Do you have what it takes to be a model?

SOMETIMES it happens overnight. You’re sitting in a Greenville Avenue hot spot chewing the ice from your drink when a well-dressed woman slips you her card. You think it’s a con, but your friends aren’t so skeptical. They urge you to take a chance. Get some color glossies made. Go for an interview. Ten days later, you’re on a plane to Milan. Then Paris. Tokyo. People tell you you’re one in a million. And they’re absolutely right.

A nice scenario, yes, but more often, those hoping to become models have their noses fixed, live on tofu and Figurines, pray for flawless skin and never make it past an interview rejection without tears. You may do pretty well with nurses’ uniforms and lingerie ads, but Richard Avedon’s camera still isn’t flashing your way. Like 99 percent of all fashion models, you may never make it to the top. But middle ground-department store ads and local and national magazine spreads-can be a lot of fun and provide reasonably good pay. After all, you never know when the big time is just around the corner. If you have the desire, the youth and the cheekbones, you may be just what they’re looking for.

But before you quit your job and join the legions of hopefuls, make sure you have all those other prerequisites that can be easily recognized. Start by flipping through a copy of Vogue or Mademoiselle. How do your looks compare to those of the models in the skimpy black bathing suits and sophisticated tweed outfits? If you’re still optimistic after this test (which most of us have been giving ourselves all of our lives, anyway), then get in touch with a reputable modeling agency. The top four in Dallas are headed by Kim Dawson, Tanya Blair, Sarah Norton and Mike Beaty. Each of them can reel off a list of standards that they look for in prospective models-and among the big four, the criteria vary only slightly.

Tanya Blair describes the perfect female model as such: “She’s preferably at least 5 foot 8 inches. She has a good body and a face that can go from looking very young to missy [women’s fashions] to glamorous. We prefer no uncorrectable problems with hair and absolutely no leg or nose problems. No short-waisted-ness. No narrow shoulders. A 34-B is a good bust. She should be bright-preferably with art, dance and/or drama in her background. I prefer [those models with] college plans because that shows ambition, and if a person doesn’t have that sort of personality-if she isn’t easy to work with, bright and enthusiastic-then it really doesn’t matter what she looks like; no one is going to want to work with her.”

To this list, Mike Beaty adds the importance of full lips and a good jawline. He says a dress size of 7 or 9 is the best and warns anyone considering modeling to stay out of the sun. “A little color is fine, but you’ll wrinkle fast enough as it is; you want your skin to stay as perfect as possible-as long as possible. But most importantly,” Beaty says, “remember that all these specifications aren’t the Bible. There are no set rules. Before you give up, talk to one of us or our agencies. It won’t cost anything, and it can’t hurt.”

The standards set for male models aren’t yet as rigorous or clearly defined as those for women. Beaty, who was an award-winning model before he opened his agency, says that male modeling is still in its infancy, but that things are changing fast. “When I began modeling,” he says, “I was a football player for UCLA. I wouldn’t tell anyone what I was up to because of all the connotations modeling had at the time. But I found that stereotypes weren’t true of most male models; in fact, I’ve never met a mentally healthier group of people. Today, thanks to the number of professional athletes involved, male modeling is accepted and everyone wants to get into it.” Beaty says he prefers male models who wear a 40-regular jacket and have a waist measurement of 30 to 32. “They should have well-defined muscles, but not necessarily bulky.” With men, Beaty says, “an agent has to act on a gut feeling. Most of the men come to you like coal; you have to work at turning them into diamonds.”

Blair says that she prefers a male model to be 6 feet tall, and, in addition to the specifications Beaty mentioned, “he should have a currentfashion, athletic look like the GQ men have.” Both agencies say that a male model’s career rarely gets off the ground before he’s 20, and for many clients, the older the better. “Versatility,” Sarah Norton says, “is the quality 1 look for most in men and women. For Dallas print and runway work, an all-American, clean, fresh look sells best, but agencies are receiving an increasing number of requests for more exotic and ethnic looks.”

Both the Dawson and Blair agencies discourage prospective models from attending modeling schools. “Although modeling or selfimprovement classes are going to be beneficial no matter what,” says Corinne Thompson, administrative assistant at Kim Dawson, “God has already provided height and bone structure. If he didn’t, we can’t help.” Peggy Shannon, head of fashion production and talent development at Tanya Blair, says, “Models are usually worse if they go through a school. Most of the time it’s better to get models raw.”

