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How to Become a Model (And Get Your First Job)

23, April 2021

In this article, you are going to learn how to become a model and how you can get booked for your very first job. Being overwhelmed with how to get started is the biggest obstacle we have seen for girls and guys launching a career. This article is going to take the guess work out of it. Below you are going to learn the following:

  • How pageantry can launch your modeling career
  • What physical requirements you need to become a model
  • How to pose as a model
  • Modeling walk: how to crush it
  • How to improve your modeling skills
  • Modeling competitions within pageants
  • What REALLY goes into a modeling resume
  • How to meet people inside the modeling industry
  • Finding an agency
  • How much money models make
  • Finding your first modeling job
  • Other resources and questions

How pageantry can launch your modeling career

Beginning with the establishment of the Miss America Organization, pageants have provided young women with professional, emotional and educational resources. In addition to lifelong friendships and memories, contestants walk away with interview skills, educational opportunities, and professional connections. This can lead to doors being opened in a wide variety of fields, ranging from politics to entertainment. (Find a Pageant Near You)

As an example, here are a few pageant girls that went on to become famous:

  • Gal Gadot (i.e. Wonder Woman)
  • Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives)
  • Britney Spears (Iconic singer)
  • Demi Lovato (Famous singer)
  • Katy Perry (Famous singer)
  • Beyoncé (Icon)

Want more proof? Check out this article: 15 Famous People You Didn't Know Were Pageant Girls.

Titleholders from all systems have used pageantry as a way to pursue their long-term goals, whether it be running for Congress or gracing the cover of a magazine. Being involved in pageants can pave the way for contestants to enter the modeling world and build a career out of something they love. Pageants help contestants develop modeling skills, make connections within the industry and build their portfolio, a basic modeling necessity.

Miss Nevada USA 2019 and Miss Nevada Teen USA 2019. Photo: Georgina Vaughn Photography

Many former titleholders have used their involvement in pageantry to solidify their positions in the modeling industry. Olivia Jordan, Miss USA 2015, is one former titleholder who is well known for using pageantry as a way to build her modeling and acting career. By using her national title as a way to springboard into the industry, Jordan is the perfect example of how pageantry can help a contestant become a model.

What physical requirements do you need to become a model?

When many people think of a model, they typically imagine a woman who is tall, slender and conventionally beautiful. While this stereotype can be true when looking at some of the models who walk in New York Fashion Week or grace the pages of Vogue, it isn't true of all models. Since there is such a wide variety of modeling jobs, many different types of models are needed to fill them. The type of modeling job and the type of model that is desired will impact the modeling requirements established by the casting director. Moving past the obvious stereotypes of models we have seen models being requested who have one arm, tattoos, yellow teeth, or stretch marks.

There can be a niche for every type of model somewhere in the industry. Although the physical requirements for a model can vary depending on the type of job, there are certain internal or personality requirements expected from any type of model. Like anyone working in a demanding field, all models should be determined, hardworking and punctual. Determination and hard work will ensure that you stay relevant in an ever-changing industry and help you climb up the modeling pyramid. While punctuality may seem like a very specific trait to be desired, timeliness is essential for every model since it is highly valued in the fashion industry. Here's a detailed guide of the physical requirements and industry standards for each type of model in the article. (Read: Here's 20 Types of Models (And Which is Best for You))

How to pose like a model

Anyone who has participated in a photo shoot or fashion show knows that it takes talent and practice to do well and achieve your desired results. While the skill and hard work that go into modeling are often overlooked by outsiders, this does not make it any less important. Knowing a wide variety of poses that flatter your body is important in both print and runway modeling. To find out which poses work the best for you, you should read fashion magazines, look up poses or fashion shows online and practice your posing in the mirror. But, don't stress too much. When you get your first photoshoot booked you will know in advance the type of shoot that you have gotten booked for. When you have gotten booked for your first prom photoshoot then you can go to that designer's website and see the types of poses that they have used in the past and then practice replicating them.

The photographer on set will guide you if they are looking for something different. You just need to relax. Having tension in your body during a photoshoot will translate poorly. If you're feeling tense, focus on controlling your breathing. As you focus on this your body will lose the tension. Not sure how but it works every time. As a bonus but not required you can pick up copies of Seventeen Magazine, Teen Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaar to study all of the different poses models have done for various spreads. In addition to increasing your variety of poses, you can learn how to change up your poses depending on the type of shoot or what you are modeling. Watch fashion shows online and try out the different poses each model does at the end of the runway in front of a mirror. By seeing the way each pose looks, you can see which ones flatter your figure and show off your strength as a model.

