How to Become a Model

A lot of people want to be a model because it’s glamorous and lucrative. They may want to be recognized in the modeling world. Modeling is extremely competitive, and the industry is filled with rejection, but successful models spend their time doing something that they love. Knowing what to expect when entering the world of modeling can help prepare you to become a model.


Mastering the Basics of Modeling


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    Be healthy inside. Eat and drink healthy foods and get plenty of exercise. Having a healthy body will help you look your best.

    • Fitness is important. Consider working with a trainer who works specifically with models. Tell him about your modeling goals and how you want to look, and ask for a tailored exercise regimen that will support those goals.
    • Eat right. Contrary to what some people tell you, you should eat healthy foods, as well as healthy amounts of food. Veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and proteins should make up the basics of your diet. Sugars, starches, empty carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats should be avoided as much as possible.
    • Be sure to drink a lot of water. Avoid sodas (even diet sodas) and minimize your alcohol intake.[1]


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    Maintain your appearance. Take care to make yourself look healthy and well-groomed. What you wear and how you carry yourself are important as well, but you should have a routine that supports the health of your skin and hair.[2]

    • Focus on keeping your skin clear and glowing. Wash your face in the morning and at night, exfoliate once a week, and remember to wash your makeup off before you go to sleep.
    • Keep your hair shiny and healthy. Some agencies and managers prefer the “natural greasy look,” so it may be okay if you prefer to minimally shower.


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    Match your modeling goals to your body type. Technically, anybody can be a model. However, if you don’t meet certain requirements, the work available to you will be incredibly limited or you may have to compensate in other areas (reliability, technique, etc).[3]

    • A Plus-Sized Model: If your body is full and curvaceous, you may be able to be a plus size model.
    • A Runway Model: Most women on the catwalk are at least 5’8 and commonly small-breasted. Men are mostly between 5’11 and 6’2.
    • A Print Model: Most editorial female models are at least 5’7, but a beautiful face with great personality are the most important features for print models.
    • An Underwear Model: For women, this requires large breasts but small hips. For men, this requires broad shoulders but slim waists.
    • An Alternative Model: Some agencies hire alternative models: models who do not conform to the industry “standards” of beauty, height, and weight. Additionally, having a specific passion or cause that you’re working towards can help open doors that may be closed due based on a body feature that does not “fit industry standards”.[4]
    • Other Types of Modeling: If you don’t fit any of the face or body descriptions, perhaps you can be a foot, hair, or hand model.
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    Consider situational modeling. If you do not think the runway or magazines are the place for you, look into other types of modeling. Companies use models for special events or to promote specific products. There are fewer restrictions on body type and more emphasis on personality for these modeling jobs.

    • A Promotional Model: Some companies want their customer base to interact directly with models who are generally attractive with likable personalities to promote their brand. You may see these models in grocery stores, events, or clubs promoting things like food, liquor, or new products.
    • A Spokesmodel: Spokesmodels are hired to be consistently associated with a specific brand. Contrary to popular thought, spokesmodels don’t always have to verbally promote the brand.
    • A Trade Show Model: This type of model is hired by companies or brands to advertise to attendees at a trade show tent or booth. These models are typically not employed by the company but hired as “freelance” models for the event.


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    Consider your “look.” The look that you communicate can be made up of both your body type and your style. There is more of a curvy California look, a svelte and sophisticated New York look, a waif-like European look, and a boy- or girl-next-door look. Know what you’re equipped with, but also try to pull off other looks.
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Educate yourself about the industry. Learn as much as you can from reading books, blogs, and articles about modeling.[5] Reading quality guides, articles, and books will help you improve important skills (like posing and posture) and better understand how the industry works (such as how to find an agent).

