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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Monday, October 29, 2007

Modeling Isn't Always Fair

I think just about every model has a love/hate relationship with the modeling industry. Probably the most frustrating thing about this business is that there are so many dos and don'ts that you're supposed to follow and yet there are still those exceptions to the rule that make things very unfair sometimes.

For example, yesterday I had a casting in San Francisco at 11:00am for a hair show. I showed up early and waited patiently with the other 30 models who showed up. The people holding the casting were presenting a new line of hair care products and were looking for models to showcase the new brand.

Luckily, they weren't planning on cutting or coloring. The lady in charge thanked us for showing up early and on time and explained that they would be pulling girls up in small groups to evaulate their hair and that the rest of us could relax and wait until we were called.

The first group was about 7-9 girls with really long hair down their back. One of the stylists explained that some of the styles they needed required a lot of length. While they brushed, braided and played with the girls' hair, the rest of us talked amongst ourselves.

Three girls walked into the casting 10-15 minutes late but were still accepted into the audition and were added to the group of girls being considered. While I and a number of the other girls thought it was crazy for anyone late to be allowed to participate, we kept our mouths shut. It is a business after all and you can't let your emotions get the best of you.

After about 15 minutes, the lady in charge came to the rest of us and said, "Thank you for your time ladies, the casting is over and we have found our models." Needless to say, there was a moment of shock, confusion and utter silence. Model to model glanced at each other as if to say, "Are they for real?" But as is custom, we gathered our things, smiled politely and thanked them (of course, all of us were cussing up a storm on the way out of the building!). The three girls who came late got the gig and two of the three girls had worked for the stlylists before. Goes to show that it is definitely who you know.

Of course I was very upset, as were the rest of the girls who wasted their time sitting in a room with each other while the stylists made their pick without giving any of us a chance. Honestly, if they only wanted girls with super long hair, that is what they should have told our agencies. To reward someone who is late to a casting is beyond me and I didn't think it was fair that they openly announced which models had worked with them before (who ended up making the cut).

In my opinion, it was a waste of time and effort but that's what happens. Life isn't fair and neither is modeling. It just goes to show that no matter how well you follow the rules, there will always be instances where those who break them get the gig...but that doesn't mean that you should do the same. It may not pay off right away, but stick to your good habits and eventually you will be rewarded. For every missed opportunity, there will always be something bigger and better.

Models are Actors, Too

Modeling is very similar to acting at times. As a model it is common for you to step outside of yourself and take on a different persona to match whatever theme is involved with your gig. Models need to have the ability to tap into their emotions and project the right attitude and presence to sell the product, idea, concept, clothes, etc.

For example, a model may have to pose with another model of the opposite sex and have to convey the image of two long lost lovers--even though he/she may have just met their modeling partner a few minutes ago on-set.

But once the two step out in front of that camera, the goal is to convince anyone who sees the photo that these models are madly in love. Or you may be asked to do a group shot with other models that you may never met in your life but you'll all have to act as if you've been friends forever. The possibilities for these scenarios is endless and if you can manage to fine tune your acting abilities to suit each concept, the better off you'll be.

That's not to say you've got to go to acting classes and aim for an Oscar, however. But you do have to be in touch with your emotions. The more expressions a model can master, the better. Not all of your shoots will involve looking happy and smiling or being sexy and not smiling. A good model has range and depth to their modeling. The worst thing you can do is get comfortable with just a few expressions.

Always strive to push yourself further. Get in front of a mirror and practice, practice, practice! From the sexy pout or a genuine smile or laugh, to crying and despair, these are looks that a model should be able to do in front of the camera without thinking. These emotions should be second nature to any model, male or female.

If you want to really hone your acting skills when it comes to modeling you can try the following exercise to help you get into the swing of things:

What you'll need: a mirror, a friend, a stopwatch.

-- Stand in front of the mirror and have your friend stand off to the side so that you only see yourself and don't have any distractions in the background.

-- Your friend should be holding the stopwatch.

-- When your friend starts the stopwatch, they will tell you "Pose!" and go into your first facial expression--it can be anything but only pose your face, keep your body relaxed.

