WELCOME TO MODELING 101!!!

There is more to the modeling world than the media lets on. If you want to find out what it really takes and how to manage your modeling career, then you've come to the right place! This blog is dedicated to the aspiring and already established models who live to defy the standards and stereotypes in order to make a place for themselves in this crazy industry.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Submitting to Modeling Agencies vs. Applying to Jobs

What I love about mentoring and coaching models is that I get to stay on top of what the most pressing concerns and challenges are for them, ultimately, allowing me to be mindful of what blog post topics I want to make sure to address here. This is one of those posts.

I want to point out that when I talk about agencies, I prefer to use the word "submit" and "submission(s)" instead of "applying."

My reason for this is because I don't want newbie models and those just getting into the industry to have the misconception that submitting to agencies is like applying for a job. Are they similar? Yes. Similar enough to be treated/talked about the same way? Not exactly.

The Submission/Application Method

Both agencies that sign models and companies that hire employees have their own respective submission/application methods. However, for models it is different compared to the average Joe/Jane looking for a 9-5 job.

Models don't go to the agency and ask to pick up an application that they can fill out and return at a later date. Nor do they call/email the agency to ask if they are hiring and what openings they have. It doesn't work that way.

Many agencies have submission forms on their websites for models to fill out and send in, along with photos and other requested materials, which is very much like a regular job application. The difference is that in order to obtain this kind of information, you have to visit the website, not call or email the agency directly.

The same could also be said for applying to regular jobs but it is crucial for models to know that phoning, randomly emailing or dropping by an agency office to inquire about representation is a big no-no. Regular 9-5 companies may also discourage this but in general, this practice of inquiring is more accepted in the overall job market--in modeling, it is not.

Resume/Experience

Unless you're applying to a job that is "entry-level," with no experience required, in the job market chances are you need to have a resume listing your previous experience and other information that shows why you're qualified to be hired.

In the modeling world, previous experience/training is not mandatory in order to be considered for representation by an agency unless they state on their website that they only represent professional level talent. Otherwise, newbies and inexperienced model hopefuls are more than welcome to submit their snapshots, measurements and info.

Again, the key is in the agency websites, which list the submission guidelines and whether or not they'll take on new models or only those with proven experience.

When applying to regular jobs, you're required to have some kind of resume that lists all the nooks and crannies of every job position you've ever held or at least those relevant to the type of position you're applying for. Models don't need resumes to submit to agencies. If you don't have any prior modeling experience, how can you be expected to submit a resume? Agencies work with new/inexperienced models all the time so they know not to expect these kinds of things from newbies.

Employee vs. Independent Contractor

This is the business side of the modeling industry I'm about to jump into here. When a person applies for a regular job and they get hired, they become an employee of that company. When a model gets signed by an agency, they become an independent contractor, not an employee. What does this mean?

The most significant point I want to touch on when it comes to this is the fact that "employees" receive a benefits package of some kind (health, dental, vision, vacation, 401(k), etc.)...models do not. As an "independent contractor," you are operating as your own business/employer, therefore the agency is not responsible for providing you with any kind of benefits. The contract you sign will state this and when you sign it, that means you are agreeing to and understand that you are responsible for providing yourself with those things and not the agency.

The Interview

A regular job interview means dress to impress. From business suits to business casual wear, job candidates already know their wardrobe needs to be top notch to make a great first impression. For models, interviews and open calls don't require nearly half as much pizzazz.

Heck, open calls at agencies encourage models to be as casual as possible. While female models typically wear skinnies, heels and a fitted tank-top or t-shirt, male models can keep things simple as well with jeans, sneakers and a regular t-shirt. So there's no need to invest in formal business threads for the purpose of going to a modeling agency open call.

Even if invited to a formal agency interview, the dress code doesn't change drastically--dressy casual for both female and male models is more than enough to get the job done. Additionally, no fancy briefcase or presentation is necessary. Digital snapshots with your name, stats and contact info written on the back is the bare minimum required. It doesn't get any easier than that.
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New models shouldn't make the process of submitting to agencies any harder than they need to. The process itself, when you really think about it, is very simple: the websites tell you exactly what to do. Follow the instructions and see where things go from there.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dania Denise Guest Blog for Ms Curvaceous UK

I've had the great opportunity to be a guest blogger for the wonderful organization, Ms Curvaceous UK.

This group of dedicated professionals is committed to putting plus size models on the map in all aspects, not just the immediate industry.