USA National Teen 2018 Julianna Corsi modeling Henri's Cloud 9. Photo: Georgina Vaughn Photography




Modeling walk: how to crush it

Just like it is important to practice your poses until you believe they are perfect, it's important to make sure your modeling walk is on point. While competing in pageants provides some practice walking in heels, specifically practicing your runway walk on the side is still necessary. Watching videos of fashion shows, studying a variety of walking techniques and practicing in front of a full-length mirror can help you improve your walking abilities.

If you are on the shorter side, learning how to walk in high heels is essential. Since I am only 5'7", I have been told by fashion show directors that I would need to walk in five or six-inch heels in order to participate. Through competing in pageants and practicing at home, walking in heels this high hasn't been a challenge and I have been cast in multiple fashion shows.

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray nailing her famous "Lava Walk" on the Miss Universe 2018 runway. Photo: Miss Universe Organization

How to improve your modeling skills 

While pageants are often celebrated for helping young women strengthen skills that can be applied in professional settings, pageants also help young women hone their modeling abilities. By competing in pageants, contestants can learn proper walking techniques, how to present themselves in front of professionals, and how to pose both on stage and in front of the camera. These abilities are strengthened by practicing for the various areas of competition, participating in onstage events and working with photographers before and during the pageant. In preparing and practicing for an upcoming pageant, you are strengthening various skills that are necessary for being a successful model, such as walking with confidence and knowing strong poses that flatter your body. Perfecting your poses, walking around in your Tippy Tops and learning how to properly model an outfit or evening gown are a few ways most contestants prepare for a pageant that can also make you a talented model. (Click to Discover: Pageants to Join Near You)

Modeling competitions within pageants

When it comes to nearly any activity that requires skill, including modeling, practice makes perfect. One of the best ways to become a model is to practice modeling in order to strengthen these skills and impress people in the industry. To help contestants do this, many pageants, including National American Miss and Miss American Coed, offer various types of optional modeling competitions. These competitions can include modeling an outfit on stage, participating in a photo shoot or submitting a photograph for judging. During a casual wear or fun fashion competition, contestants can practice modeling an outfit on stage similar to modeling an outfit at a fashion show. Your confidence, walking ability and modeling skills can all be strengthened during this type of competition. Watching videos of the competition and taking the judges comments into consideration during future practice sessions can further improve your modeling abilities. (Read: The Benefits of Modeling Skills in Pageantry)

At pageants like National American Miss, contestants are able to enter a "Top Model Search" competition where they participate in a photoshoot with a commercial photographer. During this photoshoot, contestants are judged on their modeling ability, confidence in front of the camera and interactions with the photographer. This competition provides contestants with a modeling experience that mirrors what is expected of a professional model at a photoshoot. Most pageants offer photogenic competitions, which require contestants to submit a photograph for judging. This competition provides a unique opportunity for you to receive feedback on your pictures and identify areas for improvement. In some systems, this is a required area of competition that is factored into a contestant's overall score. However, some systems include this as an optional competition that you can enter multiple times, providing you with the chance to see which of your photos is the most liked by judges.

International Junior Miss 2019 Alyssa Gallagher modeling during the Fun Fashion competition. Photo: Alyssa Gallagher Facebook

Using pageantry to enhance your portfolio

Every model knows that having an up-to-date and diverse portfolio is necessary for booking jobs and finding success within the industry. Pageantry can assist in constructing your modeling portfolio before, during, and after your competition. Not only can competing in pageants provide you with new photographs to include in your portfolio, but the judges can also provide some insight into whether or not your portfolio shows you in your best light. (Click to Find a Pageant Near You)

In preparation for your pageant, you will need a headshot to submit with your application for a program book or for a photogenic competition. Acquiring this initial headshot is the first step to building your portfolio since this type of photo allows agents and casting directors to see what you truly look like. Any other photoshoots you do in preparation for your pageant can provide great photos to include in your portfolio in order to increase the variety of pictures and show your level of experience. (Click to Find a Headshot Photographer Near You)

During your pageant, you have the option to compete in various competitions that can provide you with opportunities to expand your portfolio. Competitions that involve photoshoots or onstage modeling are the best way to generate new material for your portfolio since you'll be working with professional photographers and the judges will be present to serve as motivation. If you entered the optional photogenic competition offered by your pageant, or if this was included in your overall score, you will most likely receive your score and judges' comments along with the rest of your scores. This can be a valuable resource when it comes to choosing which photos to include in your portfolio. By knowing how your photos rank, you can be aware of which photos best reflect your modeling abilities and which ones to keep out of your portfolio. Onstage modeling opportunities, like the casual wear modeling competition Keisha Abelgas, National All-American Miss 2017, participated in, can also provide content for your portfolio. Snapshots of you modeling on stage can be included in your portfolio to give agents and casting directors a peek into what you are like in action. These types of photos can also show potential clients that you are photogenic even when you are not holding a pose for the camera. (Read: Top 10 Pageant Event Photographers of 2017)

