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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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Answering a Reader Question #50

Queen of the Night "Miss Nova" Wrote: Is this for women only?

Hello! Miss Nova's question (for those of you that aren't sure what she is asking about) is in regards to my post about how to become a JET Magazine Beauty of the Week. To answer your question, Miss Nova, yes, the JET Magazine Beauty of the Week is only for female models. I believe they have projects dealing with male models but that is different than Beauty of the Week.

African American Hairstyles & Modeling

I decided to do a quick post to address female models of color in regards to hairstyles and the modeling industry. There are no hard and fast rules but there are some things I want to point out that you as an aspiring or established model should keep in mind as you pursue your modeling career.

Black hair is unique and can't be treated like any other. There are various styles and ways women of color wear their hair and in modeling it all depends on what you feel most comfortable with. As far as I know there aren't any strict rules as to hairstyle preferences according to the different types of modeling.

But what I think is most important is sporting a style that you feel represents you. Never try to alter your hair dramatically to fit a look that may not suit you. As I've pointed out in past posts, if an agency falls in love with you as you are, then chances are you don't have to change a thing.

I've seen models of color sport different styles in all types of modeling. I've seen Afros in commercial/print ads as well as on the catwalk. I've seen chemically straightened hair in just about every type of modeling and certain braided hairstyles, so I wouldn't be quick to say that only certain types of hairstyles and hair types belong in certain fields of modeling.

When it comes to braided hair I would suggest keeping it as well groomed as possible--no fuzzies! It will also help to have photos of your hair without the braids, just so your agency can see the difference. They may like the braids or they may like your natural style but if you love your braided hair be sure you can commit to it long term and will be diligent about the maintenance.

It also depends on what your agent thinks is the best look for marketing you to clients. So don't feel as if your hair needs to meet any certain requirement. What it should be at all times is healthy, shiny, and well groomed.

One concern I've heard from aspiring models is in regards to the topic of chemically straightened or "relaxed" hair. For those of you that aren't familiar with such things, many women of color choose to use chemical relaxers to straighten curly, wavy hair. However, this process introduces many harsh chemicals that can be damaging to the hair. Those that don't want to put such stress on their hair turn to flat ironing or pressing their hair. This involves the use of heated styling tools (such as flat irons and hot combs) to make curly or wavy hair straight. My best advice is to use caution when toying with the idea of relaxing your hair.

If flat ironing works just fine for you, then I don't see the need to make the switch, especially if you've never put chemicals on your hair before. There is always the risk of a disastrous outcome, which can include severe burns to your scalp and loss of hair. Unless you've been relaxing your hair for a long time (like myself), your tresses may not take too kindly to the process. I've heard horror stories from women that have tried the relaxer route. Some even had relaxers in the past but still had terrible results.

Definitely exercise caution and know that if you plan on putting a relaxer in your hair, you'll need to be prepared to give your hair care routine a boost and extra TLC. The chemicals in relaxers can cause the hair to be dry and brittle. To counteract this common side effect, it is vital to deep condition your hair at least once a week and try to limit the use of styling tools.

It's never a good idea to put heat on your hair on a daily basis anyway so avoid it as much as possible. When trying a relaxer for the first time, go to a professional hair stylist that has experience doing relaxers. Make sure to do a test strand first--never go ahead and put a relaxer in your hair without making sure there isn't a negative reaction. Fixing a small section of hair is a lot easier than doing damage control for your entire head.

In the end it is up to you to decide what you think would be best for your hair but take it from me, when it comes to black hair, stick to what you know. As the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Plus Size is More Than Being Larger Than Your Average Model

For some reason I'm noticing that many aspiring models that want to be plus size feel they can do so simply because they are larger in size and measurements. And that bothers me because it's a notion that isn't accurate.

While I have posted about this topic a couple of times throughout my blog I think it will be helpful to do an updated post to discuss why there is more to plus size modeling than simply being "bigger."

