Words of wisdom from those who know

FEW PROFESSIONS seem as glamorous as modeling. Every time we flip through a magazine, switch on the television or look at a billboard, there they are: slim, smiling and sensational. “It must be nice,” we think, “to be able to wear beautiful, expensive clothes, be pampered by makeup artists and have photographers follow your every move.”

But this is, after all, the real world, where even the most glamorous job has its ups and downs. So we asked a few of those familiar faces-Jerry Hall, Susan Moewe, Carla Pate, Patty Smith, Clarke Hanson and Mary Ann Bennett-to set us straight on what the model life is really like.

The way a model spends a working day varies with each individual, the extent of her experience and each job. Susan Moewe began her career with the Kim Dawson Agency and, after working in print modeling for six months in Dallas, signed on with the Wilhelmina agency in New York City, where she has been doing print work and television commercials for the last two years. Susan, a 5-foot-8-inch brunette who has also modeled in Europe, says that an experienced model’s day is likely to be quite different from a beginner’s. In New York, professional agencies make appointments (or “go-sees”) with photographers and potential clients for the beginning model. In a 9-to-5 day, the novice may average 10 go-sees, showing her portfolio to as many potential clients as she can. Once she begins to work, she may have one to four bookings each day with a few go-sees in between to round out her day.

At this stage, the new model’s most important task is to put together a collection of beauty essentials-and a very large bag to carry them in. Says Kim Dawson model Carla Pate, a 5-foot-6-inch brunette: “You’ve got to be ready anytime. The agency can just call you and say, ’Go right now,’ so you’ve always got your bag packed, ready to go.” For model Patty Smith, a 5-foot-9-inch blonde with the Kim Dawson Agency, this big bag contains curlers, a lingerie bag, several kinds of pantyhose, hairspray, hairpins and clips, and, of course, makeup. “I think one of my shoulders is higher because of it,” Smith says. “I really don’t carry nearly as much makeup as I used to. I know what I need and what works for me; I can manage on very little. Actually, I have my preparation down to an art. I’ve been modeling for eight years now, and I’ve got my makeup routine down to where I can do it pretty well in 10 minutes.”

For some models, preparation for a booking takes longer. Tanya Blair model Clarke Hanson says, “I always wake up two hours before a job, no matter what time it starts, so I actually start getting ready the night before. If I have a job the next morning, I’m in bed early.”

Clients often expect models to apply their own makeup and style their own hair. Mary Ann Bennett, a 5-foot-8-inch blonde with the Dawson Agency, says, “You really are expected to know your own face and hair, and you need to be able to do it however they want it. Dallas has a lot of mail-order catalogs, and in those they want a different hairstyle for each outfit; it might be eight different hairstyles a day.”

For other jobs, a model may simply be asked to come to the job with a clean face. “Certain clients have makeup artists,” Smith says. “It’s a real treat to get a different look at yourself- how someone else sees you.”

The model’s personality comes into play the first time she steps in front of the camera. Some models feel comfortable with the camera immediately, while others, like Bennett, need time to warm up. “It’s funny; I’m really introverted, but you can’t be. I think that modeling has helped me come out of my shell. [In modeling] you have to play a part. If you have on an exotic designer gown, you have to be elegant; if you have on a robe or housecoat, you’re supposed to act wholesome. I may have to do a junior outfit and look very young and that same afternoon wear a black designer gown and look sophisticated.”

Pate agrees that a bit of acting is involved: “Because I’m really quiet and shy, when I first started modeling, it was spooky for me. I was so scared. I still get nervous. You just turn into a different person; it just comes out.”

“It wasn’t always easy,” Smith agrees. “In fact, it took me about a year before I really knew what I was doing. It takes a lot of practice and studying your pictures.”

Hall, now an international model, remembers her first tense modeling jobs: “At first, I was so stiff The pictures were awful when I first started working; I was just sort of standing there looking petrified. But once I felt comfortable with someone, it was fun. Now, I never get nervous.”

Often, the ease with which a model becomes comfortable in front of the camera depends upon the photographer. “I had to understand how to communicate on camera,” says Moewe. “A photographer I worked with when I first started in Dallas. Thorn Jackson, was the first photographer who gave me a lot of direction. I can’t tell you how much value you get from a photographer like that.”

Of course, not all photographers work the same way. Some may give a model detailed directions about the look he’s trying to create; others simply tell the model the mood or attitude that they want to convey and let the model take it from there. “Once you get to know the photographer,” Moewe says, “you can work at being better. The photographer is your director; you have to follow what he envisions. The better you know him, the better you can understand what he wants.”