-- After 30 seconds, your friend will say "Pose!" again and then immediately switch to a different facial expression. While posing, you should have your next facial expression ready in your mind. If you hesitate and don't change your pose in time, your friend will stop the stopwatch and you'll have to start over.

-- Repeat this process for 2-3 minutes and see how many different types of facial expressions you can do. To make things harder, see how many different expressions you can do every 10-15 seconds.

Your friend should only speak to you to say "Pose!" each time 30 seconds passes. They should not talk to you or tell you how much longer you have till your next change in expression. This will keep you constantly guessing and train you to think quickly. To make it more challenging, instead of saying "Pose!," your friend can say different types of expressions or emotions that you have to do, for example "Sadness," "Anger," "Confusion," etc.

The key here is to keep your cool and stay in the moment. If you laugh or get distracted, start over. With enough practice, you should be able to throw any expression on your face without a second thought. This exercise helps you think fast and allows you to be creative without overanalyzing everything, which many models have a habit of doing.

To take things up a notch, you can do this same exercise and include posing your body. It's best to do 2-3 minutes of various facial expression exercises and then 4-5 minutes of face and body poses. For the face and body poses, instead of changing every 30 seconds, you can change your pose every minute or however you choose to break things up.

While you can do this exercise by yourself, it works much better with a friend that way you won't have any clue as to when your pose will change. And you shouldn't be shy about doing this type of thing in front of someone else, after all you are a model and models are not shy!

The more you are able to do with your face and your body language, the more useful you will be to a photographer, client, etc. People often refer to me as a chameleon and I think that is a great compliment. You have to be able to change and morph into whatever person the client needs. Don't limit yourself by sticking to what you know and what makes you feel comfortable.

Modeling is about taking risks and it's always a gamble...that's part of the territory. If you're always playing it safe when it comes to your images, your poses and your expressions, chances are you won't get to move much further past the work you're already doing. A model's career should strive to continuously grow, change and move towards bigger and better opportunities. Whenever you take on a shoot, be sure to evaulate the idea, theme or concept and really throw yourself into it, whether the shoot is simple or complex.

Stretch your imagination and see how far you can go by experimenting with different poses and expressions. You may surprise yourself.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Basic Must Haves for Any Photoshoot

There may be a period of time in your modeling career when you are just swamped with shoots, whether they're TFP/TFCd or paid bookings. Take it from me, the last thing you want to worry about is forgetting something or not being completely prepared when you step on-set.

When things get hectic with my shooting schedules, I've found that keeping certain things together and organized helps eliminate any snafus. For example, I have a greally great Victoria's Secret bag that has large straps and can hold a lot of stuff. That is my main bag that I use to carry my clothes, shoes and makeup.

Every model should have such a bag that is easy to carry around. Even if you have smaller bags that you carry, they can easily be put into your big bag so that you don't have to worry about misplacing or forgetting your smaller items.

Below is a list of things that I feel every model should have in her special bag for any and all shoots:


Even if you're not shooting for a footwear ad, having the right shoes are a must, especially when it comes to those full body shots. Some clients may have a precise color or style of shoe they want you to wear, while others may not care at all.

To be on the safe side, carry a small bag of your shoes with you to every shoot, even if you have been told to wear a specific pair ahead of time. You don't need to bring your entire shoe closet, however, but having the following will help greatly:

1) Black high heels (open or closed toe)
2) White heels (open or closed toe)
3) Sandals/flip flops
4) White nice looking sneakers

When hiking through outdoor surroundings for shoots on location you may want to bring some old sneakers to protect your feet and keep your nice shoes clean. In terms of heels, strappy ones are usually the easiest to match with any style of clothing so avoid huge platform heels or other funky styles.


You may not always have the luxury of a changing station or changing room. Shoots on location often mean just that--being outdoors where there may not even be a port-a-potty to duck into. Buy a good, comfortable and warm bathrobe and bring it with you to your shoots as well. Bathrobes come in handy when you have to change in front of others, behind a building, in a car, you name it.

