#realtalkfriday – Sometimes the Truth Hurts

These are the words that sound like music to the ears of those in the modeling and entertainment business. Unfortunately, like anything that sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I have been in the fashion industry for the majority of my life; first as a model, now as a scout and model manager. Trust me when I tell you that I have seen it all.

For every Kate or Gisele, there are thousands upon thousands of aspiring young girls and boys wanting to become the next super model. Unfortunately, this longing to become a model is a perfect opportunity for unscrupulous agents, scouts, photographers and other ‘hangers on’ to take advantage of these young starry-eyed hopefuls.

Disappointingly, it is more common than one thinks, even within the small markets of Canada.

Needless to say, there are actually some great agencies and model managers out there. However, there are also those that are not so great, the ones who are just in it for the money. One of the most common scams in the modelling industry is to pay to sign with an agency. Model agencies make their money off of commission. What this means is that if they can find you work, they will make a cut. Pure and simple. A model will have some expenses such as composite cards, website fees, test shoots, and a hard copy portfolio. I have heard stories of certain agencies in the business who charge an ‘administrative fee’ anywhere from $1000 – $3000 per year for a model to be represented by them, not including the aforementioned fees. Another common scam within the modelling industry is that they ‘force’ you to take their modeling classes at $100/hour. “If you want to be the next Gisele, you HAVE to take these classes.” An ethical agency will invest their time if they think you have what it takes to be successful in this business. This industry is fickle and there are no guarantees. Lesson here? Be very wary of promises that can only be fulfilled if you pay the price.

With the advent of a digital photographer, anyone can pick up a DSLR camera for less than $600 and call themselves a photographer these days. Granted, there are many self-taught and schooled masters in the photography world and I respect their work. However, the photographers that I do not respect are the ones who take advantage of young aspiring models. In my experience I have seen this happen where a promise is made to a young individual at a cost. These costs can be quite dark in the sense that a model may need to sleep with, or pose nude for the photographer. It is a shame that these things do happen, more often than you think. I am here to explain that promises like these do not guarantee stardom in the fashion industry as the photographer is not the only decision maker in the grand scheme of things. There are clients, editors, and art directors who have their say in who makes it and who does not. Be wary of photographers such as these ones, who make false promises in order to take advantage of an individual.

MYTH: You need a professional portfolio/professional photos to present to an agency

TRUTH: Most agencies want to see prospective models in their most ‘natural’ state. Simple snapshots with little to no makeup and wearing something that shows your figure are what agencies want to see. If you have what it takes and you sign with an agency, then you can start working on your model portfolio.

MYTH: You can be 5’2” tall and still be a print model

TRUTH: No, you can’t. Female models need to be at least 5’9” and male models need to be at least 6’0”. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Yes Kate Moss is 5’6”, but she is the ONLY exception in the past 50 years.

“HE’S MAKING ME FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE…WHY AM I FEELING THIS WAY? I WISH I BROUGHT SOMEONE WITH ME…MY GUT IS TELLING ME THIS ISN’T RIGHT…THEN WHY IS HE DOING THIS? WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T GET THE PHOTOS…WHAT IF HE POSTS THESE PHOTOS WITHOUT MY CONSENT? I DIDN’T SEE FORMS ANYWHERE…I SHOULD HAVE READ AND SIGNED SOMETHING FIRST.”

MYTH: Models can make a lot of money

TRUTH: Unfortunately, the days of not getting out of bed for less than $10,000.00 a day are gone. The rates for models have decreased significantly over the past two decades. In the early 90’s, runway models in NYC were making $500/hour on average. Models were able to walk the Fashion Weeks and come out with around $100K for the month. These days, many models come out of Fashion Weeks in debt. The clients pay a pittance, or worse, they pay in clothes. The reason for this? Models have lost their cache in pop culture. The big campaigns and magazine covers have been taken over by Hollywood actresses and reality stars. The sheer number of models is at least thrice the number of what the industry can handle, so Economics 101 comes into play, supply vs demand. Yes, Gisele makes 40 MILLION dollars a year, but this amount includes her endorsements and her lines of sandals and lingerie. She is the exception.

MYTH: Being a model is glamourous.

TRUTH: Being a model is hard work and can be physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting. A model needs a thick skin and is able to take criticism and rejection in stride. The client doesn’t care that your cat died, they are paying you to get the picture! Just got off an international flight and are jet lagged? Well, you just have to suck it up and get on with your day, regardless that your body clock is telling you otherwise. You have to be ‘on’, even though inside you just want to crawl into bed. And then there are your measurements, the famous measuring tape. The requirement for runway and editorial models internationally is to have hips no larger than 34”. This is what the designers want and as agents and managers, we have to find girls that fit this requirement. For some girls it’s easy, for others it is a constant battle. Diet and exercise becomes part of your life. Being a model is hard WORK.