They host free workshops and various events that allow all aspiring plus size gals to follow their modeling dreams, while at the same time, educating the world about the importance of not labeling what should be defined as "beautiful" or "perfect" based on dress size alone.

I'll be contributing various guest blog posts to their website, MS CURVACEOUS UK, as well as sharing the highlights of their events and the models who are a part of them on my own blog. After learning about MCUK's mission, I was more than happy to be on board and help spread the word.

I hope you all take a moment to visit MCUK's site and learn about what they're trying to do. It would be super cool if the US had its own version and I believe it will only be a matter of time (sooner rather than later, of course!).

Below is the link to my first guest post on their blog and I'll be sure to share future posts here as well. Happy reading!

PETITE & PLUS SIZE: A DYNAMIC DUO

PS: Because I believe in transparency, I will say that one of the first things I asked MCUK when they asked me to be a part of their community was if there were any upfront fees. I also explained my stance on the topic and that I wanted to make sure that I continue to practice what I preach. Below is the answer I got from one of the top folks at the organization:

"With regards to your question about charges, we charge a £20 fee for people to attend the audition for admin but once they work with us they do not get charged for any of our services."

I am happy that MCUK was very honest about the charges and coupled with the fact that not only is the fee super affordable (it's in British pounds because, unfortunately, this organization is currently only operational in the United Kingdom), everything else is free of charge. No hidden fees, catches or obligations you get stuck having to commit to.

I've said before that when it comes to getting into modeling, there are certain fees that are not only reasonable but to be expected. It all depends on whether or not you're dealing with legitimate people and resources. So if you're wondering what my take is on this charge and whether it's worth it, I say go for it. The amount is minimal compared to what businesses like modeling schools charge and what you get in return is well worth the small investment.

Remember, you as a model are a business all your own and all businesses require some form of investment. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hi Res & Low Res Images: Why They Matter for Modeling Portfolios

This post will be of the most use to freelance models, as well as newbies learning about the importance of photography and modeling portfolios.

We all know that models can't go very far in their careers without a portfolio...and you can't have a portfolio without photos.

With the popularity of the Internet, a lot of things have changed in the modeling world to accommodate for new technology and its benefits. This includes portfolio images and the way they are used.

If you're an aspiring model, you may or may not already be familiar with terms like "hi res" and "low res" when it comes to photos. Of course, with everyone being so snap happy with Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, chances are these terms aren't completely alien but as it applies to modeling portfolios, it is important to know what "hi res" and "low res" means and how it should be used.

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way first: "Hi res" means "high resolution" and "low res" means "low resolution."

Without getting too technical, below is the easiest way to understand when to use hi res and low res photos when it comes to portfolios.

When to Use Hi Res Images

As the name suggests, high resolution photographs tend to be large in file size and when you view the image itself, there is a large amount of detail. Do you need to print out your modeling photos for your hard copy portfolio? Then you'll need the hi res version, no exceptions.

When printing from a home photo printer, make sure the DPI for each picture is 300. That is the basic setting to ensure that any hi res photo will print clearly. In addition to the DPI needing to be correct, the actual file size also matters. Check your image files and make sure it is at least 1 MB in size or larger. The larger, the better in terms of suitable print quality. Anything smaller--even with a 300 DPI setting--the image won't be as crisp.

When to Use Low Res Images

Low resolution images are the exact opposite of high resolution (obviously). Whereas hi res is all about 300 DPI, clear quality and large files, low res comes with a basic setting of 72 DPI, tends to be on the smaller side and not-so-crisp quality.

The Internet is the home for low res images so if you're a model who has low res versions of the pictures you want to use for a portfolio, then you're going to want to stick with uploading these to an online portfolio, on your website, social media profiles, etc.

The lower the resolution, the more "pixelated" the image will appear, which you don't want. Any photographer worth their salt will know to give you the right kind of low res versions that are not super blurry and can be usable online.

Have you ever clicked on a website and it took forever to load? 9 times out of 10 it is because the images on that page are hi res and the files are so large that it takes a minute for the Internet browser to properly display everything. This is why the use of low res is so vital to functionality on websites. Uploading hi res modeling pictures on a website, photo gallery or social media page could result in longer page loading times and not all potential clients or agencies viewing those sites will want to wait around until the page is fully displayed.

Trying to print a low resolution image for a hard copy portfolio isn't even worth the time--it'll be a waste of ink because the quality will be very poor. Since portfolios are meant to showcase you at your best, the last thing you want is to come across as anything less than polished and professional.