Trust me, I am a pro when it comes to changing in weird places...sometimes you just have to work with what you have so having a bathrobe around you is a great help. Not to mention on cold days when you're freezing, you'll have something warm and snug to lounge around in between shots.

Extra undies & bras

Sometimes wardrobe can change and that may mean your underwear needs to also. You should always keep the following types of underwear in your bag for photoshoots:

1) Thongs (nude, white, black)
2) Bikini cut (nude, white, black)
3) Boyshorts (nude, white, black)

In terms of bras, bring the following:

1) Strapless in nude or black or bring both
2) Regular bra in black or nude or bring both


You won't always know what environment or surroundings you'll have to be in prior to arriving for your shoot, so it's helpful to have a large towel where you can set your stuff down without it getting dirty, or you may need a towel to dry/clean yourself off if you're shooting on the beach, for example.

Extra outfits

Photographers and clients always get inspired to want to do more sometimes and having an extra top, bottom or outfit always comes in handy. Depending on what type of looks you're shooting you may want to bring a few extra clothes just in case the wardrobe stylist or photographer isn't feeling your other clothes. It's always good to have more than less.

Even if you've agreed on outfits ahead of time, things can change and that particular outfit may not work. Don't go overboard, though...you don't want to bring a huge load of stuff to carry around. I usually bring three bottoms (jeans or other types of pants) and three or four different tops...of course make sure that all of the tops and bottoms can be mixed and matched. Think about the look you're going for and then pack accordingly.


You'd be surprised how dry your skin can get during a shoot. The last thing you want is a photo of your ashy skin, no matter your color!


Sometimes just the right pair of earrings or a bracelet can set off a shot perfectly. Bring a small jewelry box of your favorite earrings, bracelets and necklaces to your shoots and include all styles from classy and sophisticated to trendy and funky.

Hair & Makeup Items

Whether there is going to be a hair stylist and makeup artist or not, it's best to bring your own things that you are familiar with and that you know will make you look good in case you're on your own. Some key items to bring include:

1) A good hairbrush with hard bristles (for smoothing flyaways or other hair issues)
2) A soft brush
3) Comb
4) Black hair tie and/or butterfly clip
5) Hair spray (if needed)

You may need to bring all of these things or only one or two, depending on your hair type. You know what's best! Bring your makeup essentials and keep these items together in one place. Be sure to bring makeup colors that will go with anything.

Be sure to pack for a shoot the night before so that everything is accounted for ahead of time. The main things you should always keep in your main bag are your shoes, accessories, lotion, makeup, bathrobe and towel. The only thing that should change are your clothes/outfits for each shoot. Keep your main bag in an easy to spot place and I guarantee you'll save yourself a ton of stress for when your modeling career picks up and won't slow down!

Lots of Shoots This Weekend!

Just thought I'd update you all on what's going on with me and the modeling biz this weekend:

Saturday, October 20:

Photo shoot @ 10am w/Rich of Makodef.com, an online hip-hop magazine. We'll be shooting swimwear and dresses at Laney College in Oakland as well as the Oakland waterfront. Should be fun, AND I'll be getting all of my images, score! Soon as the images are up on the official website, I'll be sure to post about it so you guys can check it out!

Sunday, October 21:

I'm teaming up again with Anya Grzeskowiak Photography, and makeup artist & stylist, Michelle Yueh, for a photo shoot @ 12 noon in Oakland. This will be the first step towards the redesign of my Dania Denise website. The images I get from this shoot will be used as downloadable wallpapers for your computer...pretty sweet, huh? :-)

The redesigns to my website will include Flash intro and features, an online store--where the wallpapers will be sold--and all new, updated photos. Not sure when the relaunch will be since I want to do everything hands-on, but you can bet that I'll make the announcement soon as everything is ready to go.

Monday, October 22:

Photo shoot for two Black hair magazines, taking place in Fairfield @ 10am. I'll have my hair in fancy fish braids...very Afrocentric. To see an example of what the hairstyles look like, check out the website of the lady who will be braiding my hair (her work is being featured in the magazines): Jakki Braid Art. I'll be sporting a business suit, since my hairstyle is called "The Corporate Special."

