9 Tips for Growing Your Modeling Career Now and Forever

In Diversity, Fashion & Culture, Fashion Features, Mingle Mastermind, Student Mingle, Style & Beauty by Hannah Hargrove

While every industry and business has had to adjust to the new norm COVID-19 has incited, the modeling industry is one that is used to constant change. And while making drastic changes is never exactly easy, modeling industry experts have long understood that the key to growing your modeling career involves the ability to pivot your work in whatever means necessary. From virtual photoshoots to learning new aspects of the industry, the panelists for Fashion Mingle’s Mingle Mastermind session, “How to Survive and Thrive in the Modeling Industry,” have all of the tips and tricks for finding success in the modeling industry during a global pandemic and beyond.

Growing Your Modeling Career: Words of Advice from the Models Themselves

Top model coach and owner of The Model Boutique, MSDENISHIA has over 20 years’ experience of modeling and acting, and has done jobs for Aveda, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Mac Cosmetics and Macy’s and more. While she continues to model professionally, MSDENISHIA is known largely these days for coaching aspiring models and actors/actresses. “As a model coach, I do talk a lot about longevity,” said MSDENISHIA. “It’s not enough to just be cute and tall and stylish, you really have to understand how the business works, and how to make it work for you at any age. You have to know how to pivot if your career changes.”

MSDENISHIA is clearly a fine example of this mentality, as she has successfully turned her notable modeling career in a coaching career. “Change is going to come no matter what,” said MSDENISHIA. “Trends come and go; professionalism is what matters most. Doing your job when you show up. It’s not about you, it’s about the client, it’s about the product.” In order to continue her work during the pandemic, MSDENISHIA has conducted socially distanced classes, and started a YouTube channel, “Top Model Talk Show,” where she continues to share her wisdom for growing your modeling career.  

Fellow model, Ashley Rodrigues has also undertaken new projects during the pandemic. Driven by her passion for the fashion industry, Ashley just recently opened up Mara Mici, an online boutique that offers sizes up to 3X, all with the hope of creating a more inclusive shopping experience.  “Being that I am a model, I knew some of the background I would need to open a boutique,” said Ashley. “I knew how to set up a shoot and the look that I wanted our brand to go towards, but I didn’t really know any of the technical stuff.” This certainly didn’t slow her down though, and Ashley made it her mission to educate herself on web design, marketing, and creating a successful business in general.

In addition to creating her own business, Ashely has continued to book modeling gigs throughout the pandemic. However, she admits that casting has become a very different experience than what she is used to. “Casting is much more complicated since they can’t see you in person,” said Ashley. “I now have to really focus on personal branding and social media. Social media has become even more prominent and important because that’s what casting directors are going to be checking.”

Growing Your Modeling Career: Advice from Photographers, Coaches, Agents, and other Industry Experts

While social media continues to grow in prominence within the industry, another way models are continuing to get content out is through virtual photoshoots. Fashion and beauty photographer Kay Sukumar has nearly 10 years of experience in the industry, which helped make the transition to virtual photoshoots a tad easier. Internationally recognized for his intimate, provocative, and passionate photographic style, Kay has been able to conduct photoshoots around the world during the pandemic, all from his home office. While he admits that many fashion and beauty shoots are better done in person, some shoots, including portfolio shooting, can easily be achieved virtually.

“There’s nothing like being in person when doing a shoot, but I think the ease and the cost effectiveness of virtual shoots has really caught on,” said Kay. “I think that people might be more willing to do virtual shoots, even after COVID.” And in a way, it makes sense. Kay has been able to do shoots for agencies all over the world, all in one day, and all without leaving his office.

So, how does a virtual photo shoot work exactly? It begins with Kay sending the model a full information packet including how their hair and makeup should look, and whatever else may be necessary. Then through a FaceTime call, Kay completely guides and directs whoever is taking the actual photos. While commercial shooting would be really difficult to achieve in this manner, he has found a lot of success with virtual shoots for model portfolios.