Tips for Models
  • Anytime you do a shoot as a model for portfolio purposes, such as updating your headshots or adding new material, it is important to make sure that the photographer knows to give you both hi res and low res versions of the images you end up producing together.
  • However, if you're savvy with photo editing software and know how to resize photographs, then you'll only need hi resolution pictures from the photographer, that way you can make your own low res versions to use online.
  • Do you only have low res images to work with? If, for whatever reason, you don't have hi res and need them for a hard copy portfolio, contact the photographer(s) and ask if it would be possible to get them. To make the process more effective, you should already know which photos you need in hi res, including the file name to make it easier for the photographer to look up those files.
  • A great way to avoid finding yourself in this situation is to communicate clearly during the first stages of correspondence with a photographer that you're hoping to get hi res pictures from the shoot and then take things from there. Such a request is commonplace and I don't see any reason why this should become an issue for anyone.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Don't Understand Your Modeling Contract? Tips You Should Follow BEFORE Signing

Ah, the almighty modeling contract. Obtaining agency representation is the ultimate goal for a majority of those that want to get into the industry professionally and having a contract secured is the first step towards reaching those goals. However, one of the biggest mistakes newbies can make is signing without understanding what they're agreeing to.

Some of the worst cases I've heard from those who have reached out to me for advice and assistance have to do with contracts. I feel so bad for those individuals because 9 times out of 10, I can't really help them at all because it's all after the fact.

Folks, signing on that dotted line is a serious business decision and obligation. This applies to underage models as well, namely, the parents. Once you've put that signature down, the options for trying to get out of the contract are dramatically decreased. Models get "stuck" in contracts all the time but I hope this post will prevent this from happening to others.

Below are some basic "dos" that should be followed before grabbing a pen and signing a modeling contract.

Take The Contract Home and Read It

All legitimate modeling agencies will allow and encourage prospective models to take a copy of the contract home to review on their own time. A deadline for when to return the contract signed (or to decline the offer) will be given and varies from agency to agency. Usually only a few days are allowed so don't expect them to let you take it home and get back to them in a week or a month from now.

Remember, there are many others dying to have that contract in their hands so dillydallying isn't good BUT that doesn't mean you should rush through the pages and start signing. Read the contract front to back and then read it several more times.

Make a Photocopy & Start Dissecting

Chances are you're not going to understand everything contained in a modeling contract and that's normal. I highly recommend making a photocopy of the contract in its entirety and using the copy (not the original) to make direct notes. Highlight terms, clauses and anything else you don't understand or need clarification on. Make notes in the margins with any questions that automatically pop into your head so you don't forget them later on.

Research, Research, Research!

Now that you've got your questions and other factors highlighted on your copy, start investigating! The Internet is a obvious resource for looking up terms/lingo and many topics discussed in the contract itself. Know someone that's in the industry? Pick their brain, too (I'm one of those people and I'm more than happy to lend a hand if I can).

The goal is to try and get as many answers on your own as you can. Don't forget to keep track of the info you've learned so that you know which parts of the contract still need answers and which parts you're clear on.

Ask the Agency for Further Clarification

At this stage in the game, do not let the agency intimidate you into pretending like you know everything about the contract if you really don't. Understand that agencies expect you to be new to most, if not all, of the stuff being thrown at you...they're expecting you to have questions and concerns. In these instances, it is absolutely okay to reach out and call or email your contact at the agency to ask for further explanation about anything mentioned in the contract.

The agency you sign with is a business partner that you'll be working closely with so take advantage of the fact that they are now accessible to you. Any reputable agency will welcome questions and be more than happy to provide insight and answers until you are 100% comfortable with signing.

Have an Attorney Review the Contract

Really want to cover all your bases? Then hire an attorney to review the contract for you. This doesn't mean you're taking the agency to court or taking any legal action. Having an attorney check things out is basically a way to have a fresh, unbiased pair of eyes look over everything to make sure that the contract is solid, fair and a good one to sign.

This step is optional and not mandatory. Do NOT tell the agency that you had an attorney look the contract over--that's not necessary for them to know and it wouldn't be seen very favorably, either. If you decide to have an attorney review your contract, make sure to choose a legal professional with experience/specialization in entertainment law. Why? Because this means they regularly deal with contracts that relate to models, actors, musicians, athletes, etc. and will already be familiar with what these types of contracts contain.

