Modeling School or Modeling Agency

teen with two faces

Have you been approached by an agency or modeling school who would like to sign your child? Perhaps you have even been told your child needs to attend modeling classes before they can be signed by an agency. Are you sure you know the differences between the two? I did not know the difference when I was approached about signing my daughter up for modeling classes. I had no experience with the modeling industry and believed what I was told. Like many other parents who have no idea what they are getting themselves into, we signed up. If only I had known then what I know now…


There is a marked difference between a modeling agency and a modeling school. Modeling schools provide classes for aspiring models. They may instruct the young hopeful in photo shoot posing, runway walk, makeup application, nutrition, go-see and audition preparation, model bag must haves, etc. On the other hand, a modeling agency contractually represents a model by booking and paying them for jobs. The agency also represents clients by seeking talent to fulfill assignments. Some modeling agencies and schools operate together; other times a modeling school will be owned and operated independently. Smaller markets tend to have more joined school/agencies. Both modeling schools and agencies make claims to aspiring models to get them working as professionals in the industry.


If the school and agency are together, the agency may promise to sign your child at the completion of the courses. More often than not, the modeling school will accept any willing participant who is able to pay for the classes. These classes can run upwards of $1,200-$2,000. At the completion of the courses, some schools will then require additional payments of hundreds of dollars in fees for photo shoots with designated photographers to “build a portfolio”. However, most modeling schools will not tell you how to actually get modeling jobs with a modeling agency. Remember, modeling schools are not agencies, they are in business to make money from enrolling students. On the other hand, modeling agencies make money from clients.


Most legitimate agencies do not require models to go to modeling school. Agencies would probably prefer that they did not go to a modeling school because that is less time they will have to spend retraining a model that has probably been taught by an older model who has long since retired from the business or a former student of the program. An agency will either scout a model, hold open calls or sign a model referred to them by an industry insider because they know exactly what they are looking for. Modeling school graduate is not a requirement when scouting for new talent.


Modeling agencies want a blank canvas. They will teach a model the business through coaching, informal training, smaller bookings and test shoots. If they are really interested, they will work with the model on the fundamentals. They will even teach the model to pose and walk on the runway. A New York agency will usually will not want the portfolio the model spent lots of money building and those photos won’t really help to get your client signed. Some good Polaroid’s are all that is needed for submission and to be signed.


Model schools may not be completely bad. These schools can help young talent learn correct posture, poise and runway walk. They may help curtail bad habits and teach them proper diet, skincare and makeup application. Most importantly, it bodes well for their confidence and helps them become more self-aware. It can also connect them with other young models. If you would like your client to go for socialization like a summer modeling camp, then you are in luck. However, go in knowing that these courses alone may not be the start of a budding modeling career.


Before signing your client up with a school or agency do your research. A legitimate modeling agency should be booking shows. You should attend local fashion shows, read fashion news online or with local media. When you attend or read about fashion events in your local area, they will list the agency that is providing model talent. Your local television networks may have fashion segments that you can check to find out what agencies they are using. Those are the agencies you want to be affiliated with; agencies that are actually booking jobs for their clients. If you never see the school or agency mentioned, it is probably because they are not legitimate.


Make sure you sign up with a legitimate agency or school that is not known for scamming. Watch out for red flags. When interviewing an agency or school, ask them for a list of their clients. They should be more than happy to provide you with a list of clients that they work with. Before you sign anything, check them out online, through the Better Business Bureau and consumer advocacy agencies. When offered a contract, take it home and review it before signing.


Talk to others. Ask around and find out from working models if they know anything about the school or agency. Models can usually tell you which are reputable and which ones are not. If no one has heard of the school or agency you are inquiring about, do not pursue it. Check with your local department stores and find out who they are using. Attend local bridal shows, local agencies and schools may be sponsors. Bridal shows can also be a good place to talk to models. Another way to find out is talk to your local pageant moms. Pageant moms are a very tight network, they can usually lead you to model agencies and schools and let you know which ones are good and which are scams.


If there is some uncertainty about pursuing modeling as a career, modeling school is a viable option. Your client will undoubtedly be excited and ready to get started, even if the first step is attending modeling school. If you and your client are pursuing modeling with conviction why waste time. In that case, I strongly suggest avoiding modeling school and focus on signing with a modeling agency.


What We Have Learned from ANTM

tyra banks cycle 21On a Friday night, it is not uncommon to find my client and I watching America’s Next Top Model. Now in its eleventh year since it first aired in 2003, there is no question that Tyra Banks who serves as host/head judge and executive producer, has put the modeling business on the minds of young girls the world over. The show has had such a mass appeal that it is now aired in 170 countries. It has also given many young girls access and information to the modeling industry, my client included.


Tyra Banks, the former Sports Illustrated and Victoria Secret model, has made herself a household name. She has used her platform to successfully educate young aspiring models in several ways. Any model today under 30 years old has probably gone to the ANTM Modeling University via the CW network. The younger the model, the more influential Tyra has been on their career. What exactly have we learned from ANTM?


1.  Modeling lingo. Tyra masterfully introduced model lingo that is now commonly used. Before ANTM, no one had really heard of terms like “go-see.” Today, we look at someone strangely if they don’t know what the term means (Go-see: When a model goes to an interview or appointment with clients such as designers, casting directors, show promoters or editors.) Smizing and H2T are both terms are used by Tyra when it comes to photo shoot techniques. Smize is a term created Tyra that means to “smile with your eyes.” H2T is another Tyra creation which means “to model from your head to your toes.


2.  Anyone can be a model. One of the greatest thing we have learned from ANTM is, anyone can be a model. The show has done a wonderful job of showing us that models come in all shapes, sizes and colors. This has given models the confidence to try to make it in the business who previously may not have tried. The show has given opportunities to models suffering from diseases such as lupus, vitiligo and Asperger’s Syndrome. It has also given transgender models the opportunity to equally compete.


3.  It is all about the angles. Who knew that you should always find your angles when posing for a photo shoot before ANTM. Tyra shows her contestants exactly how it is done because she does the same photo shoot they compete in each week. We also never knew the importance of combining those angles with modeling HT2 (Head-to-Toe). Add being fierce and showing expression in your eyes to the posing recipe and top it with spending an hour per week modeling along with Tyra and her cast of young hopefuls. This will guarantee a perfect shot!


4.  Critiques aren’t always nice. We always knew that the modeling business was difficult. But we never knew how brutal the critiques actually were before ANTM. The judge’s panel mince no words when delivering evaluations of the models runway walks, photo shoots, performances or personal style. This may be one of the most realistic aspects of the show! The criticism your client will receive can be brutal. If your client cannot handle tough critiques, this is the WRONG business.


5.  Success is difficult. Some of the things you see on the show are completely unrealistic. Your client will probably never have to walk a runway wearing stilts or do a photo shoot swinging from a tightrope, but the struggle to make it in this industry is realistic. The competition that the show displays is for television but the competitive nature of the modeling business is true. A model will need the commitment and dedication like the ANTM contestants to succeed in this business.


There is nothing better than a rainy day and a good ole’ ANTM marathon. My client and I will always be ANTM fans. Love it or hate it the things we have learned cannot be denied. The Tyra posters may come down in three weeks when my client moves to pursue modeling in NYC, but our love and appreciation for what Ms. Banks has taught us over the years is timeless.