So you want to be a model? Do you have what it takes? Many pretty-in-person girls make terrible models and sometimes the plain Janes just take your breath away on film. It takes much more than just a pretty face and a slim figure to make it as a mainstream model. You need to have the total package, a mix of genetics and personality, in order to thrive in the modeling industry. So what traits does a successful model need to have? Some of the qualities of a mainstream model are obvious but the others may surprise you.

What is a mainstream model?
When we talk about making it as a mainstream model we are talking about the models you see in magazines and advertisements. There are specialty models, models with a specific look or talent, but that is not the type of model we are talking about here. Plus sized models, niche models, body part models and models with unique skills are some examples of specialty models but we want to tell you what agents look for in the average model. The base line parameters are very small, models need to have a specific body type, be within a certain height range and have good bone structure. Have these core ingredients and you have a good shot at making it as a model. Have the right skills and personality and you just may be the next supermodel.

What do modeling agents look for when signing a new model?

When agents look for new models to sign they look for a very specific set of physical criteria. How you look is definitely the first thing agents see. First and foremost models need to be tall and slim; for the most part they need to be slimmer than the average girl. This is the reason that the modeling industry gets such a bad rap, because the call for slim models could be seen as promoting an unrealistic body image. While this is a valid criticism there are some equally valid reasons that models need to be slender. Clothes hang better on a smaller body and the fashion industry is essentially about selling clothes and other trappings of style like cosmetics, skin care, accessories, and perfumes.

The fashion industry’s love-affair with skinny girls is not part of a conspiracy against average sized bodies. Slimmer figures are important on the runway but they also photograph better. Why? Pictures are two dimensional and for this reason the body loses some of its angles in photographs. Without the proper angles even slender girls can appear heavy in pictures. Lighting plays an important role in counteracting the flattening effects of photography but it can’t correct for all the effects of transferring a three dimensional object on to a two dimensional piece of paper. Using a slim model also helps eliminate the problems associated with losing the all important angles.


What is meant by “having good angles” or “knowing your angles?”


Often you’ll hear agents and photographers talking about “knowing your angles” and this is something that contributes to the next important trait that models must have; models must be photogenic. They must take a good picture. Even the prettiest girls can take terrible pictures and the reasons are simple. Some elements of being photogenic can be learned but many of them are at the mercy of genetics.

Knowing your angles, knowing how to pose and knowing how to hold a pose convincingly without looking strained are important and can all be learned. What can’t be learned is bone structure. Models almost always have very angular faces with strong yet balanced features. Symmetry is also important; most models have very symmetrical faces meaning one eye is not bigger or lower on the face than the other, the nose is centered on the face, the cheekbones are high and level and the jaw line is even. Ironically, angular faces are often considered odd looking in real life. In a three dimensional world angles create shadowing which can look strange at times.

Other than the physical attributes what else makes for a good model?

The final thing agents look for is posture. Good posture is a modeling must as 70% of a models career is runway modeling. Unless you make it as a super-model, or build a less glamorous catalogue career, making it as a model will mean walking a runway. Good posture and a solid walk are essential modeling skills but they can be learned. If a girl fits the mold in every way but lacks good posture an agent may still sign her with the hope that she can learn to stand straight and walk tall. However, if a slouchy model doesn’t ever develop good posture she may find her career is cut short. For this reason having good posture from the get go is a definite bonus.

As with any job personality is important as well. An ideal model will have a strong sense of self with well developed self esteem and a resilient psychological make up. Modeling is stressful work and models are exposed to all sorts of potentially self destructive influences. Modeling is a glamorous life and with the glamour comes an element of risk. Models are at a very great risk for falling prey to the trappings of glamour; alcohol, drugs, late night partying and unhealthy dieting regimes are always around. It takes a girl of strong character to face these things without succumbing to the temptations. Do agents really look for strong and grounded personalities? Yes and no. While they won’t turn down a promising girl because she seems insecure or uncertain of herself they may take a not-quite-as-shining prospect because she does have the right personality.

What are the basic must have traits for any mainstream model?

It all sounds pretty shallow because it is. In the end models are clothes hangers and their role in the fashion industry is to make clothes look good so that they will sell. It is an industry heavily influenced by physical appearances. To recap, making it as a model requires the following traits and skills:

* A slim build
* A height somewhere between 5'8" and 5'11" (there are exceptions)
* Good bone structure with a symmetrical and angular face
* Being naturally photogenic and/or a good knowledge of ones “angles”
* Good posture and a strong runway walk (learned or natural)
Modeling is not without a social conscience. There are people in the industry who are very concerned about the eating disordered, drug and alcohol abusing, party-on image models seem to cultivate. However in the end modeling is a money-making venture and whether or not a girl will be able to sell herself, the clothes she wears and the products she endorses are what is most important to industry leaders. Models have a mold and unless we are talking about specialty modeling to succeed in the industry you must fit the mold. Beauty aside, because as already noted not all models would be called pretty in real life, models must be able to project a desirable image. They must seem ideal so that the average woman will want to spend the money to be like them, wear what they wear, and use the cosmetics that they use. If you have what it takes to sell yourself and you fit the mold you just may make it as a model.

The Model Mold

To recap, here's the basic blueprint for your average model. If you fit this description the next step is looking for an agency that will sign you.

* A slim build
* A height somewhere between 5'8" and 5'11" (there are exceptions)
* Good bone structure with a symmetrical and angular face
* Being naturally photogenic and/or a good knowledge of ones “angles”
* Good posture and a strong runway walk (learned or natural)

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