May 10, 2018

5 Things I've Learned From Modeling

As difficult as it is for me to believe, I have now been working as a model for six years. Six years! Guys, I'm going on decrepit. 😩👵

How to be a model

Anyway, do anything for six years and you have to learn something, right? If you didn't learn anything in all those years, you likely weren't fully present. For all the young ducks out there, or just anyone who's curious about what I've learned, here are some of my takeaways from the past six years of professionally making faces!

Want to follow along on my ongoing adventures as a sometimes model, sometimes-a-million-other-things, twenty-something in NYC? Follow me on Instagram @danaikadzere!

5 Lessons from Modeling

1. Professionalism is everything.

If you've been on go-sees in NYC, or even looked through the competition on your agency's page (or other agency pages), you'll know there are way more beautiful people out there than there is need for models.
Heck, just swipe through Instagram or take a walk around the block and you'll find a ton of visually interesting faces! Especially in modern advertising, where the 'real person' look is growing more popular and inclusiveness, diversity, and quirkiness, your looks alone are not what's going to make or break your career.

...well, they won't make your career. It is a superficial industry, so if you don't meet some minimum of symmetry or whatever else they're looking for at a given time, you won't make much money in mainstream modeling. But even though looks are a prerequisite, they aren't enough! This job isn't just about being nice to look at.

Getting started as a model

You can be the most beautiful girl, but if your attitude stinks, they'll book another 'most beautiful girl.' It's a small world and you will get a bad reputation if you're flaky, late, rude, entitled, or otherwise unpleasant to work with. 

At the end of the day, a professional photoshoot (or trunk show, runway show, commercial shoot, etc.) is a J. O. B. You are there with other working professionals and if you make the crew's and/or client's lives harder, you will not be booked again.

Show up, on time, with your business in order, and your game face on. If you want a lasting career as a model, you must treat your work with the same respect as you would a corporate job.

2. It's all in the neck.

This is less relevant for commercial shoots, but for high fashion the neck is key! Elongate your neck, don't let your chin sink in or your shoulders shorten it, or you'll look amateurish and waste a lot of the photographer's time and film.

Model's Secrets to Beauty

...does anyone use film anymore? Though I'm practically geriatric in this industry (I kid, sort of, I'm 25) shooting on film has not been the standard since before I began.

3. Pull those shoulders back!

I've always had good posture and, dating back to middle and high school, people often commented on my great posture. It's probably why people often ask me if I do ballet! Funny - you should see me dance. 

Anyway, wherever your shoulders are as a civilian person 'with good posture,' if you want to look amazing in your photos you probably need to pull them back further. Imagine a string pulling you spine straight and your shoulder blades tuck in and down around it. 

How to Look Great in Photos

Shoulders back, chest forwards, neck long, and chin centered to avoid unflattering shadows. That's how you take a good photo, whether it's for a shoot or just to rack up the likes on instagram/facebook/your social media poison of choice.

4. Sunscreen is the key to longevity.

I can't tell you how often I remember a beautiful girl from high school or one of my early shoots at the beginning of my modeling career, then see her now, five to ten years later, and she just hasn't held up well. Even though she's still only in her mid to late twenties! 

I can't tell you how many other times I see a woman in her mid thirties, forties, fifties, or even sixties who's just absolutely beautiful. High fashion modeling is a young woman's game, but commercial modeling can have a very long lifespan - after all, they need models for ads for all stages of life, whether that's buying a home or picking out the right retirement center! 

You don't need Botox, dermal resurfacing, $XX,XXX Korean skincare, and a fear of aging - aging is a natural and beautiful process. What you do need is health. Take care of your skin and yourself and you'll age gracefully (and, more to the point for modeling, profitably). 

Hard living can go unnoticed for a few years, but not wearing sunscreen, not sleeping enough, not eating enough, not drinking enough water, drinking too much alcohol, using recreational drugs, etc. will eventually make themselves known in your appearance.

How to have a long career as a model

I said 'sunscreen is the key to longevity,' but that's more the principle I'm trying to get across. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

5. Rain comes in waves.

Corporate workers have a lot more stability in their lives than models, whether they're high fashion or commercial. I don't have experience with alternative or adult modeling, so I won't comment on those industries, but in the industries that I'm familiar with, you can't depend on consistency of work or consistency of pay the way that you can if you're a 9 to 5 worker with a check that comes in every other week. 

You get paid when you work and, even if you work ten days in a row now, that doesn't mean that you'll have good, paid work again for the rest of the month, even if it's through no fault of your own. That volatility is frustrating and nerve-wracking, but it's part of an artist's truth and it's part of the trade-off we make for our creative careers.

How to Make Money as a Model

During the busy times, save as much as you can so you can moderate how much you ride the feast-or-famine artist lifestyle rollercoaster. You can make $1,000 in a day and feel rich, but when you don't make another cent for a week, you'll wish you didn't splurge when the check came in. Another way to prepare for the dry times is to get a flexible side gig, like hostessing, nannying, temping, etc., at least until you're working consistently. 

I've loved being a model and I am grateful that I continue to be able to work as a model. It's been wonderful for me and I hope it remains a part of my life for many years to come! That said, modeling is not the easy get-paid-for-being-attractive thing many people think it is. I'm not saying don't go into the industry, I'm just saying go in with awareness.

Models, what have you learned in your team in the industry?

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