MYTH: Anyone can be a photographer because they have a good camera.

TRUTH: Photographers come and go. The good and professional photographers stay, always improving their reputation and they focus on their craft passionately. They learn how to work with clients, do business paperwork, edit photos for hours and many other things other than just taking photos. Anyone can buy an expensive camera and sell themselves as photographers but have no knowledge in running a business. Also, some so called photographers get into the cycle of scamming clients and not doing things properly. Always remember and watch who you work with.

MYTH: Photographers can ruin your modelling career.

TRUTH: When it comes to photo shoots, the two main subjects are photographers and models. They work together to make photos happen. Lately, some photographers in  Canada’s industry threaten models if they’re not happy about something. If the model thinks that the photographer is crossing the line, they speak out which angers the photographer. They might mention “I can ruin your modelling career if you tell others”. Models will not lose their career if they had a bad experience with a photographer, which is why you report the suspicious activity right away, keep evidence of text messages or any communication electronically. More models are coming forward these days, it’s time to express.

TIPS FROM OTHER EXPERIENCES

  • Words are powerful. They influence us all in many ways. In the fashion industry, a photographer captures light, a model poses in it, and a makeup artist transforms the model into the photographer’s vision. Words, however, bind each one of them together. A photoshoot does not happen if no one speaks. The right words spoken to the right people in the right way can be truly magical as it makes all the difference in getting us to work together.
  • I have been filming and photographing in Calgary for the past 7 years, covering stories for calgaryfashion.ca, being published in newspapers, and working with the news media on current footage. I have seen a great cross-section of the industry in all levels, from models and their agencies, to makeup artist and news media, to events and fashion shows. One of my most memorable experiences was covering the big Fashion Week in Toronto as it was eye opening, showing me how the industry works in the professional “big league” level.
  • How do words hurt us? Words in themselves are harmless. However, my main concern is the abuse of words and how manipulation becomes present within the industry.
  • Words are the tools with which these manipulative individuals operate. They use them in creative ways to make false promises in order to gain what they want. Unfortunately, we fall for them because we want to see a dream come true. Few words are spoken when the promises are broken as there is an inherent fear of reprisals, social media backlash, and more. Personally, I was blocked and banned on Facebook by using a few words to speak out, and I didn’t even name any names.
  • An unfortunate scenario that happens more often than not is that models hear the words of the “roving” photographers coming into town to shoot for a fee. These models pay the fee and show up to the hotel room to shoot. Yes, the model paid for a shot in a bikini on a bed in hotel room. This is the same shot 10+ models have also taken over the weekend. So the question is: What is the point of the shoot? Is it how well a pretty woman shot on a bed in hotel room will look? Last, but definitely not the least, some of these roving photographers try to get intimate with the models as well.
  • How does this all happen? Words and false promises.
  • People are saying what we want to hear. The sad reality is that many people speaking these words are doing it for their own reasons. Some have good intentions, but promise more than they can deliver. Words become dangerous when they are spoken by someone with ulterior motives – these motives being money or sexual favours.
  • Let us use words for positivity within our industry. If you paid for a shoot and the photographers crossed the line with sexual advances – don’t post the pictures! Spread the word. Tell other models who are asking for references about your experiences. Do not get lured by the words alone. Look into it. Talk to others. Speak out!
  • If you use your words in a positive way, people will listen. — Paul Spenard

DO YOUR RESEARCH, ASK FOR REFERENCES AND EDUCATE YOURSELF.

  • The state of our current industry sits at many times unfortunately on “Self Entitlement” the lost or never acquired ability on self respect or just not knowing simple abilities such as recognizing good from bad, the right from wrong! The race to create garbage on top of garbage for a few likes everyday, not knowing where to draw the line, not seeing that although you can connect the dots going backwards, going forward, learning, being patient, humble and grateful will be the only way you will ever get to reach your goal! Yes you need to fall to be able to get up, yes we all make mistakes. However the big difference in growing individuals, is the ability to recognize self worth, current level of expertise and the continuous drive to get better. Once you have mastered the craft of falling and getting back on your feet, reach out and help the others that are still learning to walk!  We will make the industry better. — Andras Schram
  • When working in an industry full of dreamers aspiring to be considered professionals there is a lot to look out for. Most people in the industry consider themselves to be artists, and indeed most of them are. The issue arises when artists wish to be business people but don’t fully understand how to make that happen. Artists become “wantrepreneurs” wanting desperately to make a career out of their art and talents. Bring on issue number two, the old industry motto “fake it ‘til you make it” with these two issues we give birth to our main problem; Over promising and under delivering. Before you agree to work with someone decide for yourself if you like his or her work and if you believe in the concept. Enjoy sharing your talent and work to ensure the quality of your art. Trust yourself, and do what we are all doing; dream big and work towards your vision. — Stephanie Mosher

 

Written by Lisa Kauffmann, Photography by Photoart4U

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