Most young men and women who are determined enough to go into modeling-who live up to at least a few of these expectations, who are aggressive enough to stick with it and who keep knocking on doors-will sign with an agency sooner or later. But Dawson warns that even if a model meets the standards, he or she may be a living disaster in front of a camera. “There are plenty of really beautiful people who simply haven’t acquired the learned ability to look natural while being photographed,” Dawson says. Beaty sounds another note of discouragement: “Models are born, not made. The charisma and determination have to be there along with the looks. It all has to come together like a perfect painting; you have to be able to sell the whole package.”

Jerry Hall of Mesquite, now an internationally known model, is one model who knew how to sell her own “package” in spite of the odds. Dawson instantly recognized that Hall was a “super-structure,” but Hall is almost 6 feet tall: Dawson doubted that she’d ever get a job in the Dallas market. Hall went to Europe before even trying to find work in Dallas. After acquiring a few good European tearsheets (examples of work from magazines or newspapers). Hall can now work not only in Dallas, but just about anywhere else.

Once you decide that you have the basic look and the stubborn confidence necessary, make your call to an agent. You’ll probably be pre-screened over the phone. Blair says her agency asks questions over the phone about age, height and weight. If a caller sounds promising, she says, he or she is invited to send color snapshots. But Blair advises against spending money for professional photographs at this stage; she and other agents can get a fair idea of a person’s looks from a standard snapshot. If an agent is impressed, the prospective model will usually be invited to audition at the agency in an open session. After that, Blair says, those still in the running will attend a private interview with either herself or her husband, Ron. Then, if a prospective model is signed with the Blair Agency, he or she will receive instructions on how to assemble a portfolio as well as advice on improving his or her physical appearance and presentation. Once a collection of photographs has been assembled, Blair chooses five or six shots for a composite. After that, the waiting begins: at the minimum, a few hours or days before the first assignment.

Sometimes, despite optimism, the assignments don’t come. “Of course, we make mistakes,” Blair says. “Sometimes we take people who we think have promise but who lack charisma. We tell them that as soon as we see that modeling with our agency isn’t going to work out, and every six months we review each model’s progress and consider his or her success.” Blair says she’s been “extremely selective” and hasn’t accepted many new models in the last two years. Her agency has only averaged about 15 new modeling contracts a year until recently. “We’re one of the smallest agencies in Dallas according to our number of models, but we’re booking 75 percent of catalog fashion in the city.”

Even if a model is successful during the first year, he or she will inevitably suffer some rejection along the way. Most models agree that the put-downs are the worst part of the business. Norton says that sometimes you just have to accept the bad news: “They got another blonde.” A look that is hot one year may not do well at all the next season; one model may not be able to get a job in New York, but may become a hot commodity in Europe.

Beaty says, “If it’s right for you, no matter how many doors are slammed in your face, you’ll keep knocking. I know it’s one thing to be criticized for your typing and another to be criticized for yourself. You may get calloused, but rejection still hurts.” Dawson says that she tells her models to try to remember that it’s a rejection “of a facade, not a rejection of a human being. You simply have to accept the fact that you aren’t their idea of ’the look.’ You just have to go out and take the rejections and hope that along with them comes good work.’’

Understandably, insecurity and rejection are the biggest problems that face models, Dawson says. Norton says her hardest job is making her models believe how beautiful they are. “They see the pictures, but don’t believe what they see,” she says. Michelle Ganeles, a model with Tanya Blair, says that she has to believe she’s beautiful so she can be confident enough to be uninhibited before the camera. “I get really tired of it, though,” she says. “The profession is just so unstable. You don’t know when your career is just going to end, and it can really be discouraging. But, at its best, modeling is an art form.”

With that thought in mind, Blair refers to her models as artists. Norton insists on doing all the bartering for higher rates so her models will be free to concentrate on their profession. The agent’s job, Norton says, is to help models make the most of their talent and to get them business. The agent is there to be sure the models get what they deserve and to be a source of strength to those who are unsure about their abilities.

Smaller agencies may do a better job at encouraging. One model who transferred from Dawson’s agency to Blair’s says that she felt lost in the crowd of the more than 400 models in various divisions of the Dawson agency. She says she receives more personal attention in the smaller agency where the ratio of models to staff is more equally balanced.

Dawson admits that in a big agency such as hers, a model “has to work hard to be a person instead of a non-person.” But she says that she tries to convey her confidence to each of her models and tries to structure classes according to the models’ individual needs.

Whether a model will do better in a slightly smaller or larger agency depends a great deal on the individual, but there are certain qualities in agents that models should recognize. Blair warns models to be wary of agencies that sign you, but then don’t find you a reasonable number of jobs. She suggests that before a model signs with an agency, he or she should ask how many models are in the agency and what to expect to make in the first year. Blair says that a reputable agency will drop a model if he or she doesn’t make a certain amount of progress within the first year.