Mostly headshots and maybe a body shot or two. It'll be a few weeks before we find out if the images from the shoot will make it into either or both of the magazines. Cross your fingers! :) Right after the shoot, I have to drive down to San Jose and head to work so it'll be a busy day going from one job to the other!

More updates and pictures to come!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Face Reality

It really bothers me when I see young ladies fall over themselves when looking at a picture of a model in a magazine sometimes because the most common thing they end up saying is something along the lines of, "I wish I had (hair/skin/makeup/body/eyebrows) like her! How can I look like that?" *SIGH* Ladies, when it comes to modeling, nothing is as it seems. That's the whole point.

If you think any of the models look the way they do in real life compared to their professional photos, you live in a different reality. That's not to say they emerge from their photo shoots with acne, beer bellies and split ends...but they are not flawless and weren't born that way, either...hard to believe, I know.

Models are paid to take care of themselves. When you get millions of dollars per gig, of course you can afford to have all the good things in life. You don't have to worry about staying up late working on a project or working overtime at your job. Looking good/perfect is a model's job.

The reality that appears in the magazines and other publications is a reality created by high rollers in the advertising business. Models are a commodity. Before you feel inadequate about yourself, realize that it isn't realistic to compare yourself to any of the beauties that grace the pages of your favorite publication. For example, take a look at my photo associated with this post. My eyebrows look sexy, don't they? Do you think for a minute that my eyebrows look that perfect in real life? Hah, I wish!

Even when I come out of the salon with freshly threaded eyebrows (if you don't know what threading is, Google it, it's amazing!), they still don't look anywhere near the way they appear in my photos. I sit in the makeup chair and have a makeup artist trim, comb, pluck, color in and shape my eyebrows before a shoot.

A model's complexion looks flawless in everything from the pages of a magazine to the runway. But this is just more imagery. The finished look isn't a natural occurrence...it's a created and very well put together one. There's a thing called lighting, makeup and angles that create the polished look.

Do you think those models sport that much makeup when they're out and about running errands? Of course not! All that comes off as soon as the job is done. For me, that's the case anyway and shame on any supermodel who wears that much makeup on a daily basis. haha.

Never think that you should look like a model does in a magazine. It's just not healthy or realistic. Before you gush about how gorgeous and perfect the next face of the Dolce & Gabbana campaign is, remember that many hours and many high-paid professionals took the time to make her look like that.

They hire models for their natural beauty and then pile on the makeup because they know that is easier to play off of then giving an average looking person a complete makeover. There's nothing wrong with appreciating the beauty of a model in a publication but when you go past that and start making comparisons, that's where it gets disturbing.

You always start with natural beauty and go from there. If you possess the right attitude, self confidence and take care of yourself, you'll have enough natural beauty to give any supermodel a run for her money.

Taking a Break From Freelancing

As a working model with agency representation, I've always freelanced on the side. But that was when I had a non-exclusive contract. Since signing with FORD Models in San Francisco last Fall, I've been dealing with an exclusive contract. I wanted to make sure I wasn't breaking any rules so I went through the pages of my contract and couldn't find anything that mentioned being allowed to find and book my own work.

 I'm sure it was in there somewhere but with over 6 pages of legal jargon, I'm sure I missed it. So I emailed my booking agent at FORD asking her for clarification. She was happy I asked because apparently many models aren't aware of the seriousness of the subject. She informed me that under an exclusive contract, all bookings must go through the agency. What does that mean for me? No more freelancing.

Surprisingly, I'm okay with that. I want to do right by my agency. While I've been able to get more work myself than through them, my agent made a great point. She stated that the majority (not all but most) of the clients who contact models directly instead of their agencies, do so in the hopes of avoiding agency fees, underpaying the models and retaining exclusive rights to the images for usage.

And she does have a very valid point...one that I've known for quite some time. For a while I was just eager to get work and figured if my agent wasn't getting me bookings regularly, then I'd get them myself. And some have been great experiences for me and others weren't.

After some thought, I've decided to stop freelancing my services for now. Sure, there are some great gigs that I come across once in a while but it would look much better on my resume if those clients showed their interest in me by contacting my agent instead of me. That would be much more impressive to FORD and show them that I am in demand.

