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.
Today as I was doing relocation prep work, my inner voice whispered, “She isn’t ready yet!” As a Model Momager I am hearing this voice more frequently because there is a part of me that just isn’t ready to let my favorite client go. Conversely, my voice has an evil twin that regularly follows with, “SHE IS READY ALREADY!” The Mom vs. Momager voices both have personal stock in this endeavor and neither seem willing to concede. So with all of the coaching over the years, how do you know when your model is ready to move-on-up?
The short answer is, you don’t know. However, there are several things you can do to make sure you have prepared your client for the next crucial step. Aside from height, measurements, walk and high fashion look there are other key qualities your model needs before making the big move. Here are five things to look for before sending your client off to see the NYC fashion wizards.
1. Your client has to want this WAY MORE than you do. While on this modeling journey, Momager’s often have to give a gentle nudge or word of encouragement because after all, that is what mom’s do. However, kind words are not enough when it comes to relocating to the fashion capital or any other significantly larger market, your model has to want it more than anything. Try offering your client an out by saying, “You know you DON’T have to do this if you don’t want to,” and watch to see if they fall for this old reverse psychology trick. But seriously, speak to your client’s heart, taking yourself out of the equation and make sure they really want to do this for all the right reasons. I have seen my client get out of her sick bed to walk in runway shows and no one would have guessed that moments before hitting the catwalk she was shivering with chills and burning up with fever. As much as I discouraged, there was no stopping her. Later, she told me something in her comes alive when she is modeling. Your client has to have a commitment to the business that surpasses yours. If you are pushing them to model, STOP.
2. The thought of spending a lot of time alone cannot be an issue for your client. There will be a lot of time spent waiting for public transit, waiting at go-sees, waiting backstage, waiting for hair and makeup and waiting at home alone for jobs to come in. An average day could be packed with appointments or it could be quiet with not very much working coming in. New York can be a lonely place for a young model, especially if this is their first time away from home and family. If your client struggles with meeting new people, eating out alone or traveling through town unaccompanied; then this may not be the best option.
3. A model must be educated on how to prepare ahead for appointments. The amount of time spent preparing ahead can vary depending on the assignment. Momager’s spend a considerable amount of time get everything done a day or two ahead of time. Your client should be doing this on their own before they relocate. Things like packing a model bag, makeup, comp cards and portfolio, mapping out directions, laundry and confirming last minute instructions all have to be done ahead of time. There is another very important thing that should be done at least the day before – RESEARCH! Always do some research about the designer, photographer, event, products, promoter or agency before showing up to an appointment. I cannot tell you how many times my client has gone to appointments and had to explain to other models who the designer is or what kind of event they will be walking in.
4. Taking good care of themselves is a must! Everything from diet, exercise, skin/hair/nail care and mental health are important factors in the daily regime of a model. Looking their best is part of their daily job so paying attention to all of the little things will matter even more after relocating. An agency may or may not say anything about these things but it is never good hear negative feedback from clientele. If you do not see good habits in these areas before the move, address it and wait for improvement before letting your client go into a larger and faster paced market.
5. A model must be able to handle their own finances. Being knowledgeable on how to keep finances in order is a life skill we must all possess. Models must learn early how to save and maintain separate accounts. They also need to know how to keep accurate financial records. Money can start coming in quickly so self-discipline must be taught. It is also important to keep track of incoming payments for jobs worked. It is a good idea to open joint accounts so you can assist if and when needed. The earlier these disciplines are established, the more successful your client will be when they are away from home.
While many agencies scout younger models, many of these skills are not in place until age 18 or older. Younger models may be ready, but less mature models can struggle in some or all of these areas. This can make handing over Momager duties even more difficult. The key is to start educating your model as early as possible. Make every effort set your client up for success by giving them the proper tools needed. You will feel more confident that your client has what it takes for the next big step and you can tell your inner voices, “Shhh.”