Would you hire a divorce lawyer to represent you in a case that has to do with tax law? Of course not, because the divorce lawyer wouldn't have a clue as to what the tax laws are all about. Not all attorneys are the same and not all of them have any specific knowledge about the entertainment industry. Can't find anyone that specializes in entertainment law? Then seek a legal professional that at least has experience with contracts that are similar to what you're dealing with. This will be evident once you start searching for local attorneys and get more familiar with the types of work they do.

All you need to tell them is that you have a modeling contract and would like them to go over it to make sure it is legitimate and contains content that is favorable to your situation as it relates to being represented for modeling. That's all you need from them.
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This all sounds like a lot, I know, but trust me, it's better to go through all this now and have the confidence needed to sign the contract without any regrets, versus being too eager or intimidated and signing a document that you'll later be dying to get out of.

Don't make the mistake of asking questions AFTER you sign the contract because then it'll be too late. Even with an exit clause, models who want to get out of a contract they regret signing typically have to wait until a portion of their contract term has passed, which could be a few months or even a year--and that's an experience no model should have to go through.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How "Special Skills" Applies to Modeling

Whether you're a freelance model or agency represented, if you've had a bit of experience in modeling and have attended castings and go-sees, chances are you've filled out your share of paperwork.

In order for clients to make their final selections for bookings, it helps if they know a bit more about the models up for consideration.

Aside from filling out a sign-in sheet, many castings also have models fill out and submit a brief questionnaire that contains basic information such as statistics/measurements, contact info and level of experience. However, you may have also noticed a section that asks you to list any "Special Skills."

What Are Special Skills?

Sometimes included in the section of the questionnaire that asks about hobbies or special interests, special skills are any kind of talent or skill outside of modeling that you are really good at. Examples of common special skills worth noting include but are not limited to:

  • Dance (ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, etc.)
  • Musical instrument
  • Sports
  • Art (painting, drawing, sketching)
  • Foreign Language
Why Do Special Skills Matter in Modeling?

There are a number of reasons why clients and even agencies care about the special skills a model may have. 

First, it gives them more insight as to who you are as a person and what interests you have. It also makes for great talking points during an interview so be prepared to discuss any of the special skills you list on a questionnaire or application, especially if it's something out of the ordinary or unique.

Second, it makes you more marketable for modeling opportunities that may require its models to have real-world experience for whatever role they would be playing. For example, if a client has a sportswear catalog to shoot and they need someone to wear their latest golfing attire, they may specifically want people who have golfing skills in case they decide to do any action shots, such as swinging a golf club.

A model with no golfing experience is going to need to be posed properly and will have to learn onsite how to hold their stance, the golf club, etc. However, if a model who lists golf as a special skill gets hired for the gig, chances are he/she will already know how to do basic golf poses, which saves time and money. Additionally, golf pros looking at the catalog would be able to spot a model "faking it" very easily. Using people that know what they're doing makes for a better sell to the consumers the client is targeting.

This concept applies to not just sports but clients and brands in other industries like dance and the arts, where it isn't as easy to teach a model how to "look" like a pro at whatever they're doing.

If You Think It Qualifies, Then List It

There is no hard and fast rule book that says which special skills count and which don't. If it seems special to you, then there's no harm in listing it. But don't go too far out on a limb just so you have something to put in that section on the questionnaire.

Of course if you have a ready list of special skills to offer, then you'll have no problem filling out that part during a casting but if you need a bit of assistance then take a moment to think about the things you enjoy doing, if there's anything you have a knack for and what level of experience you have doing it. 

Special Skills are Optional, Not Mandatory so Don't Force It (or Fake It)

Don't have any special skills to list? That's okay. It's not a must for every model to have. But it does help greatly, depending on what kind of casting you're submitting to. However, you should never "pad" your answer to include special skills you don't really have. 

Lying may get you further than the competition in the casting but you'll eventually be found out once asked to demonstrate the skill. So don't pretend to be something you're not--it'll only make you look bad and guarantee you won't get booked.

Additionally, don't suddenly sign up for a bunch of things to develop special skills you think clients or agencies may want to see. Just because a lot of models also have a background in dance (like ballet), that doesn't mean you need to start taking ballet lessons to be like them. If you're not naturally athletic, don't force yourself to join a local sports team and so on.

Your special skills should speak to something you not only do well but that is important to you...that's what should make it "special."