Plus, if clients really are legit about the projects they are working on, they won't hesitate to pay a model her/his weight in gold. Many of the freelance gigs I've gotten dealt with start-up companies or individuals who had very limited budgets. As much as I like to gain the experience, I'd also like to gain the big paychecks I know I'm worth being paid.

I can only do TFP/TFCDs for so long to build up more images...and on top of that, a number of the photographers I've worked with have not held up their part of the deal in providing me with my images. Or some only offer to give me 3-5 prints/images from the entire shoot. They are well within their rights to do this, but I hate it. And I'm tired of being given empty promises.

All of these issues are commonplace when it comes to freelancing. Plus, because I do so many other things outside of modeling, scheduling a bunch of free shoots throughout the month wears on my gas, finances and time. Not to say that I won't make an exception for the occasional photographer--because I will--but I will no longer be accepting modeling gigs for free or for chump change.

On all of the online sites where I advertise my modeling services, I have changed my policy to state that all booking inquiries must be made through my agent. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. And if they try to contact me regarding a booking, I'll automatically redirect them to my agent. My only exception to this whole thing is if the client is offering tearsheets, not just regular prints because there is a difference, remember? :)

I'm also in the middle of redoing my modeling website to reflect my more current work and to make it more appealing. I'm looking at some great Flash features that will add that special something so be on the lookout for that. It's gonna be great!

It's only fair to be paid what you're worth and even if taking a break from freelancing means not working as much while waiting on my agent to submit me for gigs, at least that will free up my schedule to focus on my other projects. And when a job does come in, it'll not only be worth my time, but it'll show my agent that I have a right to be on their model roster.

Modeling with Braces

Is modeling with braces impossible? No. But is it possible? Rarely. Before you start rattling off the models you've seen in publications wearing braces, let me just inform you that they are far and few in between.

Of course there will always be exceptions to the rule--the modeling industry is famous for that, but generally speaking, modeling with braces may not always be an option.

If you currently have braces and wish to pursue modeling, you may encounter some difficulties. Models wearing braces are not in high demand. Yes, there are those print ads for dentists and other specialists who do braces but there isn't enough of that type of work to keep the small number of models with braces busy.

You'd end up seeing the same faces over and over again for those ads. If you're hoping for agency representation, don't be surprised if an agency decides to pass on you. Marketing a model with braces is just too hard and time consuming.

However, you may find an agent who wants to sign you...as soon as your braces come off. And that's great so don't despair if you're on the waiting list. The agency knows that once your braces are off, they can begin to market you right away with your brand new killer smile. If anything, just be patient and pursue your modeling career after you get your braces taken off. But if you just can't wait, it doesn't hurt to go to open casting calls to ask different agencies what your chances are. You never know, you may be that exception to the rule.

Is your smile not as perfect as it should be? If you're thinking about getting braces or if your dentist has stressed that you do so and you currently have an agent, you need to talk to them about this first before making any decisions. Your agency may not want you to have braces. After all, they did sign you as you are and if they saw your teeth as a problem, they would have pointed it out.

If it is something that you are determined to do, you may have to take a break from modeling during the time you have the braces on. This may frustrate or disappoint your agent because if you get braces, then they have to redo your photos...maybe not all of them in your portfolio but definitely your headshots. There's no use in sending a client a picture of you without braces, right?

At best, they could start to market you in a different direction towards clients that need models with braces, but it does severely limit your agent to the amount of work they can book you for. So be sure to talk things over with your agent in order to find a happy medium.

My dentist has been bugging me to get braces for the past year. Unfortunately, I never wore them as a child so I'd be a grown adult sporting braces, which I don't mind except that I've got a modeling career to think about. My agent has never requested that I get braces (some agencies may ask this of you so don't be surprised) so I've never bothered with them.

Even though they do have clear braces, they can still show up in pictures and I would feel bad for any photographer who has to Photoshop those out! haha. After giving it some thought, I've come to love my non-perfect smile. I don't have a horrible smile, or missing teeth, gaps or a snaggletooth. I simply have a slight overbite, which you can't really see, and a few of my teeth on my right side are spaced a little but other than that, I've got a perfectly healthy smile. And that's what matters.

