In the past I have occasionally ventured into the world of modelling and have done a few small scale fashion shows and a whole load of photographic work, and I am often asked by many aspiring young models how to ‘get into’ the industry. Now i know i am definitely no Naomi Campbell (I don’t have the height or the bad attitude…i hope!) but i think i know a thing or two about the industry.
When I was about 17/18 after watching many episodes of America’s Next Top Model i thought to myself…’ I sooo wanna do this!’ and even though i was only 5’5 I went applying to agencies especially commercial ones ( as they tend to accept models which are below high fashion height …sometimes named as ‘real people models’) like crazy! I got rejected a few times and so I decided to look for work myself, because I was so determined that I was supposed to be a model. I had the kind of determination that i wish i still had NOW. It was unwavering and no one on the planet could tell me that I wasn’t supposed to model, which was probably why i was so successful at getting so much work.
But before that I did find an agency which I thought would help me out, they told me they liked me, offered me a great contract and lots of work and all i had to do was pay £800 for some photos….
Oh how naive i was! I remember begging my mother to pay for the pictures… which she did. I went to some gritty little studio and took a whole load of photos which all resulted to nothing. I never heard from the agency again. I would call several times asking if they had any work from me but the answer was always ‘ we will contact you if there is any..’ Eventually the agency disappeared into thin air and they were no longer at the office site i met them, their email address was not working, telephone number was not recognised…NOTHING.
I was devastated.. I felt silly for falling for a scam and ashamed that I let my mother pay so much. I was not aware that there was a huge amount of FAKE modelling companies/schools/agencies out there who were making young hopeful girls like me pay for a service which they never provided. They would not find you any work at all. These people knew just how to convince young people and their parents that they had so much potential and that all the top agencies required models to have a portfolio full of retouched pictures for alot of money sometimes as much as £1500.
SO i did some research and found that a good agency would never ask you to pay up front fees at any time, because the agent doesn’t take money off you they make money from your work. Having a portfolio is a plus but it is not necessary when you are just beginning to model. All an agent requires is that you send them some clear simple pictures ( headshot and a full length) and then if they accept you onto their books they will send you for test shoots so you can build up your portfolio. All this information i wished someone had told before i let my mum reach into her purse! Which is why ever since then I have always found it my place to tell aspiring Kate Moss’s and Tyra Banks’s what things they should look out for! ( i will go into detail of my top SCAM Alerts which fake agencies do in my next post)
So after this traumatic (yes it was traumatic!) experience i started looking for castings everywhere and I became my own agent. I took my measurements and some photos of myself and sent them to new designers who were looking for models for fashion shows. I done a range of TFP shoots ( Time for Prints …which means doing photos for someone for free and in return you get all your pictures retouched with no charge) and started to make a little name for myself. It truly was a fun time in my life even though I had a few incidents where I didn’t like how models were treated by others. For example I decided one day to try doing a music video and it was a very annoying experience which left me angry. It was for a UK Urban a artist ( I won’t reveal the name) and there were a bunch of us girls needed for a scene to be dancing along to the music and hanging around the singer, looking pretty and stuff. We all had to dress up in or best clubbing outfits and I was looking forward to it. There was no organisation whatsoever, and we were told we were going to have a make up artist and we waited for a few hours…NO ONE showed up so in the end we all had to do each others makeup and we were waiting around for the filming to start for ages. Finally when the big moment came…. i was super excited…ecstatic…to then be told that only certain girls could be at the front of the camera and the rest at the back. It took a few minutes for me, and some of the other models to realise that they had put all the lighter skinned models at the front and the darker girls at the back like far far far in the back. This angered me as I thought it was not fair, not only because I am regarded as dark skinned black girl so i was at the back, but because there were plenty of girls that would have looked great near the front. It was a shamble…especially the fact that the artist was a black man yet he would allow something like this to happen. It was not a nice situation and from then on I decided to no longer do urban music videos. I know i can’t say that every video shoot is like this but it left a bad taste in my mouth…one that was not easy to wash out.
Anyway apart from that I loved modelling but slowly saw it becoming more of a hobby than a career, especially when i started UNI and wanted to properly focus on my acting career. Now my lovely niece wants to become a model and I try to keep it real with her and let her know about the highs and lows of the game….and its not glamour and glitz and there are people out there that will like to take advantage out of your dreams. Whenever she shows me a website about a modelling school or agency she would like to apply to who said that they liked her pictures, I question every thing and any little ALARM of a scam i see, i tell her that they will not find her work. Sometimes seeing her face once i tell her this upsets me but hopefully she understands that I am only looking for her best interest. I hope some day a good agency will snap her up (if she fixes her teenage mood swings!) but like i said before the more determination you have, things will happen. Won’t it? 🙂