Blair admits that it is difficult-sometimes impossible-to guess how much a model can earn. “I tell them that people who look like they do have made $100,000, and that if they fix their mind on it, I believe they can make anywhere from $25,000 and up in a very good first year.” But it’s the effort that makes the difference the first year. Norton says that it’s difficult to make guarantees, but, she says, “I can promise some models that their books will be seen by all my clients, and that I believe they’ll do well. Those are only a few-the superstars. With some of the others, it’s uphill all the way.”

Beaty recommends that models check all the agencies before choosing an agent. He says that he doesn’t know of anyone who’s ever modeled successfully in Dallas without one. But avoid agencies that are fronts for selling pictures or classes, Beaty warns. There are plenty of models out there asking for jobs, so whenever an agency advertises, prospective models ought to be suspicious.

Franchised modeling agencies, such as the big four we’ve mentioned, make money from a percentage taken from a model’s fee. Most agencies receive 10 to 20 percent of their models’ earnings. In Europe, those fees are much higher, with agencies sometimes claiming as much as 50 percent.

When you think of modeling, you probably think of runways and fashion shows, lights and cameras. For some, this is the glamorous side of the business. Models can earn high rates (up to $100 for two hours’ work in Dallas) and have the opportunity to model top-designer clothes. Runway work is the most glamorous in New York, says Shannon of Tanya Blair. “It’s a lot of fun to prance around in front of 400 people in a Bob Mackie dress. It’s an ego feed. Some models are so hot,” she says, “they have to run between bookings.”

Some say that print work (modeling for newspapers, magazines and other printed media) is a full-time pursuit, but not a full-time job. A model could work a great deal one week and do nothing the next. In addition to this uncertainty, for a photo shoot female models must be ready to be “camera-ready “(completely made-up) or to arrive with their hair in curlers and a makeup base on. And often, models must bring the appropriate shoes for a shoot with them. Inexperienced models can expect to start at $60 an hour for print work in Dallas, while more experienced models can earn up to $125 an hour.

Parts modeling may be the perfect option for men or women who are interested in modeling and have nice features but who are either too tall or too short for runway and print work, pat-tie Gilmore, a 5-foot-6-inch blonde, is too short for runway and print modeling, but she has kept busy with catalog and junior fashion work. Her agent noticed her small, perfectly shaped hands and suggested that Gilmore try some parts work. It’s rare for print and runway models to be successful in parts work because they are so tall that their their features are often large.

Many advertisers believe that their products-such as jewelry or shoes-look insignificant modeled on those with large hands or feet.

In addition to her hands, Gilmore has had her ears, back, shoulders and feet photographed. She now does work for the Neiman-Marcus and Horchow catalogs.

Parts modeling may offer a model a longer career, Gilmore says, because only a fraction of a model’s body is photographed and the market doesn’t tire of you as rapidly. But parts modeling, like any other type of modeling, isn’t a part-time endeavor. In many ways, it’s more difficult than standard modeling because of the close range involved. And it takes just as much door knocking.

Another alternative to print and runway fashion modeling is broadcast work. This work can be perfect for people who because of height, age or some other characteristic weren’t right for other areas of modeling. And sometimes, the work is preferable. Jenny Veverka, 18. did print work for Joske’s and Cheerleader Supply Company before branching into the broadcast field. Since January, she’s completed a commercial a month for McDonald’s.

Print modeling may produce money faster, but broadcast work provides a steadier income because all modeling is unionized, which means that rates go strictly by the book. Models will work up to eight hours for a flat fee; the minimum charge for a broadcast session in the Dallas area is $237.50. Often, models must supply their own wardrobes for broadcast work, but are paid for their clothes ($10 per session) worn during the shoot.

Judy Jones, a fashion and commerical print representative with Sarah Norton, says that broadcast work is available to a lot of “real-looking, everyday people who look natural with kids in the park or with whatever other image an advertiser might want to portray.”

Children older than 5 but younger than 12 can find plenty of modeling work in Dallas, especially if an agent catches them at just the right size. Girls who are size 10 and boys who are sizes 10. 12 and 16 provide the most work. And modeling can be a healthy experience for a child, Norton says, especially if a mother will spend time explaining what’s going on and why rejections happen. It can provide great lessons in communications, competition and presentation.

All in all, Dallas is a good place to begin a modeling career. If a female model does well in Texas, Blair says, she’ll have a good chance at success anywhere. “We found that there aren’t enough good-looking blondes in Sweden to compete with the number right here. I can’t imagine a better way to see the world, and after a modeling career, a hundred other opportunities in designing, styling and promotion open up.”

A successful model can spend 10 or even 20 years exploring the world while making a good income, and. as Blair says, “still be left with plenty of years to decide what to do when it’s time to grow up.”


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