Other models, including Aneesah Hanan, Beverly Peele, and Carmen Powers, have continued to work as well, and have also found new endeavors to embrace. Aneesah, who is also an entrepreneur and skin care enthusiast, has recently begun working behind the scenes on model development. “Dealing with COVID and all of the restrictions brought out a lot of talent I didn’t know I had,” said Annesah. “It’s been fun and challenging at the same time.”

Beverly, who began her modeling career at the age of 12 and is a domestic violence advocate, was actually to travel internationally for her latest business endeavor: modeling bootcamp. While it did include 8 days in a precautionary quarantine and a lot of other safety measures, Beverly admits that it was overall worth it.  “Learning how to juggle work and be a mom all in one space at home has been a challenge, but it really has been a good learning experience,” said Beverly.

Carmen has also continued to coach virtually or one on one with masks through her business, The Model Focus LLC. She has also been busy working on her next project, a podcast titled The Model Journal.

New Faces Director of HOP Models & Talent Agency, Arkeah S. Jacobs has become an expert business strategist, manager, and consultant throughout her time in the industry. She has seen it all, and built great relationships during her career. And the first piece of advice she is giving to models right now? Don’t give up. “The first thing I’ve been telling models is to not jump ship and cut your contract with their agency,” said Arkeah. “This is the time to build your material, to build yourself. You need to be assessing what you want from your career, and go from there.” As Arkeah points out, now is a better time than ever to make a goal, make a plan, and work on achieving whatever it is you’re after.

9 Tips for Growing Your Modeling Career Now and Forever:

  1.   Be professional. As MSDENISHIA says, the key to longevity in the modeling industry is not what you look like, but rather how you present yourself professionally. Respect, courtesy, and hard work go a long way.
  2. Collaborate. According to Dale Noelle, model and owner of True Model Management, working together is one of the best ways to survive and thrive in the modeling industry at any time. “We’re talking about surviving and thriving and it’s good to survive but it’s great to thrive,” said Dale. “During this time collaboration has been key. There’s been a big focus on doing whatever we need to do to help each other, which is so great.”
  3.   Understand all sides of the industry. Whether it’s marketing, business, photography, whatever, understanding as much as you can about the modeling industry is important for surviving and thriving. Take it from Ashley: “Learning more sides of the business definitely helped me with modeling in general.”
  4.   Focus on personal branding. Especially these days. According to Ashley, “People are going to be looking at your Instagram first, before even going to an online portfolio.” So, make sure what you put out there is what you want to represent.
  5.   Know the basics of taking photos of yourself. This can be important for creating a portfolio and understand what settings you look and feel best in. “The best camera is the one that you can have with you all of the time, said Kay. “Use what you have, don’t make it complicated for yourself.” Kay recommends Skillshare.com for learning the basics of photography.
  6.   Keep current in the industry. “Make sure you’re at the top of your game with your portfolio, resume, reel, runway walk, fitness, current style, and overall what’s happening in the industry,” said Carmen. “Networking can help immensely with this.”
  7.   Stay positive. “Keep positive and find new ways to get noticed even if that means going outside of your comfort zone,” said Carmen. “It’s easy to feel defeated, get complacent or just unmotivated to pursue new goals or dreams. You may acquire a new skill set or discover a new passion.”
  8.   Take care of the legal stuff. Corporate lawyer and branding expert Shirin Movahed recommends always having a legal plan in place. “As a model, you’ve spent your life investing in yourself through your lifestyle, your diet, and exercise, and so many other things,” said Shirin. “An extension of that is protecting your assets, the wealth you’ve built up over the years. So, it’s really important that brands, including models, create asset protection strategies.”
  9. Have realistic expectations. “You have to have realistic expectations right now, and always,” said Arkeah. “Modeling is not an industry that grants instant stardom. It is an investment, have you to work on it. This is the time to do that, whether it’s learning a new skill, taking online workshops, and just learning all sides of the industry.”

About Hannah Hargrove

Originally from New Mexico, Hannah Hargrove moved to Durango, Colorado in 2014 to pursue a college volleyball scholarship at Fort Lewis College. Following the completion of her bachelor’s degree in English, Hannah moved to Denver to continue her education with a graduate degree in Communications with a specialization in New Media. Hannah is planning to pursue a career in the fashion industry in a marketing or professional communications capacity.

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