In order to be taken seriously as a plus size model, you'll want agency representation. While not all modeling agencies have a plus size division, there are a good number that do so trying to break into this field of modeling isn't impossible but it is important to realize the reality of what the requirements are and if you really do fulfill them. I think it's easy for a larger woman to think she can be a plus size model because she wears plus size clothing. But it's more than that. So much more.

Put it this way: plus size models are required to meet a lot of the same requirements as regular fashion models except the measurements and sizes are significantly larger. It's common knowledge that plus size models are required to be larger than your average size 0 or size 2 fashion/runway model.

But it doesn't end there. If you are a pleasantly plump woman and think you can make it as a plus size model in the industry you're going to have to be able to answer "yes" to ALL of the following questions:

1) Are you 5'8" or taller?
2) Are you between the sizes 10-18?
3) Do you have strong features and good bone structure (high cheekbones for example)?
4) Are your bust, waist, and hip measurements within at least 10 inches of each other (for example: 42-32-42)?
4) Do you have good skin, great hair, a great smile, and a toned body, which includes nicely shaped legs and good arms?

If you answered "no" to any or all of these questions, then pursuing plus size modeling (through an agency) is going to be extremely difficult. Freelance is always an option but if you want to really get into the industry and have an agency behind you, then you'll have to fulfill these requirements.

Sadly there is no room or demand for shorter, plus size models. Plus size models are required to still have a high fashion or great commercial look, as well as maintain a proportional figure. While they may be larger than the average model, plus size models are still required to be healthy and have a lot of pressure put on them to maintain their size. Look up plus size models online.

You'll see that many of them have great legs, a very attractive face, and definite curves defining their bust, waist, and hips (look at the first image associated with this post for example. The model on the right of the Plus Model Magazine cover is definitely a plus size gal but she's got a great figure--a good bust, defined waist, and full hips).

Of course there are many plus size models that don't fall within the requirements I'm referring to but I'm strictly talking about industry standards here. This is what the industry wants and it's a mold you'll have to fit into. If you don't or are way off base of what the requirements are seeking, then you can expect to face some challenges in starting a plus size career through an agency. But don't give up. Try freelance modeling and see what doors that may open for you.

Here are some links that all those interested in plus size modeling should check out:





My point in making this post is to provide a constructive reality check. I do my best to not sugar coat anything and I never feel good about telling someone that I don't believe they have the right look or the requirements to pursue professional modeling--but I also don't like seeing people pursue something that I know may not be for them. And that's how I feel many young ladies go about plus size modeling.

Being big can be beautiful and I look up to many plus size models--I think they are some of the most stunningly beautiful women alive--BUT I don't want aspiring plus size models to think that just because they don't fit into a size 2 or 4 that it automatically puts them into the plus size modeling division. It takes more than a larger dress size to get into this part of the industry and the sooner people realize that, the better it will be for them in the long run.

We all have dreams but as we all know the modeling industry doesn't have room to make all of them come true. Harsh as it is, it's a reality that can't be denied.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Answering a Reader Question #49

Adriana Marcela Wrote:

Dania, you are a pretty and intelligent young woman. Both qualifications are difficult to find together these days!..

Congratulations! and I wish you the best in your career. I came by your blog while looking for ideas to design a composite for each of my kids (5 and 6). Your advice was very helpful. Thanks!

You writing is excellent and shows that a good education have you in the right path for success... Never give up...

What do you think was the best thing you received in the education from your parents that helped you focus on what-you-were-good for and what-you-like in life?

Hi, Adriana! Thank you so much for your compliments...I am very flattered and glad that I could offer you some advice. I am guessing your children are in the industry as well or are about to become involved?