Courtney Smits Miss Virginia USA 2019 modeling in Miami Swim Week. Photo: @missusa Instagram

What really goes into a modeling resume 

When competing for a pageant or applying for a job, arriving with a well-prepped resume is a necessity. Your resume tells the judges or your potential boss about your work experience, qualifications and personal history. Essentially, your resume sums up what has brought you to the place you are in right now. While many assume that applying for a modeling job would be similar in this aspect, it tends to differ from the norm. Although there are sources that can be found online teaching people how to create modeling resumes, these are rarely asked for during a casting or meeting with an agency. Typically, portfolios and comp cards are looked over to evaluate a model's ability and learn about her past experience.

While it can be helpful to create a resume to keep track of your past jobs, it won't be necessary for you to book a new job. If you do want to create a modeling resume, you should begin by making a list of past jobs and brainstorming some modeling qualifications you possess. Your resume should include sections about your past work experience, education and qualifications. Make sure to only include significant and relevant information on your resume in order to keep it informative, yet concise.

Making industry connections

Connections are essential for making yourself known and moving up within an industry. In the modeling world, it's important to develop strong connections with photographers, casting directors, fashion designers and even other models. These people can help propel you to your next modeling goal since this industry is built on connections. In an article published by "The Balance," Alison Doyle, a highly-regarded career expert, explains that "Networking can be a good way to hear about job opportunities or get an 'in' at the company you'd like to work in." Making a good, lasting impression on any photographers, hair and makeup artists, stylists, or casting directors you work with can be the difference between short-term work and a successful career. When other people in the industry are looking for models to work with, you never know when your name will be mentioned. By making a strong first impression, you can ensure that you are continuously recommended for new jobs. 

Alyssa Manthos, International United Miss Teen 2017, has used her success in pageantry to strengthen her modeling abilities and earn her place in the modeling industry. Realizing the importance of connections, she explained that "I've met, been introduced to, and have been reached out to by many people, so I now have connections. Some of these connections have gotten me photoshoots with photographers or work with designers and have helped me gain more connections." If you begin freelance modeling, which most models do before being signed to an agency, these connections will be essential if you hope to continuously work. These connections play the role that an agent or agency would play by helping you acquire new jobs and connecting you with potential clients. While a well-established network cannot replace an agent, it can assist you in building your portfolio and gaining enough experience to be signed by an agency.

Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin walking in New York Fashion Week. Photo: @missamerica Instagram

Photographers are a model's best friend 

Being signed to a well-known modeling agency should be on every model's radar since it is often an important part of launching a successful modeling career. A diverse portfolio, references and modeling experience can be a big help in securing a meeting or even a contract with an agency. Keeping connected with photographers is key to acquiring all of these necessities. Many models begin building their portfolios through TFP, time for print, shoots. In this type of modeling arrangement, photographers agree to provide a model with pictures from a shoot in return for her time. These shoots can provide freelance models with opportunities to expand their portfolios without paying a photographer.

When meeting with a potential agent, they may want a list of references they can contact to see what you are like to work with. Photographers make ideal references since they have firsthand experience with you on set and can accurately describe what you are like as a model. Just like the hiring process for any job, a modeling agency will most likely want to know about your experience. We all know that the only way to gain modeling experience is to model! Photographers can provide you with time in front of the camera that you can then tell potential agents about during an interview.

Barron Rae modeling with Matt Boyd Photography. Photo: Matt Boyd Photography

How to find a legit agency

Being signed to a modeling agency can mark the beginning of a long career and the reward for months or even years of hard work and dedication to modeling. Whether you are signing with a local or international agency, this event is monumental in your modeling career since you now have access to a plethora of resources, from photographer recommendations to new clients.

Every model's path to launching her career is as unique as she is, meaning that there is no step-by-step guide on how to become signed to an agency. However, it can be beneficial to determine how other models achieved this goal in order to potentially achieve it yourself. This can include winning representation through a pageant, being scouted by an agent or actively attending casting calls. Miss Earth United States and Miss Universe are just two pageant systems that offer modeling contracts to their titleholders. All state delegates in the Miss Earth United States system are awarded a modeling and talent contract with Bazaar Models.