“Usually, they do give you a certain amount of direction,” says Hall. “Certain photographers are more stylized than others, and they really do have a good idea of exactly what they want. There’s a certain amount of movement you can do with your face or whatever; you can change it a bit. And some photographers prefer things that are freer-or if they’re not quite sure what they want, they let you do all sorts of things.”

But with experience, a model may grow less dependent on the photographer. “I used to think it was so important to get along with the photographer,” says Smith, “but now I’ve found that I can do my job and be as professional with the photographer who doesn’t say two words as I can with the one who says, ’You’re fabulous.’ You have to be flexible.”

Off the set. a model must rely on her agency for bookings as well as for occasional reinforcement. How much reinforcement she gets depends on the agency. When Pate began modeling 10 years ago. the agency staff “really pushed me and got me out, got me going.” While New York agencies may make their models’ appointments, such is not the case in Dallas, especially since the recent surge of competition with agencies and photographers. “In Dallas, agencies hand you a list of clients and photographers and say. ’Go get ’em,’ “

Moewe says. But, whether a model receives a little help or a lot, an agency’s faith in a beginning model and enthusiasm for her career can prove invaluable.

A working model’s main responsibility to her clients is to maintain her looks. And, as with anyone else, staying in shape can be easy for some and a struggle for others. Bennett admits that she’s one of the lucky ones. She eats pasta, ice cream-anything she wants. Hanson, who has been a vegetarian for five years, finds that she has to eat a lot of food to stay at her ideal weight. Pate admits a weakness for Mexican food and cheeseburgers, and Hall says she doesn’t even believe in dieting. “I think that dieting just makes people lose a lot of weight, and they gain it all back. It just doesn’t work.”

Although their eating habits differ, exercise seems to be these models’ top priority for keeping in shape, from Pate’s aerobics to Smith’s Nautilus workouts to Hanson’s tennis. Moewe, who exercises to the Jane Fonda Workout tape while in New York City, plans to learn windsurfing when she moves to a new home near a lake. Hall doesn’t seem to have a favorite method for exercising; she just spends a lot of time horseback riding, hiking, swimming and attending dance and exercise classes.

Although the models we spoke to had varied opinions about many aspects of modeling, they were of one mind about which aspect they liked best: the freedom of being able to plan their own careers and make their own schedules, and the excitement of doing something different at every job. “It’s not like a 9-to-5 job,” Smith says. ’You never know what’s going to happen; you never know where you’re going to be working or who with. It’s exciting.” Moewe says, “There’s no other job that you can get into so quickly and decide how your life is going to go.”

Because of the variety of work inherent in modeling, shots can range from bland to bizarre. Smith describes a recent on-location job in which she modeled swimwear one chilly morning on a river in a Georgia national forest. In the shot, she was supposed to recline on a large rock in the middle of rushing rapids. Once she had climbed onto the rock, she realized how precarious her position was. “I’m lying on my back, it’s 60 degrees, I’m soaking wet and it’s all mossy and slippery. It was freezing.

“That’s one thing about this job: The working conditions are not always what you’d think-they’re not always glamorous. If you’re doing spring and summer things, it’s during the winter, and vice versa.”

Bennett tells of an experience in a studio that was less uncomfortable than hilarious: “They tied me down to a railroad track-literally tied me up with rope and put me down on a fake railroad track and gagged me.”

Realistically, a model’s career can last only as long as her looks are marketable. And although many of today’s models continue to work into their 30s, even the most successful model may have alternate career plans in the back of her mind. Some models such as Moewe and Bennett, who left college to begin modeling, plan to go back to school. Others, like Pate, hope to use their modeling experience to branch out into a related field such as television.

But the uncertainty of the future may pose a problem for a model. On one hand. Smith says, “you never know how long you’ll work; it makes you insecure. Modeling is very trendy.” But Bennett, who now earns $1,000 a day for her work, says, “One week I’ll think: ’Do I want to go take a science test, or do I want to go make $5,000? It’s a tough choice. I want to go to school, but who in her right mind is going to pass up $5,000 for a science test?”

Regardless of their future plans, for now, modeling is their career. And it’s not a passing fancy for these young women. Many of them had the desire to model at an early age and have worked toward their goal for years before actually getting into the business. As model hopefuls, they began by assessing their physical qualifications and then took some snapshots to an agency. Once the agency agreed to represent them, they began “testing” with photographers, accumulating a substantial collection of photographs for their portfolios.

