Personal Development

So You Want To Be A Model?

Written by: Zanita Whittington

I feel like post has been a long time coming, I’ve been putting it off slightly because I feel like the content could be slightly controversial… I’ll try to be delicate.

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I really just want to write to send some advice out to those younger girls who might be reading my blog – and then also to those mothers who might be reading this, hoping their young daughter might have a chance in the modelling industry.

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I’ve spoken about my 8 year modelling career many times here, when I started my blog in 2008 many of my blog posts were simply documenting my travels as a model, the jobs I did, stories about my castings and what I was wearing to them. I modelled at London Fashion Week and took (horribly blurry) pictures at the casting and backstage of the shows I worked in. In 2007 I lived and worked in Hamburg, Germany and there I was mostly just modelling catalogues. I had a much longer than average career – and never once was I left in debt to my agency, which in terms of most girls out there, meant I was very successful.

In my time as a model, I saw many girls have very different experiences of the industry. Some girls had it very easy and were signed to great agencies with fewer girl who got more attention. Naturally very slim, great skin and hair, loved by their bookers (aka salespeople) – and these girls made a lot of money… sometimes. Being a model, just like fashion, you can be on trend – or off trend. When you’re on trend, aka, when your booker loves you or maybe a magazine (like Vogue) loves you – you’re going to earn a lot. However, just like any trend, eventually people will get f_006m_fa059casick of you and the money will run out. That’s why models move frequently between different markets around the world, to stay in demand. Most full-time models I know are represented by up to 6-7 different agencies. I’ve know some girls to have amazing momentum, get amazing gigs in say, Paris, then move to New York and go back to the bottom of the barrel. A bad stint in a city can leave you debilitated and girls can often end up quitting, or phasing out after a bad run of work.

The bulk of models I knew are the ones I would just meet on occasion. On any agencies books, you could see that a huge bulk of the girls weren’t getting alot of work. I could see this by a few things, number one, they’d never be at any castings and number two, their cards would never get updated. If you’re not getting new pictures, you’re not getting new work. Part of the reason some girls only work occasionally is for study and alternative careers – the other half don’t have it so easy.

Some agencies out there take on more models than they can support full time. Why? Because the more girls they send out there, the greater the chances that agency will 038book a job, it becomes a numbers game. This means some girls will book a lot of work and some will book very little – but they are all put through the same stringent process, must be thin, must look a certain way, must be constantly available for castings, sometimes they must pay rent to the agency. They would come from all around the country, wouldn’t know anyone, wouldn’t suit the industry and struggle to book any work.  It would take a toll on confidence and self worth and it wasted time, which could have been spent pursuing a more valuable career.
You would think these girls that don’t get a lot of work would quit, and of course, many do after some time.. .  but it can be brutal to see what a few years of being judged and rejected day to day can do for a girls self confidence. I wish these girls never came across modelling, that they pursued another career where their worth was more than their appearance.

Though I did have a wonderful career, with so many exciting gigs and great travel opportunities – I did suffer at various points from obsessive exercising and disordered eating, which is extremely common. I was always at the bottom of the food chain, never asked my opinion, regularly criticised. Gratefully I feel I’ve come out the other side of a modelling career stronger and better for it – and I did use what I learnt as a gateway to what I’m currently doing.

People always ask me, ‘If you could keep modelling, why did you quit?’ And I always give the same answer. I wasn’t in control of my career when I was a model. I could work out and try and look as fit and healthy as a could, but I couldn’t change my face or body type to suit the jobs I wanted. I wasn’t in the driving seat.

If I ever have a daughter, I would never encourage her or put her through the stringent process that is becoming a model – unless she was very strong, self aware and it was her choice and dream… and she fit the mould perfectly, which is really the genetic lottery.

The modelling industry can be brutal.

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Girls these days go through enough with the barrage of social media, so much time is wasted worrying and valuing appearances. A girls self worth should be determined by her intelligence, her strength, her personality, her creativity – and never her looks. A career in modelling will never assist a growing mind in finding those values. Something to consider. To be a model

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First pics are my polaroids from the day I was signed to Models1 in London.

Second two pics are from one of my first test shoots with Nicole Bentley, aged 18.

Final pics are an editorial shot by Paul Farrell in the UK, 2008. 

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