The Truth About Being a Model

When people think of the word “model,” they would associate the word with a girl (or guy) who is very attractive, gets to wear designer clothing and/or gets paid a crapload of money just for taking great pictures. In reality, modeling is NONE of those stereotypes people say they are. I would know because I am a (freelance) model myself. I modeled for photographers from Norfolk to Richmond and I have walked for Andres Aquino’s (NYFW’s Couture Designer), “Future Nostalgia” Fashion Show. Now that I have enough knowledge about the community/industry, I want to share my story.

Social Media Platform:

Instagram: @paulajp__

How I Got Discovered:

Photo by Nick Mangubat | @nmshoots

I had no intentions of being a model for my college career. I knew nothing about posing on camera or walking on the runway. During my third week of college, I got discovered by a photographer who was in a general meeting for a club. Initially, I was not going to go to the meeting because I was so closed-minded towards meeting new people, but thankfully I did. He and I both exchanged numbers and Instagrams. He later direct messaged me and asked if I wanted to model for him. I did not hesitate to say yes. I was so excited for my first shoot. Not only was it fun, but it was also kind of a big deal for me because I gained exposure from other photographers that wanted to work with me. I, since then, have been working and connecting with photographers.

The Downside of Modeling:

Photo by Rickiece Poulson | @kieceskaptures

There are many downsides of modeling, but that shouldn’t discourage anybody from being a model. Instead, people should be aware of pursuing a modeling career and learn about what goes on behind the scenes.

  • First major downside: You have to give photographers, agencies or designers what they want. Who knows? They might be looking for an exotic tall girl who can take seductive photos with one glance or an everyday petite girl with an average look. There are times when you can pick and choose what you want for a photoshoot. However, for high fashion or runway, you can’t choose what you want because of your body measurements. As a runway model, you’re just simply a “walking hanger” that is presenting the clothes from the designer. It is ABSOLUTELY RARE that people pay attention to the model’s walking on the runway unless you’re a supermodel like Cindy Crawford, Gisele Bundchen, Kendall Jenner or Gigi and Bella Hadid (the list can go on and on, I know a ton of models)

  • Second major downside: You will get insecure, easily. There will be models that will look more beautiful than you or not as beautiful as you. Either way, they’re just people who happen to be Photoshopped on camera or just people that are walking down a runway. Personally, I never worked with models that were arrogant. The models I’ve worked with are simply beautiful people who have everyday jobs. In fact, most of them are VERY well-educated and benevolent. For example, I know two female runway models that already graduated from VCU. One works as a professional cosmetologist and food journalist but is still also an international runway model. Another one happens to be a singer on the side and has modeled in Los Angeles and China.

  • Third major downside: YOU ARE NOT GETTING PAID. 90 percent of the time, models don’t get paid for their work. They mostly get paid in trade, meaning they get paid with the photos the photographer(s) took of them to add on BOTH of their portfolios. If a model is getting paid, that means either the model is lucky enough to find pay, has gained recognition or is currently in an agency.

  • Fourth major downside: There will be people online that will SCAM you into doing something you don’t want to do. You don’t need to go to “modeling school.” Agencies or photographers will teach you everything for free! For example, I had someone from a so-called “agency” that wanted me to model for them and claimed I will receive “compensation.” Turns out, the “agency’s” Instagram was private and when the profile became public, it was full of nude models that weren’t depicting art in any sort of fashion. If someone or an “agency” that wants you to pay beforehand to become a model, don’t fall for it because it’s a scam. If a photographer’s work is terrible but wants you to charge him, don’t. You should always have a meeting with anyone you plan to work with in person in order to be comfortable.

The Upside of Modeling:

Photo by Alex Yerena | @aleggsue

Though there are many downsides in modeling, the upsides can make up for them.

  • First major upside: You get to connect with people and places. I can’t express how many photographers and models I have connected with. You will learn a lot from these people and how the industry works. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

  • Second major upside: It is fun to get dolled-up for a shoot! You wanna look good for the camera, so getting a bit dressed-up and depicting a theme for a shoot is exciting. It’s always a great possibility of creating a beautiful photo depending on how you’re posing. Once the processing and editing come through, it will be worth it!!

  • Third major upside: As long you’re focusing on you, you will build tough skin and have confidence. This does not mean arrogance, this means that you’re so confident in yourself to the point where you don’t care about other people’s looks. It’s all about people carrying themselves in the long run.

  • Forth major upside: You will gain a new perspective of beauty. Beauty means much more than looking “hot” or “sexy.” Being a model really taught me that I am only representing purely aesthetics. I realized that beauty can be expressed in many forms through photos and by the clothes a model could wear. At that point when shooting, I  don’t care about how good I look. I only care about the photo and how I can make the photo beautiful. Also, nudity does not phase me anymore. When I at look at nude female (and male) models, I don’t think nudity is disgusting. I think having absolutely no clothes on is empowering and artful.

My Realistic Advice on Being a Model:

Photo by Keith Locks | BTW: I’m the shortest runway model in the back clapping her hands behind the model in the blue dress!

Please keep in mind that modeling is not necessarily about you as a whole, it is about the photo itself and how you can make an impact of depicting emotions or art through the photography. I’m still learning myself on being a great model, but the greatest advice I can give to anyone who is an aspiring model is modeling is not the job/hobby to be boastful or conceited about. I feel as a society, we think that knowing or being a model feels lucky, but it really isn’t in reality.

Doesn’t mean I’m a model, doesn’t mean I have a privilege for everything because of my occupation. Doesn’t mean I’m a model, doesn’t mean men should objectify me for my body. Lastly, doesn’t mean I’m a model, doesn’t mean I am not smart enough to have a voice. I am simply just a regular college student who is making decisions on her own and is blessed to work with people I never expected to work with.

The last advice I can give is to NEVER quit school to become a model. Whenever I am not doing a shoot, I am in class learning, studying or also writing articles for HerCampus. Like I said, models don’t make a living off of their job well enough. School is absolutely important because education will go far in life. Looks and fashion will fade in time, but education will never fade. People can take away whatever they want from you as a model, but they will never take away the education you have.