As for your question, that is a very interesting one that I would love to answer! Let's see...I think the best education I got from my parents in terms of helping me focus on what I was good for and what I wanted in life was the fact that I was taught a different lesson from each. My parents are so different and their viewpoints played a large role in my life. My father has always been supportive of anything I've done. He knows me so well that when he recognizes that I am passionate about something then chances are it's serious if I've allowed it to capture and maintain my attention. However, with the modeling and acting field he is more of a realist and even pessimistic at times. In the beginning I felt bad that he didn't seem to take much interest in what I was doing. But he always told me to have a backup plan...to never put all my eggs in one basket and that as long as I got a college education, I could have the best of both worlds. Now that I am older I realized that his lesson--while negative to me at the time--prepared me to pursue the industry with a clear head. I knew that as much as I loved modeling, it wasn't exactly a career that was synonymous with longevity or prosperity. The industry was highly competitive and I couldn't go into it with only stars in my eyes. This motivated me to pursue my college education while modeling, which led me to pursue another passion: journalism and broadcasting. I learned from my father that while it's good for me to go for what interests me, it's important to make sure that I am still able to take care of myself in case that first attempt should fail--and that I'm not a failure because things didn't work out. He taught me to appreciate the opportunities I have but to not be so caught up with modeling that I missed out on other opportunities.

On the flip side my mother has always been my cheerleader. She loves the fact that I model and is the one who I can turn to and talk about all the shoots I've done, share pictures, and other things I feel my father wouldn't be as interested in hearing about. She has shown me unconditional support, which gave me the confidence and strength to pursue the industry. Her unwavering support and motivation perfectly balanced my father's stern point of view about my modeling. While my father was always cautioning me, my mother was always pushing me to make the most of the opportunities that came my way.

I was lucky because I didn't have "stage parents," nor did I have a parent that outright told me I wouldn't make it (even though my father wasn't gung-ho about me modeling he always silently offered me his support). Each of my parents gave me a different viewpoint but above all they taught me one common lesson: do what makes you happy but make sure you go about it the right way. They kept me very grounded and I think that played a huge role in allowing me the freedom to go after what I was interested in. This life lesson is one that I like to pass on to aspiring models. I like to say that it's okay to reach for the stars--just make sure that should you fall, you have a soft cloud to land on.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dania Denise Goes Undercover!

Some time last week I got a random call from a well known modeling school, asking me to come in for a free audition for a casting director who was looking for new faces for television shows and modeling assignments. At first I was going to outright reject the offer but then got an idea.

I explained to the man that I had already been acting and modeling for many years and currently got out of my contract with Ford and was looking for new agency representation. He seemed really surprised that I was already working in the industry so he said that if I auditioned I would be meeting with the casting director herself instead of one of their other scouts.

I firmly told him I had no intention of paying for any classes or training. He explained that if I did a good audition I would get a call back and they would then determine whether I had what it took or if I needed to take classes. He reassured me that I would not be forced to sign up for classes if I did not want to.

After giving this some considerable thought, I figured, why the heck not? I get so many emails from aspiring models asking about my position on the whole modeling school/convention issue and even though I make it plain what my opinion is, they continue to poke and prod, telling me what they've been told/promised. I'm not sure why they do this...maybe in the hopes of changing my mind and giving them my full support, therefore giving them some justification for pursuing it?

I mean, what better argument for some people than, "Well, a professional model told me I should do it!" So along those lines of thinking I became curious. I know how such organizations operate when it comes to people who have no idea what to expect but what about someone with experience like myself?

So I told the man on the phone to sign me up for a free audition the next day. I was undercover! Well, not really--I mean, I didn't go in with hidden microphones or video, but hey, they didn't know my true intentions for being there so that counts as being undercover, right? =)

I arrived early for my audition, was checked in and given a form to fill out. Then I was led to the main room, which was decorated with posters and pictures of actors and models that had been "discovered" through their school. I was already familiar with this whole process so I found a seat, filled out my form and whipped out a paperback novel to pass the time.

The room quickly filled up with parents and children. There were a lot of babies and young toddlers as well as pre-teens and young adults. I think I was the oldest person there auditioning. The casting director soon appeared and gave us her spiel about getting into the industry. The majority of people there were interested in acting.

When she asked if there were any models in the audience, I believe I was the only one who raised my hand. She asked me if I was 5'9" or 5'8". I told her no, that I was doing commercial/print. She was surprised by the fact that I knew the height requirements for each field, I guess they assume that 99.9% of the people that walk through their door don't know anything about the industry.