  • Also research reputable agencies that place models in high-profile places, such as magazines and fashion shows.[6]


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Be prepared for a difficult road. The modeling world is jam-packed with pretty faces. Being good looking does not equate to success as a model. The modeling business is not just about looking great; you have to fit the need of specific jobs just in order to get a chance. Modeling is only for serious people who carry unique looks and characteristics. Since there are so many people trying to become models in today’s world, it’s very challenging to get into the industry. Success will only come with patience and perseverance.
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Do not be shy. You will have to promote yourself and look for opportunities to step up and prove your abilities. Standing back and being “polite” will not get you where you are going. Be yourself, let your personality shine, and have a confident attitude.[7] If you don’t feel confident, fake it; modeling often requires acting skill as well!

Understanding Portfolios and Agencies

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    Take photographs for your portfolio. You should include professional-looking headshots: shots of you up close without a lot of makeup and on a plain background. You should shoot them in nice natural light (but not direct sunlight) without a lot of distraction in the photos. These are meant for agencies to get a look at you in a raw state. Consider a head shot, a body shot, and profile shots.

    • The most important thing to communicate in a portfolio is that you are able to present a range of “characters” and looks.


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Consider getting some professional photos taken. Though professional photography can be expensive, it can make the difference between being passed over and getting an interview. Think of professional photography as a worthwhile investment in your career![8]

  • Get your favorite professional shots printed into 8x10s. Save these in case you are asked to leave a photograph before or after an interview.
  • If you’ve got enough good professional photos, consider compiling them into a portfolio. Bring this portfolio with you to castings or agencies.


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Take your measurements and know your stats. This information can help modeling agencies place you.[9] Knowing the information off the top of your head will help you seem professional when you are speaking with an agency or potential client.

  • The most basic measurements to know are your height, weight, and shoe size.
  • You should also know your clothing measurements such as dress size, hip, waist, chest/bust, etc.
  • Your personal stats include information such as hair color, eye color, and skin tone.


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Visit a modeling agency. Almost every major city has multiple modeling agencies, and almost every agency has “open-calls” where they look for new talent.[10]

  • Bring your photographs and/or portfolio. Be sure to have your (accurate) measurements as well.
  • You may be asked to walk or pose for a headshot or other photos during an open call interview.
  • If an agency rejects you, don’t get disheartened; often an agency is looking for a diverse set of models, so you may just not fit their model lineup right now.


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Be wary of scams. Try to research the reputation of a modeling agency prior to an open call or interview. Too many people don’t know about the business and end up getting conned. [11]

  • No agency should be asking you for more than $20 when meeting you. The agency will charge you a commission when you model, but shouldn’t get much up front. If they ask for hundreds of dollars from you before you do any work, walk away.



Navigating a Modeling Career

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    Do not sign consent forms without consulting your agent. A client may ask you to sign paperwork or consent forms. Before you sign, be sure to ask for a copy to share with your agent. You do not want to sign a form that gives a photographer or client more power over your actions or images than they should have.

    • Similarly, do not sign a contract with an agency unless the agency and the contract both seem legitimate. If you are not sure whether the contract is good, have an attorney or an experienced model read over it for you.[12]
    • A good agent should have your best interests in mind. She should help you navigate the legal issues in any given contract. [13]


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Be truthful about your measurements. Don’t say you’re skinnier than you are just to get a shoot. Once there, the stylist will have problems fitting you and the truth will come out. You could potentially lose future jobs due to word of mouth, and you could find yourself without a career!
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Be professional, polite, and courteous. Remember that, even though you’re not working in an office, you need to be professional.[14] Treat the people you work with respectfully. You never know who they know or what sort of a recommendation they might give of you. Never look down on anyone. You may be a model, but that doesn’t give you the right to be snooty, affected, or pompous.

  • Always show up on time to any appointment or shoot. If you’re late or rude, your reputation may precede you and nobody will want to work with you.
  • Be organized. Models often get called to places at the last minute and have very busy days. You need to be on top of things if you want to succeed. Buying a day-to-day planner can really help.
  • Develop professional relationships with photographers. You help the photographer look great, and they will help you look great. It’s a win-win situation, so be sure to treat photographers with respect.


