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How to become a model?

Tokai Agency models posing during photoshoot in outfit of Eppram and jewelry from brand Romanska
Models: Tokai Agency: Hanna, Matilda, Alex, Magda, Photographer: Wojciech Tokaj

How to become a model?

              My name is Gabi and I am the co-owner of the modelling agency Tokai and the fashion brand Romańska. Over the years, I have worked with models both as a brand owner  and their manager, so I speak from experience in hope you will find these tips useful.

First of all: Do you have what it takes?

               Modeling is not what it used to be 10 or 15 years ago. In campaigns, we see a lot of plus size models, mature women, and we’re celebrating all kinds of cultural diversity. Models with skin diseases such as vitiligo or albinism also have successful careers. Luckily, the toxic times of Eurocentric view of beauty are slowly coming to an end. Some say, there are no beauty standards anymore.

               Modelling industry likes extremes – typical beauty and ugliness, size „XS” and „XXL”. “Normal bodies” are unfortunately considered the least photogenic when it comes to fashion campaigns (unless it is a deliberate marketing procedure). Aside from the fact that it is extremely unhealthy and society needs education in that matter, you need to answer the question: what niche can you work in?

How tall should you be?

                Let’s focus on models most often sought by the agencies, which means: very slim and tall. It doesn’t apply to plus size models nor other niches.

 In Europe, they should be over 175 cm tall. Although in Tokai we think 170cm is fine, taller girls have a better chance for a satisfying career and a contract with bigger agencies.

Ideal measurements should be no more than:

Bust: 86cm

Waist: 65cm

Hips: 93cm

                These measurements are dictated by the size of the garments which brands use in campaigns and fashion shows. They are sewn to fit above-mentioned dimensions or smaller. The agency won’t accept a model who will not fit into the clothes being the subject of the campaign.

How to start working with an agency?

                Signing a contract with a modeling agency is the easiest way to start your career, and applying is less complicated than you think.

                Start by finding the agency that is right for you. Getting into the larger companies is more difficult, but they offer great opportunities often from the beginning of your career. Just remember that it also means great commitment. It is possible that they will want you to travel to China for several months. The photoshoots may take up your time so much, you wont’t be able to align your work with school. Most beginner models are at an age where education should be their priority, so keep this in mind.

Exclusive contracts for beginner models.

              Bigger agencies will want you to sign an exclusive contract. That means that you cannot work without them and you can’t look for your own clients. They invest a lot of money and time In you, which is why contracts are often signed for up to 8-10 years.

              Smaller agencies (such as Tokai) are focused on working with local brands. Your contract will not collide with school, but you probably won’t get the chance to work with the best designer brands. However, they help you have a safe start in the industry and they care for each model much more In my opinion. When working with a smaller company, usually you will be allowed to search for your own clients. Contracts are much shorter too.

How to apply to modelling agencies?

               Modelling agencies usually have a contact form on their website. You have to include information such as: your height, measurements, and above all – Polaroids.

Example of the polaroids.

               Polaroids are photos of a model without any makeup, most often in a bikini or tight-fitting clothes showing the figure. It’s best to stand in front of a white wall and ask someone for help or hire a photographer. The agency must see you as a blank canvas, to decide if you have what it takes.

              As a model scout, I’ve seen hundreds of applications (just before Tokai has launched, we have received over 200 applications, after the launch I stopped counting) and let me tell you one thing – if you apply sending selfies in the mirror, with the phone covering your face, your career in this particular agency will be over before it even starts 😀 The same goes for photos with full makeup on and filters. Nobody can see your potential through them.

What if you don’t get into any agency?

              In my opinion, this is not a problem. There are groups on Facebook for models, photographers and brands. You can also search for clients in many other ways, such as sending e-mails to small companies or finding a beginner photographer in need of a beginner model.

Where should you start when working on your own?

1. Prepare to work for free.

A model without experience, who is not supported by an agency, most often has to be ready to work for free for some time in order to expand her portfolio.

2. Join all modelling facebook groups.

Be active in the group, maybe write a post yourself? Tell everyone you’re looking for your first modelling jobs. You will be surprised how many people respond to these kind of posts.

3. Look for a valuable collaboration.

Even if you have no experience, only accept high-value jobs that will look good in your portfolio. By this I mean, for example, cooperation with active brands that will sell their products using your image. Even a small online store will increase your reach by publishing the campaign you took part in.

Avoid photographers who only have portrait photos in their portfolio suitable for a new facebook profile photo 😀 Of course, there is nothing wrong with such photography, but for a model aspiring to work in the fashion industry, it will be more advantageous to spend time on photoshoots that do not deviate from the topic.

4. Contacts are key!

If you participate in a photoshoot for a small online store, the team will probably include: a photographer, makeup artist, stylist, clothing designer / brand owner, hairdresser and an assistant. Each of them will publish your photos on social media and on their website. Their friends from the industry will see the photoshoot. If you are a positive person, they will certainly recommend working with you. Just one session for the brand opens many doors, and the first step often turns out to be groundbreaking.

5. Prepare to hear „no” many times.

Models hear „no” thousands of times. It is very important to understand that the word “no” never means that you lack something or that someone has turned out to be better than you! In 100% of cases, the brand is simply looking for a different type of model (e.g. a freckled redhead teenager whilst you are a beautiful college student with blonde hair).

Don’t give up and don’t be discouraged!

              It’s a tough industry. The model is rarely the star of the show, more often she waits many hours for a few minutes of photoshoot, and generally has no say in the outfit nor makeup. However, being on set gives you so much amazing  energy. I genuinely love my job and photoshoots are my favourite part.

              Seeing the number of applications we receive, I suppose that the dream of almost every girl in this country is to become a model. If it also applies to you – don’t give up! Soon on the blog I will tell you more about exceptional models who were told that they would never pose professionally. I hope this will motivate you in some way to follow your dreams.

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