Lesson #1: Expectation is Not Reality
I’ve long lost count of the number of shoots where I expected things to go one way, only to watch them go another. Or the number of times I found that the final image came out in a completely different way than what I was anticipating. I went into freelance work – as well as agency representation – expecting things to go a lot differently than they did. I learned that there are a lot of “boring” modeling jobs: pictures for internal purposes only, fit modeling (where you try on samples and stand really still while they figure out how to modify the outfit), modeling for meetings at retail headquarters, and so on, and so forth. I learned just how unglamorous and monotonous modeling can actually be. I learned that a go-see for even the biggest names can still be just you walking around in uncomfortable heels in the back of a warehouse or in a nondescript office building.
Reality is never what you imagined it would be. Sometimes it’s better. Sometimes it’s worse. And sometimes it’s just different. It’s not worth wasting time and energy trying to predict how things are going to turn out. Just go with the flow and keep your eyes and ears peeled.
Lesson #2: Stop Being Scared and Stick Your Neck Out
I remember when I finally gave into the idea of modeling. I had just finished my very first job for my friend’s band, doing weird quasi-artistic shots for the CD covers of their demo songs. Artistic shots, like poking at a running shower head while fully clothed and outside the bathtub, or pretending I was staring at a green orb on the ground. But that’s for another time.
I finished up these shoots realizing that I really, really liked modeling. I made a profile on a modeling website and sat back, wondering when the hordes of photographers and clothing companies would be banging down my door in an effort to work with me.
Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen.
As a freelancer, it took searching out casting calls and contacting the people I needed to contact and networking as best as I could. It took sticking my neck out and getting rejected and doing it all over again.
When I finally worked up the courage to go agency hunting, I sent out my pictures, even though the very thought of getting rejected on an agency level scared the piss out of me. And I did get rejected. But I also got signed by one of these agencies. And when the time came for me to venture out into the modeling world again at the ripe age of 26, I sent out my pictures to the top Boston agency – an agency that passed on me many years ago – fully recognizing that I might get rejected yet again.
And I almost did. Somehow, dumb luck (which I will get into in a moment) prevailed and the director decided to ask for a few snapshots before potentially telling me to buzz off. He liked what he saw and called me in for a meeting. I was signed that day (with the understanding that the first pictures I had sent him did not impress him at all).
The likelihood that success is going to fall into your lap is slim to none. Very rarely does someone get “discovered” while walking their dog or pumping their gas. They usually get “discovered” by working hard, taking chances, and getting over the fear of rejection.
It’s the same with anything in life. You need to stop worrying about the negatives, take a risk, and stick your neck out.
Lesson #3: Sometimes Dumb Luck Will Win Out
Throughout the years, I’ve met a lot of striking, talented models. The types of models who can walk into a room and immediately attract everyone’s attention. The types of models whose faces were completely unforgettable. The types of models that any client should rightfully lose their mind to have. These models could sell a product, a service, a fashion line, or an editorial idea without any effort.
And I’ve seen those models go absolutely nowhere with their careers.
I remember getting a job for a commercial purely because I had showed up with a pearl necklace on and they had imagined their commercial queen wearing a similar necklace. I remember losing a job because the person in front of me knew the client and was busy talking to said client when I came in. People have snagged jobs because they were the first, the last, the perfectly-in-the-middle person to show up to the go-see. People have lost jobs because they had sneezed in the middle of the line reading and had to start all over again.
Hard work, determination, and talent are key for any successful venture. But sometimes you need that fourth ingredient: dumb luck. Luck can never replace hard work and talent, but sometimes it can win out over both.
Lesson #4: You’re Exactly What Someone is Looking for, Somewhere
The hardest part about modeling was getting passed over time and time and time again. My bust was too big for the samples. My look was too commercial. I had brown hair and they were looking for “raven”. I would give my all at go-sees and casting calls and watch as girls who (and I might be naïve and biased here) had absolutely nothing on me get the gigs instead.
And then every once in a while I would not only get a gig, but get sought out specifically to be hired for the job. I had the exact measurements they were looking for. I had exactly the “maternal smile” they were hoping to find. I was just the right amount of athletic. They took one look and God help the rest of the models.
I learned that, while rejection is the name of the game, I’m always going to be exactly what someone is looking for, eventually. Whether it is looks or personality, be it in the professional world or the dating world, what others have over me is irrelevant, because there’s always someone out there looking for an exact type of someone – a someone that I can completely fulfill. I’m not going to be everyone’s ideal, so focusing on the times I get passed over – be it the modeling industry or in real life – is a colossal waste of time.
Lesson #5: The World is Callous and Shallow; It’s Your Job to Not Become That Way As Well
Coming as a surprise to no one, mainstream modeling is a pretty superficial profession. No one cares about how good of a person you are, or how creative you can be. Do you have the look they are going for? No? Get out.
And even if you get the job, there’s no guarantee they’ll be kind and understanding as you figure out what they want from you (see: “Some People Just Cannot Be Pleased”). It’s your job to do what they ask without snapping back. It’s your job to go to the go-sees with a smile on your face, even if they’re scowling at you.
You’ll meet models at casting calls and go-sees who would probably think nothing of pushing you down the stairs if it meant they got the gig instead of you. You might even deal with people at your own agency who have no issues treating you like a piece of meat – a piece of meat that is never living up to the expectations they set out for you when they signed you.
The modeling world – and the world at large – is a pretty cruel place. It’s up to you to decide whether or not that turns you into a cruel person as well. Are you going to be mean and selfish because some of the people around you are, or are you going to overcome that and walk away a decent human being? The world gives you every reason in the book to become callous. It’s your job not to become that way as well.