Tips From an Expert: How to Break into the Modeling Industry as a College Student

Have you ever flipped through a magazine and imagined seeing yourself on its pages? Or, while watching TV commercials, do you wonder about how you could land the starring role? Through an NYU professor, Her Campus NYU was fortunate to get the opportunity to connect with Kristi McCormick, casting director and founder of MATCHBOOK, which is a talent buying and consulting firm that matches people to brands. In the past, McCormick has worked with companies such as Bloomingdales, Barney’s, and Estee Lauder, and many talented actors and musicians including Jessica Alba, Sharon Stone, and Destiny’s Child. Although McCormick notes that being in college might make you a little late in the game, since most models start when they’re around 15 years old, there is still plenty of opportunities out there for college students. Read on to learn McCormick’s advice about how to break into the modeling industry.


1. Your Personality, Skills, and Talents Matter

KM: I always say: whether you’re a dancer, a musician, or an actor, it doesn’t matter. You have to have multiple skillsets now. Even as a model, as beautiful as you are, as perfect as your skin is, and as beautiful as your hair is, if you can’t talk, or if you have no social media following, or if you don’t know how to talk to a client that’s hiring you, they’re probably not going to bring you back for the next time. When you look at those big models of today, they’re all incredible in their personalities, outside of their beauty.


2. Take Care of Yourself and Be Open to (Temporary) Change

KM: I work a lot in the beauty and fashion industries, so I always look at skin right away. Like is your skin flawless and perfect? If a camera is up close, what’s it going to see? Hair is also important. I do a lot of hair boxes and hair campaigns. I’ll always ask [the models], “Would you ever color that hair?” A lot of times with models, like last year I had to do a pastel [hair] casting - pink, blue, yellow, orange - and for models, that’s what they get paid for. So, [when] a few newer models came up to me [and said], “I don’t really want to color my hair,” I’m like, “you shouldn’t really be a model,” so that is something, too, I always consider.

3. Be Your Authentic Self and Share Who You Are


KM: [As a model,] tell me about yourself, [and] tell me what you like to do. Do you have any brothers and sisters? Where are you from? Do you speak English? You know, a lot of the girls who come over [to the United States], I’m always impressed when they’re not from here and their English is pretty good, and if it isn’t good, I see them again in six months to a year and they’re know so it’s always amazing.

4. Do Your Research and Get Prepared for Castings

KM: You need to go to sources like Breakdown Express and Backstage. You need your friend to take nice snapshots of you. You need to make sure you’re drinking teas and taking care of yourself. You need to make sure you’re fashionable and going to H&M and getting nice clothes. You need to be looking for casting briefs that you can apply to. It’s funny, at NYU there are a lot of filmmaker students, [and] they’re always looking for models or actors, so start in your own backyard. Look and see in your own school who’s looking and start doing that know start getting out there. Even if you're not sure it’s for you, it’s still worth it.

5. Keep Your Social Media Updated

KM: A lot of people are like, “Well, don’t you need help to break in?” Not really, not if you are very persistent and keep at it and keep updating your profile. I can’t tell you how many people are discovered on Instagram or Facebook. I did a story for Bride’s magazine, and I looked on the New York Times wedding section, and then I found people’s Facebooks, and that’s how I got their photos, and then I called them and then I booked them, and they’re like “How did you find me?” Things like that will work and [it is] independent of who you know.

6. Be Prepared to Miss Class (Sometimes)

KM: Other than talking to agents, [you] still have to be prepared and ready for things like going to a casting at the last minute. So, [you may] not be going to school because the casting is at 2:00pm, whether you like it or not. So, there’s things like that where you have to be ready on a dime. I had a Redbook magazine story, and I called a college student from New Jersey. She got right on the train went right down to the shoot. I didn’t know what she was doing, I didn’t know if she had class...I didn’t know anything. I said, “Listen, this is open for you right now, and it’s Redbook, it’s a February issue, it’s a hair story,” and she’s like, “Say no more, I’m on the train.” That’s the kind of thing you’ll have to get comfortable with.

7. Get Inspired

KM: Open up magazines, go look online, and see who you think you can be. For example, I’ll have a model open up Glamour magazine, and they don’t realize that one of the models in the magazine is 5’10 and about 16 years old. So, if you look at the jobs you think you can do, then you find who are the right people to go to to get those jobs.

8. Dress for the Part

KM: In terms of presenting yourself at a casting, make sure your clothes are trendy. Make sure your skin looks good, and make sure your hair looks good. I always say, too, for models, “Don’t come in with big earrings, and do not wear a lot of makeup.” Those are two nos. When models come see me in my casting studio, I make them take it all off because most casting people and agents want to see the most natural state of your face in order to decide for themselves how they want to make you up.


We hope you enjoyed getting an inside look into what it is really like to be a model and how to break into the industry. And, always remember that true beauty radiates from the inside.


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