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.