After her introductory speech, she explained that each of us would be meeting with either her or the other scouts in the room and asked to audition a short commercial (which I had received the night before and already had memorized). Then afterwards we would be asked to go into another room to do our commercial on camera. She said that not everyone would get a callback later on (which I was reluctant to believe), but that she wished us all good luck.

After about 20 minutes it was my turn to meet directly with the casting director. I couldn't really tell what she thought of me after I told her that I had been a working model and actor who had an agency until recently. As part of my "story" I told her that when I got the call about the audition I figured if it could get me a step closer to a new agent, then why not check it out? She seemed pleased by the answer. Then she asked me to do my commercial for her. After I did it, she didn't have much to say in the way of criticism except that I needed training for my tone and pitch (I ignored this suggestion) but she said she had an idea for me since I didn't really need training, which I was surprised to hear.

No pushing me to refine my skills or brush up on my profession? No sales pitch telling me how great I was but how much greater I would be if I took their classes? Instead she gave me a packet with information about a supposedly highly publicized convention that takes place twice a year. She said it was designed for those that already had experience but needed the exposure to get the attention of agencies, casting directors, etc.

She directed me to the video room, where I performed my commercial in front of the camera and then went home. I took some time to go over the packet she gave me and was pretty amused. While they did throw me a curve ball by not trying to get me to sign up for classes or training, they nonetheless wanted to make my dream come true...for a price.

So how much would it take for me to be seen by hundreds of agencies, casting directors, and TV people: $3,900.00...and that's not including traveling expenses, transportation, or meals! Pretty crazy. I got a callback and was told to come in the next day to meet with them but I politely declined, saying that there was no way I could financially commit to such an event. Thankfully they didn't poke or prod for more information. They simply thanked me and that was it.

SO, that being said, the results of my undercover experience was pretty much what I expected. Although I was surprised they didn't try to get me to fork over money for classes, they did want me to pay out the nose for an opportunity to maybe be discovered. However, if I was already talented and auditioning in front of a casting director then I would think she would have snatched me up then and there and made some calls to get me seen.

But in the world of the modeling school things don't work that way. Unlike other parts of the industry, it isn't who you know, it's how much you're willing to pay. And sad to say, I saw quite a number of kids and older people there that--to my trained eye as a professional--did not strike me as having potential to truly make it. But hey, that's just me.

My experience pretty much backed up my current position in regards to the whole modeling school/convention thing. So if you're an aspiring model hoping to take part in something like this, be forewarned: I won't tell you what you "want" to hear...I'll tell you what I believe you need to hear. In the end it is your decision--and your money.

(PS: In case you're wondering what modeling school it was, I'm going to err on the side of caution and not "out" the name of the place I went to so don't be sneaky and try to ask me in a comment where I went. Maybe if you shoot me an email I might tell you...then again, I might not!)

Tips for Clients Casting for Models

I know that my blog gets visited regularly by models, both new and established, but there have been others in the industry that at one time or another have come across Modeling 101--photographers, stylists, randomly curious people, etc. So I figured that maybe, just maybe, there are those that may find themselves in need of models for various projects.

Now, I can't cure all the ills in the world relating to the modeling industry but maybe by making this post I can positively influence clients into taking the time to post worthwhile castings for models.

Goodness knows I've come across so many wrong ones that I felt it may be helpful to future clients out there if they had some helpful tips to assist them in this often intimidating process...

Think Out Your Casting Call Carefully 

There is nothing wrong with writing a draft version of your casting. Make sure you know what you want and that you are properly communicating that in your post. Regardless of whether you use Craigslist or an online modeling community site (Model Mayhem, One Model Place, etc.), the more detail, the better. But don't write a novel. Chances are most won't get through it entirely and important information may be overlooked or discarded.

Additionally, pay attention to grammar and spelling. There should be no excuse for misspelled words, typos, and badly constructed sentences. It shows unprofessionalism and makes you as a client look sloppy and careless.

Know What You Want!

There are models of all ages, sizes, shapes, and colors out there. One of the quickest ways to encountering a casting nightmare is to make your post too broad. Too many times I've seen posts that go something like this:

Female models needed. 21+. Please send pictures.