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Treat modeling like a real job. Individuals who don’t take it seriously have small chances of succeeding in their modeling career. Realize that it is harder than it appears and there’s a lot of work behind all the glitz and glamour you see at fashion shows. Modeling is a full time occupation that requires constant attention. One week away from it and your career can be over.

  • Understand that modeling has only a small window of opportunity, and even if you take a short break, you may never be able to return. Models usually only work in the business for a limited amount of time. If you become famous inside of the business, you may be able to extend your career.


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Confirm whether or not there will be a make-up artist (MUA) on site. Sometimes you are expected to bring certain things with you (such as base foundation) and if they don’t have a makeup artist booked, you need to prepare accordingly. You may want to keep an emergency makeup kit with you so that you can do your own makeup if necessary, even if a MUA is supposed to be present.[15]
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Be creative on the job. Photographers want to see you pose in various poses with different props and backdrop. Changeability is key, so work for the camera and interact with the world around yourself[16] Listen to the photographer’s recommendations, but don’t be afraid to try your own poses or attitude as well. Similarly, runway coordinators want you to put attitude in your walk or to project a very specific emotion.

Community Q&A

  • Can you be younger than 15 to model? If so, what are the requirements?
    You can be younger than 15 but the kid’s market is your target and there will be many requirements to ensure your safety and well-being, such as parental accompaniment, continued schooling and fitting into set work hours beyond which you cannot work.
  • Are there modeling opportunities for petite women?
    Yes! Not everyone has to be 5’8 or taller to be a model. Editorial models can be shorter than that, also alternative or promotional models can be any size depending on the job. And petite range clothes petite women!
  • How do I break into the modeling world for the first time?
    Get photos from a professional shoot, contact agencies, and attend open calls until you get a response. Create a profile on an online modeling platform. Get a reputable agency or experienced model to look out for you, since there are people who take advantage of young models.
  • How do I eat like a model?
    If you want to achieve the ultra-thin look and stay healthy, advice from a registered dietitian (RD) is invaluable. Stay skeptical of advice from nutritionists (a term that requires no certification in the US) and don’t trust anything you get from a magazine.
  • Do I have to be tall and skinny to be a model?
    To model on a runway or magazine cover, yes, almost always. The good news is, there are many other types of modeling! From television commercials to glamour photography, there are many niches where a wider array of body types is desirable.
  • What is the most difficult thing about being a model?
    Models face constant rejection, uneven work, and constant criticism of their appearance. If you don’t have a thick skin and a backup plan, this field might not be for you.
  • I have a dark complexion. Can I be a model?
    Yes, but you will face more challenges than a light-skinned model, such as (sometimes) having to bring your own makeup. Practices are improving steadily, but they are still far from perfect.
  • What are the age restrictions placed on modeling?
    While there really aren’t any age restrictions, you can model at whatever age, some countries and agencies are putting restrictions on younger runway models due to unhealthy eating patterns among such young models. Models tend to have a peak time between the ages of 14 to early twenties for high end fashion (runway, magazine, etc.) but things are changing dramatically, with models in their 80s now making a comeback too and everyone else in between reflecting the reality that consumers exist at all ages. It really depends on the sort of modeling you’re aiming to do.
  • Will having some scars prevent me from becoming a model?
    Given that appearance is a big deal in modeling, it is quite possible that the scars will affect your ability. It will depend on what type of model you’re planning on becoming and where the scar is. In some cases, it might be viewed as a desirable quirk but it isn’t guaranteed. Talk to a modeling agency to get their perspective on it and to find out whether using makeup will deal with any issues.
  • How skinny do I have to be to become a model?
    There is no specific size you have to be to become a model, and there are models of all weights and shapes at different agencies.
  • Do I have to have a pretty face in order to become amodel?
    Not at all! You don’t have to have a pretty face, or even an attractive body, in order to become a model. The things you need to achieve your dreams, are: drive, passion, and confidence.
  • How tall do I have to be to be a model?
    While there are models of every size, high fashion models are typically at least 5’8″ tall.