The Miss Universe Organization, on the other hand, awards its international titleholder representation under WME-IMG. These two systems prove that competing in pageants can help establish your career as a model. Many people believe that being scouted by an agent would occur with a one-in-a-million chance. However, at least in major fashion hubs, this is far from a rare occurrence. In cities like New York and Los Angeles, there are many people constantly shuffling around who could somehow be involved in the fashion industry. You never know if the woman behind you in line for coffee is the scout for an agency or if the man sitting across from you on the bus is a photographer. This is why looking presentable and putting your best foot forward should be a daily goal. You never know who you could meet!

Even before I began competing in pageants, I was interested in pursuing modeling. Since I didn't know how to go about being signed by an agency, in addition to thinking that none would want to sign me, I became a freelance model in order to satisfy this passion. During one of the photoshoots I had booked for myself, a scout for Bicoastal MGMT, an international modeling agency, asked for my contact information to discuss possible representation. It has now been almost one year since I signed with Bicoastal and was given the opportunity to continue doing what I love on a larger scale. While being scouted by an agent can shorten the path to a modeling career, it is not the only way of doing so. Many modeling agencies host open casting calls where hopeful models can meet with agents to discuss possible representation. During to time, you will most likely be interviewed by an agent and asked to show them your portfolio. This will be your chance to impress your potential agency, so make sure that you and your portfolio are in top shape.

For more information about finding the right agency for you, check out this article. (Read: Here's What to Look for in Modeling Agencies (And What to Stay Away From))

Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo modeling for Sports Illustrated. Photo: Josephine Clough

How much do models make?

Many titleholders want to explore the modeling world because of the benefits that are said to come along with this job. In addition to attending fun events, meeting influential people and gaining skills that can be useful in pageantry, the high pay that is said to come along with modeling can be enticing. While some professional high fashion models can earn a salary in the high seven figures, the money a model earns can fall anywhere in a wide range depending on the type of modeling job, what the job entails and the model's experience.

When pursuing modeling professionally, you will most likely work jobs that require being on set all day and involve some type of fitting beforehand. These jobs typically earn the most amount of money since there are long hours and extra time is needed for a fitting. Depending on the budget, your experience and the number of models being used, your pay can range anywhere from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. For example, according to Glassdoor, fashion models signed with Ford Models make anywhere from $271 to $412 per hour.

While, this is impressive, it's nowhere near what a typical Victoria Secret Angel will earn. Take for example Jasmine Tookes. In 2016, the 26 year old earned 4 million dollars. Not bad for one year worth of work. But, her salary is weak compared to Victoria Secret Angel, Adriana Lima, who earned more than 10 million dollars in the same year. While these examples are the upper crest of what's possible girls don't start off making that...obviously. However, this does not mean that you cannot earn a great income in the beginning too!

Aubreigh Duff at National American Miss. Photo: Steve Drury

Getting your first job

Getting booked for your first job is not as hard as you think. Outside of the traditional runway and photoshoot modeling, there are a LOT of other opportunities to get paid in the industry. One of those ways is through promotional modeling. Companies like Monster, Starbucks, Pepsi and thousands of others hire promotional models to pass out samples on the street, do in-store demonstrations, or go to parties to network for them. These jobs pay anywhere from $15 - $50 per hour. To find your first modeling job you can create a free account on Shoutout Models and you can search for brand ambassador + your city (i.e. brand ambassador Atlanta) groups on Facebook.

Most of them are private, so you have to request to join, but once they accept you, they will post jobs and you can apply right there. Sign up for Shoutout Models today and join a few groups on Facebook and you could be working your first modeling job by the end of the week! Here is some more information about booking a modeling job. (Read: Here's What You Need to Book a Modeling Job)

Keep up the hard work 

Once you've built a strong portfolio, strengthened your network of connections and have been signed to a modeling agency, you can finally take a moment to relax, but only a moment! The hard work doesn't end just because you can officially call yourself a model, in fact, it is just beginning. You will now be presented with even more modeling opportunities than you are used to, which means you'll need to be even more determined to succeed and dedicate more time to modeling. Always remember, you made it this far, didn't you?

Moving forward  Like any goal that is set in life, there is no certain, direct or easy way to becoming a model. Establishing yourself in this industry takes hard work, determination and passion. However, being involved in pageantry can aid in making this path a little smoother. Once you set your mind on becoming a model, you can achieve it by looking to other models as inspiration and keeping in mind the tips you read about today.

Got questions? If you got questions not covered in this article then type them below and we will answer them as they come in.


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