I have no reason to get braces at this point, especially since my contract with FORD isn't even a year old and I've got about 2-3 years left with them. As I always say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"Outing" a Photographer or Model

Okay, it's time for me to stop talking on and on about my shoots and get down to educating people about modeling! LOL.

What do I mean by "outing," you ask? Simply put, "outing" is a term used in the modeling industry for publicly stating something bad about someone. This situation is the most common among photographers and models.

It is a reality that not all photogs and models will get along during a shoot. Both are guilty of being flakes, showing up late to shoots, being unprofessional and even downright rude or disrespectful.

But regardless of this, the modeling industry is one that stresses the importance of not "outing" ANYONE, no matter how badly that person has been treated by the other. For example, Model A shoots with Photographer B. Photographer B is a jerk, is rude, and tries to cop a feel on Model A throughout the shoot. But that's as far as it goes.

After the shoot, Model A is so upset with Photographer B that when Model C asks her what her experience was with Photographer B because she is interested in shooting with him, Model A replies with, "He's an absolute jerk, do not work with him!" Model A then goes on to publicly tell any model who will listen what a jerk Photographer B is and how no one should work with him. Model A has officially "outed" Photographer B.

No, it is not okay for a photographer to try and take advantage of his model or try to feel her up, but unfortunately, there is an unwritten rule that states it is not professional for a model to "out" a photographer to other models or to badmouth that photographer in a public setting or forum.

Of course, this is different if the model has been physically threatened...but that's where the police come in. For this reason alone, having an escort present can eliminate or lessen the chances of something like that happening.

The concept of "outing" goes for photographers badmouthing a model, too. Models won't always be great to work with and if a photographer and model have no chemistry or communication, the shoot will not turn out good. And that's okay. It is a reality that you as a photographer will have to accept. Just because you've had one bad experience with Model A doesn't mean that the next photographer will.

Maybe it was just a bad pairing. It is unprofessional for you to slander a model's reputation because you're unhappy with her/him...especially if that model has had successful shoots with other photogs before. Chalk it up as a loss and move on.

Now, I am not saying this is right or that it is far. Because it isn't. And of course there are extreme exceptions to the rule, like if the photographer gets physically violent with you, has a criminal past that involves sexual acts, especially if they target minors. But hopefully that particular individual is behind bars or not allowed to pursue photography...so those cases are rare.

If you just have a really bad experience with a photographer or a model, the best thing to do if you are asked about your experience with that person is to say something along the lines of, "you know, I didn't work too well with him/her...we just didn't click or have chemistry, but hopefully that won't happen with you." That's it. To say anything beyond that would be "outing" and could make you unpopular among the modeling industry.

This may not be true if you are modeling locally but trust me, there have been models and photographers online who have gone out of their way to badmouth or "out" someone through online modeling communities, networks, websites, etc. It is when people take it to the next level that "outing" is strictly banned and with good reason.

The modeling industry has its bad seeds. There will be models and photographers who will be slimy and use sex as a tool. But not all of us are like that. If you plan on getting upset or want to take legal action everytime you work with someone you had a bad experience with, then maybe the modeling industry isn't for you. There is a dark side to it and that comes with the territory. As long as you play it safe and do your research and really communicate with a photographer or model, none of what I've stated in this post will be an issue to deal with.

If you are determined to warn others about a particular individual, do it discreetly through an email or phone call. "Outing" usually involves badmouthing someone very publicly and trying to inform as many people as you can about that person. That will get you in trouble and even though you have good intentions, it can potentially make others not want to work with you. As a model, photographers may not feel comfortable shooting with you if they know you have "outed" another photographer. What's to stop them from thinking you won't do the same to them? And vice-versa for photogs who "out" models.

Keep it discreet, keep it professional and cut your ties with the person you are having issues with. Not every photo shoot will produce a great working relationship so keep that in mind and keep it moving. There are so many wonderful photographers and models out there that one sour apple shouldn't spoil the whole bunch.