Types of modelling agencies
There are almost as many kinds of agencies as there are models who want to be signed up by them. Many people tend to think of modelling in terms of high fashion (glossy magazines, cosmetic campaigns), but if you look at the world around you (eg: billboards, television adverts, promotional events) it becomes immediately clear that this is not necessarily the case.
Agencies do not just cater for the editorial / high fashion market. There are many different genres of modelling . It is important to locate yourself, both your strengths and weaknesses, within the appropriate genre. This will not only save a lot of heartache and rejection, but also time and money in the long run as you then target yourself towards the right agency.
Fashion / Editorial modelling
Tyra Banks has created a television empire around the concept that young girls want to be fashion models . If you watch just one episode of her show, you will realise that making it as a fashion / editorial model is probably the toughest hurdle in the entire modelling industry.
To make it as a successful fashion or editorial model, the stipulations from agencies are very strict: height is usually a non-negotiable (you must be at least 1.73m); hair and skin in excellent condition; the body must be very slim but not too athletic (muscles do not work well with high fashion clothes) and most importantly, you must possess what is called an ‘editorial look’. Your face must be memorable and ‘of the moment’. Depending on what the fashion industry is up to at that moment, it could range from classic, feminine beauty to quirky, off-beat charm. It also means that pretty is not necessarily a guarantee of success. Again, if you watch Tyra, you will know that the cheerleader-type usually fails to make it past the first photo shoot; conventional good looks do not always translate well in the world of high fashion and pretty does not always equal ‘model’. Fashion and editorial modelling are notoriously hard areas of the market to break into. Applying to an agency that deals with this type of model will be a long and arduous process. You will be competing in an already-crowded market, and to get signed up with one of these agencies is a tremendous achievement.
If you apply to this type of agency, be prepared for knock-backs. Agencies have to be very careful who they select to put on their books, as editorial is so specific. This is the sharp end of the business, and your career in high fashion will be a short one, as youth is at a premium: prepare to find yourself over-the-hill at 26. But, if you do make it, you can find yourself working with the best photographers, stylists and editors in the business.
Catwalk / Runway modelling
This is pretty much a run-on from the previous category: if you are a top fashion model, you will be expected to do both, and do them well. However, there are many models that make a reasonable living from just doing runway shows. The bonus of this type of work is that you get to travel, but be prepared for the fact that doing runway modelling exclusively will not make you rich. Again, your career in runway is dependent on your face (and body) fitting the requirements of designers, which varies from season to season.
Catalogue / Commercial modelling
If you have similar features and build to your high-fashion counterpart, but keep getting told that you are more suited to commercial modelling, do not despair. Successful catalogue and commercial models have on average a much higher earning potential. Subsequently, there are far more modelling agencies out there that cater for this juicy slice of the market. Along with working for catalogues (paper-based and online), commercial agency work spills over into magazine and television work for every-day products. You will need to be in peak physical shape: good hair, skin, teeth and nails are essential. Where commercial differs from fashion work is that agencies will go for models that have a more accessible look. They will be looking for models with even, clear features. Even in this arena, commercial modelling is still about using that model as a blank canvas. Being a commercial model means you have to be extremely flexible in terms of your look. Having the type of face that lends itself to any product has the potential to make a very successful career.
This is modelling for those people who wouldn’t ordinarily make it through the door of any other agency. This type of work is typically geared at promoting new products, and being 173cm is not especially an advantage. This type of agency will be looking for young people who are keen to bolster their income. In fact, your personality and interpersonal skills will count for more here than anything else. If you often get told you could be a model (if it weren’t for your height / weight / lazy eye), this could be the avenue for you. As well as making a little extra income, it will build your confidence, and give you valuable insight in how to polish your skills in talking to and persuading people, something that is always in big demand in the employment market.