  • If you’ve decided signing with an agency isn’t right for you, then you could consider going freelance.[17] But be warned: the pay is usually considerably less and there are fewer safety precautions.
  • Know your limits on style and nudity. If you don’t want to do glamour work or are uncomfortable doing full nudity, speak up and don’t let people push you past those limits. Also, consider where you want your career to go in the future. Sure, you may be comfortable doing glamour now, but what if you decide you want to do fashion or catalog work in the future? You might be discriminated against if they know you have done this line of work.
  • If you are a woman going on a Go-see, wear an easy-to-remove outfit without tight straps or any details that will leave marks on your skin. Wear no bra and flesh coloured thong underwear. This will optimize your ability to look good in any outfit the designer or fashion show organizers want you to try on.
  • Use caution if considering modeling schools. Modeling school can be expensive, and whether or not they will teach you how to become a model is questionable. Some agencies even say that attending a modeling school can teach you bad habits that are hard to unlearn!
  • Get your parents’ permission if you’re younger than a legal adult.
  • Stay healthy the right way, with diet and exercise. Avoid taking drugs, which will ultimately be harmful to you inside and out.
  • Don’t let one or two bad comments by people that are not important let you down. Keep your confidence!
  • Do not let rejection dissuade you from following your dreams. Also try to take rejection graciously; you don’t want to burn bridges you may cross again later.
  • You can also enter modeling contests. However, make sure you check that these are being run by a reputable agency.
  • If people want you to pose in a way you don’t feel comfortable posing in, don’t do it.
  • If you love to model then keep on doing it even if they turn you away, perseverance is always a special quality.
  • Be yourself; do not let anyone tell you what your body should be.
  • Avoid alcohol or any type of junk food. This will eventually make you look healthier and prettier.
  • Whatever happens, don’t let your manager make you go on a diet or change your look! You are perfect just the way you are!


  • Almost all agencies will ask you to fill out a contract. Be sure to read through it thoroughly and make sure you know what every word means. Ask a seasoned model or an attorney to check the paperwork if you do not understand it. It is better know what you are signing for before you accept.
  • If you are invited to a foreign country for an audition or job, have enough funds to purchase a return ticket yourself. While legitimate overseas jobs exist, there are many scams that provide one way tickets then trap young girls into prostitution rings when they cannot afford to go back home.
  • If you are planning a photo shoot with a photographer you have met online, it is highly recommended that you bring a chaperone to the shoot. It’s for your own safety, as you never know who is who online! If you can’t bring a chaperone (because you are unable to find one or because the photographer doesn’t allow chaperones), make sure you do a background search on the photographer first- check out things such as who they have worked with and for – and call somebody when you get to the shoot and when you leave the shoot.
  • Be very careful of the studio that you go to, they might look like a real professional company. Then you might pay a lot of money and it could end up being a scam.
  • The pressure of modeling can cause a lot of long term mental health problems, including eating disorders. Don’t be afraid to speak to somebody if you think it is getting all too much. If you just can’t handle the pressure, it may be time to start thinking of a new profession. A job isn’t worth your health!
  • Be wary of any agency that asks for money up front. The majority of agencies get their money through commission, meaning they take a certain percentage of your pay for every job that you do. If you don’t work, then they don’t get paid. If you’ve already paid up, there’s no incentive for them to find you work. However, don’t dismiss everybody who asks you for up-front fees as a scam.[18] Some agencies require you to go through professional training before sending you out to represent their brand. Skills like walking in heels and with other models is much harder than it may appear. Also, depending on the agency, training will teach you communicate clearly, confidently, and think creatively on demand without allowing anxiety or nervousness to affect your performance. If you’re unsure about an agency, ask other models they represent what they think of the representation and training they are getting. Do you really expect to walk into a professional industry without any experience or knowledge how what to do? You can, but your chances of success will suffer if you’re not well prepared.
  • Modeling scams are very real and very easy to fall victim to. They play off the hopes and dreams of the innocent. Be careful who you trust.[19]

Sources and Citations