For Hall, a 5-foot-ll-inch blonde who grew up in Mesquite, the road to the model life was rather unconventional. She went to see Kim Dawson when she was 14. “She turned me down,” Hall says. “I was really young, and I was just walking up and down the Apparel Man and standing in showrooms.”

Hall had toyed with the idea of becoming a model since she was 12 or 13. “I was really tall and skinny, and when I’d get depressed about it all, everybody said to me, ’Maybe you can be a model.’ So there was this sort of vague hope that one day maybe I could do that.”

When Hall was 16 she planned a summer trip to Paris with her French class. The class trip fell through, but Hall decided to backpack through Europe on her own. On the way she stopped in New York and sought the advice of well-known modeling maven Wilhelmina. Again she was turned down.

It was while she was traveling in Europe that she was “discovered” and began her modeling career. At first, she didn’t think it would last. “I was just going to do it for the summer and then go to college. When I started making money, going on trips to Africa and things like that, I decided to stay for a year and then go back to college. And then, of course, the more I got into it. the more I started making more money.. .I gave up college.”

Hall had been modeling in Europe for two years when she met Eileen Ford over tea in Paris. “She told me I could live with her and that she thought I could do well in New York,” Hall says. “So 1 came back, and I really liked it.” She still spends about six months of each year working in Europe.

The move to New York was the beginning of a wonderful relationship with her agency. “I’ve always liked Ford,” she says. “I think it’s important in the beginning to have a good agency. They called up everyone and said nice things, and it’s a very respectable agency, so people believed them and would see me.”

Now that her career is established, she says, the agency helps because “they’re more personal. When I come back in town they call everyone up and say, ’she’s back,’ and I start work right away. And when Mick [Jagger of the Rolling Stones] was touring through America, they called up every town I went through and got work for me everywhere.”

Hall does all types of modeling work-magazines, advertising, fashion shows and commercials-which have recently included such clients as Bill Blass, Macy’s and Bloom-ingdale’s department stores and Town and Country and French Vogue magazines. She’s currently at work on a book about health, beauty and the modeling business that is scheduled to be published in February. She has also been signed to a role in the upcoming film Even Cowgirls Gel the Blues with Shelley Duvall, which will begin filming in Houston in January. “I’ve been trying to lose my accent,” she laughs. “I tend to always get parts that are for girls from the South.”

These successful models agree that among the beginning model’s greatest assets are confidence, drive and patience, since it usually takes at least a year to begin working consistently. “You have to market yourself. It takes a lot of determination and a lot of drive,” Moewe says. “But modeling has built my confidence. I remember my first jobs in Dallas. I’d do the shot and I’d think, ’I fooled them again. They really think I’m a model.’ But after doing jobs over and over again, I realized, ’Wait a minute. I really am a model.’ “

“You really have to keep after it,” Hall advises. “Sometimes it takes a long time. But I think if there’s a bit of interest at all, you should keep at it.”

Some hopefuls are often blinded by the model mystique, Bennett says. “A lot of girls have a real illusion about modeling. They think they want to model, but they really don’t know what the business is like. It does have its glamorous moments, but it’s a business like anything else. It’s hard work, but the money is good if you can start working consistently- that’s the secret.”

Even at a model’s most glamorous moments-when she is curled, primped and dressed in the latest fashion and posing before the camera-she may feel a lot of pressure. “The client is there, and he’s expecting you to make his product look wonderful,” Bennett says. “The photographer is there, the hairstylist is there, and they’re all standing there watching you work. It’s sort of a high-pressure job because you want to model the clothes to perfection, but you can’t always be perfect.”

Successful as they are, all of these models have faced rejection and insecurity. “Beauty is a matter of opinion,” says Moewe, explaining why some clients decide not to hire a certain model. “If you have good looks, you’ll fit in somewhere.” Smith says, “It’s not easy to be a new model. There are photographers who only care about getting to the next shot. If you’re an insecure model, it’s rough.”

“It’s very competitive,” Bennett says. “Even if you’re tall, thin and pretty with a good figure and good bones, it’s still going to be tough. The only way you can learn is to get out there and do it.”

But the model life can offer abundantrewards. “I’ve never learned so much in my lifeand grown so much as I have modeling,”Moewe says. “It is life in the fast lane, and youdo have to keep that in its proper perspective.At the same time, it’s risky. Sometimes you’reopen to a lot of vulnerability. But it’s such alearning experience, with different types ofpeople, lifestyles and languages. I feel so mucholder because of modeling because you growso much more quickly as a person. There area lot of wonderful people in the business. Andit is exciting.”


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