Ummm...this posting, while short and sweet, could mean anything. Chances are you'll end up with tons of email replies from models with looks you don't want. Save yourself time--as well as those seeking work--by including basic information.

Post Wisely If Using Craigslist

We all know there are good and bad points about finding work and posting for work on Craigslist. When it comes to modeling in particular, models are going to exercise caution (the smart ones, anyway). Make sure your post doesn't make you come across as suspicious, vague, or mysterious. We shouldn't have to figure out who you are. Lend credibility to your company by actually putting the name of your company/project or throw in a website link (make sure it is correct and actually links to the right site!).

If you are working with a photographer or are a photographer, include a link to that person's portfolio of work. Even if a model is in need of work, he/she will want to work with someone who does good quality photography and will produce images that will benefit their own modeling portfolio.

Don't Include Your Ego or Lame Promises in Your Post (They Don't Impress Us)

One of the main pet peeves I have with searching through model castings online is when I come across castings that promise tons of exposure, instant celebrity status, or some other claim to fame (I kid you not, I've come across such crap). It is an insult to one's intelligence.

What makes it worse is that 99.9% of the time, such posts come from a client with a company or website that no one has ever heard of. Not to burst anyone's bubble but in reality, chances are having a few models on your site isn't going to make everyone involved a star overnight. It just doesn't happen.

Start-ups and individuals with stars in their eyes often suffer from delusions of grandeur. Play it smart and think objectively. Models appreciate the truth and not fluff. It will work out better in your favor if you say outright in your post that your company/website/project is starting off small but hopes to gain more interest over time instead of coming out proclaiming that working for so-and-so will make you a household name. Also avoid name-dropping. It is so unnecessary in castings. If your work speaks for itself, then you shouldn't have to say anything.

And PLEASE do not make your casting sound like you as the client are doing the models a huge favor by offering them an opportunity--especially if it sucks. No offense but those castings are the worst, not to mention very condescending. Professional respect is a two-way street.

(***I'm not a household name--yet--but I have a lot of experience under my belt and my resume is fairly extensive so please don't think it's an ego thing when I make this point. There are plenty of models in the same professional category as I am that are demanding proper treatment and conditions from clients that want to work with us. This is a business first and foremost so don't take it personally if you find models that only want to deal with established and credible companies that will further their careers. No model wants to remain at the start-up level forever. Successful careers are about progession not complacency or regression.***)

Think Carefully About Forms of Compensation

The economy is tough--we all know it and we're all being affected. But please don't think it's fair to use that as an excuse to justify not paying models for certain projects. It's just wrong. It adds insult to injury when a client will post that they're working on a huge product with a budget but the only one not getting paid are the models. Hmmm...if you've got a budget, admit that you're paying everyone else that's working on the project, but you can't or won't pay your models, chances are you won't find anyone willing to help you out.

State right away what your compensation will be. Are you offering good pay? Great pay? Little pay? No pay? Be specific. Also be sure to list what the model will get in return. Will he/she get a few copies of the images? A CD with all the images? Tearsheets?

Specify whether your models will get both pay and images or if they'll have to choose between one or the other. And if you are offering a CD of images but no pay, then please make that model or models a priority when it comes to delivering what you promised. Nothing is worse than working on a project with the hopes of getting copies and then never hearing from the client again. Be fair, be honest, and be realistic. Don't dress anything up.

If you have no budget at all to pay models then you may want to request new, inexperienced  or semi-experienced models. They need the experience and you won't have to worry about the grumblings of an experienced model who is expecting more than you can offer.

Use Common Sense

If you need models for sexy swimwear, lingerie or glamour modeling, then you'll need to look for models that are 18 years of age or older--no exceptions, this is the law! It makes my stomach hurt when I see castings requesting models as young as 16 to do swimwear and wear "playful, cute, sexy outfits"...yes, I've seen castings use this type of wording before! Ick.

