Dear Aunt Dee: Modeling while going to college

Dear Aunt Dee,

I am interested in modeling during college and I know you did the same thing. Do you have any advice about finding a reputable agency that will be flexible with my school schedule? Any advice is greatly appreciated. 

Dear Bring it On,

Know where you fit into the industry and in your market. Each market has certain types of jobs common to that area. Your look and body type will determine the type of work that best suits your look and abilities. When people spin you lies or tell you things you want to hear- you can spot the scam. Scams sell you a dream and cost you more than they pay you. Also, knowing your brand will give you a more narrow focus, which is often the key to success. For example, don’t market yourself as a runway model- being 5’7 and a size 6 in the Philadelphia region. Philadelphia does very little high fashion work so you would be limiting yourself by targeting that area, and 5’7 and a size 6 are both off spec for high fashion gigs. It does not mean you will never do runway; it means you should not choose runway as your focus. Now that you know this, if you go to an agency and they ask you for $1,000 for a new portfolio, suggesting it will set you up to work on the runways of Paris- you will know they are playing an expensive game at your expense and wasting your time. Scammers are professional liars who succeed by praying on your dreams. Be one step ahead of them by doing your research and knowing the type of work that suits your look and characteristics.

Agencies are not known for being accommodating to anyone’s schedule. In their defense, they are a slave to their demanding clients. In your defense, it is their job to advocate for what you want and your best interests. Agents go to bat for those who they know will make them look good, consistently. They hate submitting you to a client then having to go back to that client to say you are not available. I would frame the conversation this way, “I am here for college and I want to start modeling while I am here.” or “I am interested in modeling and moving here for college is giving me the chance to pursue that dream”. Use school as the reason for the opportunity to pursue modeling. Your school schedule is implied, and agents are used to working with talent who are in school. Agents may be discouraged from working with you when you approach them saying in so many words: I am not available because... 

They may ask how you will handle a situation where they book you for a job when you have class. Prepare an answer to that question now, write it down, memorize it. Come up with something that shows their hard work is important to you, while staying true to your needs. When a booking conflict comes you can: 

  1. say no to a booking
  2. ask if the client can reschedule
  3. you can do a makeup class(with your professor’s approval).

Use online searches to find agencies and to do research about them. Doing an online search of “(Agency name) scam” is simple yet so effective.

Example: “Dummy’s Models International” scam

(For this example I chose an fake Agency name not likely to also be a real agency name, to avoid associatig any reputable agencies with the term “scam” in Google search results)

Also check the BBB(Better Business Bureau for any complaints. The forums of may be helpful too when you search using the names of specific agencies.

Here is some additional advice. Traditional modeling agencies are not necessary to work as a model. In my opinion, models are disappointed when they look to agencies to get them work. Instead they provide a service: negotiating rates, securing payment and getting you access to clients who are too big to handle hiring models directly. You can find modeling gigs using online databases and once you have networked a little, people will refer you for gigs. Many agency models, even those from big name agencies, complain that their agent does not get them enough work. Do some free work when you start. Use to find modeling or photography meet-ups, set up some TFP shoots through Model Mayhem, do free fashion shows. Fashion shows are a great way to network with other models, who can tell you where they get paid gigs and which agencies are worth your time.

Also consider promotional modeling- paid gigs only. Brands want someone young and beautiful to draw attention to an event or to their new product. College students are the perfect attraction! You can work with your friends too, bring them on-board with you and you can make money to hang out. You will get swag to take home, and get to attend events(like hot concerts) for free. 

My friend Dustin had a different experience finding an agent. He recommends using a resource like Backstage/ Call Sheet: As an alternative to subscribing online, some bookstores sell the magazine. Dustin says if you live in a bigger market like NY you should start there and then branch out to smaller markets because the transition would be easier. Dustin came from the NYC market into a smaller market, when he went to college. I started in a smaller market then into NYC.

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