Modeling for Girls

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Model?

Runway Modeling Models
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So you want to be a model. Do you have what it takes? Many pretty-in-person girls make terrible models, and sometimes, the plain Janes are breathtaking on film. Making it as a mainstream model takes much more than just a pretty face and a fit figure. You need to be the total package—a mix of genetics, personality, talent, resilience, industry knowledge, and business smarts—to thrive in the modeling industry.

What Is a Mainstream Model?

When we talk about making it as a mainstream model, we're referring to the models you see in magazines and advertisements. Many other types of specialty models—those with specific looks or talents—grace runways and spreads. Plus-sized, niche, and body part models are a few examples. Here, though, we're talking about the average model.

The baseline parameters for a mainstream model are rather narrow. Generally, she needs to have a specific body type, be within a certain height range, and have good bone structure. If you have these core traits, you have a decent shot at supporting yourself as a model. Have the right skills, personality, and business savvy in addition to all that? You just may be the next supermodel.

What Do Modeling Agents Look for When Signing a New Model?

When agents look for new models to sign, they first check for a very specific set of physical criteria. Your looks are definitely the first thing agents evaluate; after all, your face and body are the backdrops for whatever fashion products a potential client is trying to sell. You're the vehicle that carries the product from idea to sale—a way for a potential consumer to imagine herself wearing it.

First and foremost, models typically need to be tall (generally between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 11 inches) and slim; for the most part, girls who are slimmer than average are most in demand. Again, we're talking about mainstream here, not niche models such as petites or plus-sized.

This is one reason that the modeling industry gets such a bad rap: Detractors say the call for thin models promotes an unhealthy, unrealistic body image. While this might be a valid criticism, the fashion industry’s love affair with skinny girls is not part of a conspiracy against average-sized bodies. It's important to remember that a model's job is to sell what she's wearing. Clothes hang better on a lean body and let the fashion itself take focus.

This preference carries through from the runway to the printed page, as well. Photographs are two- dimensional, and the body loses some of its angles in this medium. Without the proper angles, even slender girls can appear heavy in pictures, thus distorting how the clothing is intended to look. Lighting plays an important role in counteracting the flattening effects of photography, but it can’t correct for all the effects of transferring a three-dimensional object on to a two-dimensional piece of paper. Using a slim model helps eliminate the problems associated with losing the all-important angles.

What Does “Having Good Angles” or “Knowing Your Angles?” Mean?

Often, you’ll hear agents and photographers talking about “knowing your angles.” This speaks to another important trait that models must have: They must be photogenic. Even the prettiest girls can look less than beautiful in photos, and the reasons are simple. Some elements of being photogenic can be learned, but many of them are simply the result of genetics.

Knowing your angles—knowing how to pose and how to hold it convincingly without looking strained—is important, and it can all be learned. Bone structure cannot, however. Models almost always have very angular faces with strong yet balanced features. Ironically, angular faces are often considered odd-looking in real life. In our three-dimensional world, angles create shadowing, which can look strange. If you think you want to model but feel your face is too sharp, don't count yourself out. This can be your biggest asset.

Symmetry is also important; most models have symmetrical faces; one eye is not bigger or lower on the face than the other, the nose is centered on the face, the cheekbones are high and level, and the jawline is even.

A Note About Uniqueness

Beauty and attractiveness are subjective, and sometimes, the look that will sell a fashion item best doesn't fit the mold. If you have a distinctive look that sets you apart from the typical notions of beauty, you might have something that a potential client wants. Modeling isn't always about fitting in with the usual; a look that stands out might command the attention that sells in a particular market.

Posture and Poise

The final thing agents look for is posture. Seventy percent of the typical model's career is spent on a runway, and she has to approach it with the grace, pride, and strength that great posture conveys. Proper stance and walk are essential modeling skills, and you can learn them. If you fit the model mold in every way but lack good posture, an agent may still sign you with the hope that you can learn to stand straight and walk tall. Classes and exercises will help.

Other Assets of a Good Model

As with any job, personality is important. An ideal model has a strong sense of self with well- developed self-esteem and a resilient psychological makeup. Modeling is stressful work in which you'll be exposed to all sorts of potentially destructive influences. With success comes the risk of falling prey to the trappings of glamour; alcohol, drugs, late-night partying, and unhealthy dieting regimes are always around. It takes a girl of strong character to face these temptations without succumbing.

Another issue that requires your resilience is the constant scrutiny you'll endure. You'll have eyes on you throughout your workday. As with any job, you'll have to deal with criticism, but you'll have to be able to not take it personally. The ability to separate what you can change from what you can't is essential. You can't change, say, the size of your nose, but you can work on your end-of-runway turn.

Aside from your own self-preservation, do agents really look for strong and grounded personalities? Yes and no. While they won’t turn down promising girls who seem insecure or uncertain of themselves, they may take not-quite-as-shining prospects because they have the right personalities. Your personality and the ease with which you work with others can traits that give you the edge over someone else.

The State of the Profession

If it all sounds pretty shallow, that's because it is. It's just the nature of the beast. In the end, models are clothes hangers, and their role in the fashion industry is to make clothes look good so that they  sell. There's no getting around the fact that it is an industry driven by physical appearance.

Modeling is not without a social conscience, however. You'll find people in the industry who are very concerned about the eating-disordered, drug- and alcohol-abusing , party-on image models seem to cultivate. 

In the end, modeling is about your ability to sell fashion—and if you have a certain kind of beauty, grace, business acumen, and emotional resilience, you just might be well-suited to the profession.