which are a career killer.
• Treat the occasional breakout with a dab of tea tree oil. If acne breakouts remain stubborn, talk to a dermatologist about prescription medications.
8. Don’t abuse drugs. This includes alcohol and nicotine. Getting drunk every day can damage your liver and your ability to think clearly. Smoking leads to long-term problems like heart disease, emphysema, cancer, and premature ageing. Hardcore drugs like cocaine or heroin are equally dangerous and deadly.
Part 2: Getting Exposure
1. Build your portfolio. Seek out professional photographers to create your head-shots, profile poses, full-body shots, and back shots. Wear simple form-fitting clothing like a tee shirt and skinny jeans. Too many layers will cover what agents and talent scouts want to see.
• Agents often want to see casual photos in addition to your portfolio. Smile for a few snapshots, but also experiment with other facial expressions.
2. Choose a market. Most models work in only one or two markets, such as Zambian Face or any other. Different markets have different preferences for body types. Search online and read fashion magazines to figure out which markets are right for you.
3. Apply to a modeling agency. Contact top agencies. Each agency has its own rules on how to apply. If you break those rules, they won’t represent you. Check their website before contacting them or sending your portfolio. Typically, you’ll apply as a general model and move to the runway after the agency chooses you.
• Expect your agent to have your best interests in mind. They should always treat you like a professional. If you’re brand new to modeling, they should advise you on nutrition and fashion tips. You should also expect them to connect you with the best stylists and photographers.
• Beware of scams! Investigate lesser-known agencies through web searches or the Better Business Bureau.
4. Don’t pretend. When meeting with an agency, just be yourself. Don’t wear clothing or makeup you wouldn’t usually wear. On the other hand, if your usual look is funky and outrageous, go with that! Whatever your usual look is, wear simple form-fitting clothes so that the agent can see your body.
• Make sure you act professional when you’re meeting with an agency. Agents want to work with professional, easy-going people.
5. Meet people outside the agency. Contacts get you work in this industry. Go to networking events and be very sociable. Talk to your agent and co-workers about introducing you to designers and scouts. Go to runway shows with people who could make introductions.
Part 3: Succeeding in Your Career
1. Hire a lawyer. Attorneys can be expensive, but they’ll protect your interests throughout your career. Research lawyers with a track record of winning cases for models. Ask other models for recommendations.
2. Read the entire contract. Never sign off on anything before reading it closely. Some contracts try to force models to compromise their morals or health for certain assignments. If the wording is too complex, have your lawyer review it. Negotiate (or have your lawyer negotiate) with the agent or scout if you’re not comfortable with the terms.
3. Show confidence. Speak up for yourself if someone pushes you to do something you’re against. Talk clearly. Don’t mumble or speak at a really low volume. You should also use your body language to show your confidence. Straighten your posture, and make eye contact during conversations.
4. Persevere. Modeling is a competitive industry, so you should be prepared to handle rejection from time to time. You’ll also have to deal with criticism. Even if you’ve been winning beauty competitions all your life, agents and scouts might insult your looks if you don’t fit the type they’re looking for. Don’t let it get to you. Eventually, you will find an assignment that needs someone exactly your type.
5. Accept the not-so-glamorous stuff. Like any career, modeling has its down sides. Prepare yourself for working late nights and waking up early the next morning. Get used to last-minute changes in photo shoots, constantly guarding your privacy, and spending lots of time just waiting around. You’ll also have to learn to deal with the jet lag and loneliness that comes with frequent traveling.
Part 4: Making a Back-Up Plan
1. Consider other paths in modeling. While you can control your weight to a certain extent, your height is another story. The good news is that not all models are tall and thin. If you’re shorter than 5 feet 5, consider modeling petite clothing. If you have a medium-to-large build, consider modeling plus-size clothing.
• You could also model items like shoes, makeup, or jewelry. In these fields, agents and scouts focus on specific parts of your body like your hands or feet.
• Nowadays there are jobs for models with all different body types, so you have a lot more options if you don’t fit into smaller sizes.
2. Go to college. Even if things do work out, you’ll likely need something to fall back on by your mid-20s. Don’t wait until you need to make new plans. Start studying while you’re modeling or looking for modeling gigs. If you’re traveling for work, talk to an academic adviser about online courses.
3. Consider other fashion-related careers. Modeling isn’t the only career in the fashion industry. With a BA in journalism, you can write for a fashion magazine. A BFA in photography and an impressive portfolio could land you a really nice living as a fashion photographer. If you have a knack for figure drawing and fiber arts like sewing, you should think about becoming a fashion designer.