Petite Modeling: Ways Smaller Models Can Break Into the Industry

A total package of beauty, brains and style helps smaller models succeed

Supermodels on the runway

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Think you’re too short to be a model? Think again. The modeling industry has tossed aside its strict height requirements for both male and female models and is now embracing smaller models (not to mention models of any size, age, and ethnicity too!). Instead of focusing on how tall a model is, modeling agencies are focusing on the whole package: beauty, personality, professionalism, and so much more.

Many smaller models (the modeling industry prefers to use the term "small" rather than "petite") have found great success in the industry. You’ve heard of Kate Moss, of course. At just 5’ 8’’, she’s been an unstoppable force since she was first discovered way back in 1988. Even her little sister Lottie, who’s only 5’ 5’’, signed on with Kate’s agency, Storm Model Management. And let’s not forget about the guys! Take Aaron Frew, a 5’ 7’’ male model from Northampton. Billed as the “new Kate Moss,” he’s starred in international campaigns for Calvin Klein.

Do remember that some industries will be harder to break into—high fashion and runway do tend to favor taller models—but that doesn’t mean your modeling dreams will never come true. There are plenty of other petite modeling jobs that don’t require the stereotypical height requirements of fashion models. From swimsuit and lingerie to hand, feet, and parts modeling, here are a few ways to break into the modeling industry, no matter your height.

Commercial Modeling

You don’t have to be six feet tall to sell cosmetics, jewelry, pharmaceuticals, hotels, cars, and other products and services outside the realm of high fashion. Your job is to sell a lifestyle that appeals to the masses, and the masses aren’t a tall bunch. The average female height in the US is about 5’4’’, and the average male height is around 5’9’’.

What makes commercial modeling an especially good industry for petite models to get into, aside from the lack of height requirements, is that agencies and brands are a diverse clientele looking for diverse models. That means they’re looking for memorable models who represent all ages, sizes, and ethnicities.

Swimsuit Modeling

When it comes to swimsuit modeling, a fit, curvaceous body is more important than height. If you have a toned, yet feminine figure, along with beautiful skin, teeth, and hair, you may find your place in the swimsuit modeling industry.

Male swimsuit models, too, don’t have to worry too much about their height. What matters most is that you are athletic, fit, and toned. It’s okay if your measurements are a bit larger than those of a fashion model because you don’t have to worry about fitting into standard size jackets.

Lingerie and Underwear Modeling

Just like swimsuit models, lingerie models need to be fit and healthy and have a womanly figure. They don’t need to be as voluptuous and sensual as Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, but they do need to be attractive and comfortable with their bodies.

Male underwear models also need to be fit and healthy (like swimsuit models, many started off as athletes or trainers). They also need to be attractive and have a relaxed, confident attitude while modeling, which isn’t always easy when you’re wearing nothing but underwear!  

Parts Modeling

Parts models only model specific body parts, such as hands, feet, legs, eyes, backs, teeth and even earlobes. So as long as the model meets certain size and aesthetic requirements, it really doesn’t matter how tall they are.

Petite models are highly sought after for parts modeling because their hands and feet are often smaller and more appealing than those of taller models. Don’t forget that parts modeling is still modeling, though. You’ll need to know how to work your chosen body part for the camera and take great care to protect it.