If you need underage models for age appropriate stuff, then you must list in your post that a parent or guardian must be present at all times. The parent/guardian is the person you must speak with when communicating, setting up interviews, discussing shoot dates, etc. It is never appropriate to only discuss this with the underage model(s).

When writing your post, make sure it answers the following questions:

a) What is the project for? (catalog, runway show, portfolio building shoot, etc)

b) Are you looking for male or female models or both?

d) What level of modeling expertise do you need? (Professional, semi-professional, experienced, no experience)

e) What is the name of your company or the photographer working on the project? (Include links where needed)

f) What is the best way for models to submit to your castings? (be as detailed as possible when giving instructions for submitting)
g) What is the date/time/location of the shoot?

h) Will there be a hair, makeup, wardrobe person on set or will the model be responsible for being camera ready on their own?

i) Are you hiring models based on photo submissions or will there be an interview?

j) Do you have any specific requirements? (Hair color, ethnicity, physical appearance, height, size, etc)

k) What age range are you looking for? (***Please note that many models do not look like their numercial age so it helps to instead list what age range you'd like your models to look like. For example, instead of asking for models between the ages of 18-22, ask for models that either are in this age range or physically look like they are within that age range. This will prevent you from alienating models that may fit your project but are older or younger than your stated age range. I am 26-years-old but look much younger so it's frustrating when clients only stick to the numerical representation of age instead of the appearance of a certain age. I recently got asked if I was a teen model so heck yes I'm going to apply for projects seeking younger looking models!***)

This can seem very overwhelming and maybe even confusing but by implementing these tips you'll not only be able to find the right model(s) for your needs, you'll also simplify the process for yourself. Remember, you're the one that has to go through all the submissions you receive so if you do things right the first time, you'll be able to pick that lucky model and put out a great project.

(If you happen to be a client in need of models but aren't sure how to go about it and/or need some guidance on working with them, shoot me an email--daniadenise@gmail.com--and I'd be more than happy to offer some consultation to help you figure out the best course for finding models for your projects as well as what to expect.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Answering a Reader Question #48

laliafiction Wrote:

#1. Thank you so much for this post! You are not only beautiful and insightful, but also a very effective writer! Well done.
#2. I need some advice - I am a freelance model myself, but lately haven't been able to get much work. I know your time is very valuable, but if you have a moment to respond, I'd like to ask you some questions. Thanks!

Hello and thank you for the compliments. I really appreciate it! If you have any questions or need advice, you (and everyone else that reads my blog) can always contact me at the following email address: daniadenise@gmail.com. I'll be more than happy to help you out and hopefully get you the answers you're seeking. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Just Checking In!

Hey, all! So it's been a while since I've posted but I've been super busy lately between castings, shoots, and my art and writing business. I've wanted to do posts relating to my recent shoots but won't be able to get copies of the images for a while so I'll wait until I get the pictures and will do detailed posts then.

But I can say that I've been involved in some pretty fun shoots: catalog work, website stuff, and stock photography. I just finished a lifestyle shoot in Santa Cruz yesterday and this weekend I'm doing a handbag shoot for a catalog and, if all goes well, I'll be doing a runway show modeling swimwear for a Japanese designer, modeling her line of crocheted swimsuits.

Still no agency representation, but I'm not doing too bad for myself with freelance, but I do plan on attending an open casting call for an agency near me soon. Just need to update my portfolio images and have them printed out, along with comp cards, and I'll be good to go!

Don't worry, I'm still dedicated to educating you about the modeling industry. I've got some posts coming up soon dealing with some interesting topics such as:

- How to properly hire a professional photographer for a shoot (and what to expect)
- Tips for aging gracefully (in order to extend the life of your modeling career)
- Why male models have it good
- Tips for writing cover letters to agencies
- How to get into modeling even if you don't have a "model" look

...and many more topics! So hang in there and I'll get to all your modeling concerns soon!

PS: If you're wondering what new modeling gigs I've been doing lately, feel free to visit my blog post titled "Dania Denise Resume" to see what I've been up to. I update that version of my resume after every gig so even if I'm not able to post about it right away, you can keep track of what I'm doing.