What's it take to be a model? With Madeleine Michael.
I decided to write this blog post because I get a lot of models asking me how to become a model? How to get signed to an agency? To be honest I have very little knowledge in answering those questions 100%. So I decided to ask my good friend Madeleine about her journey and what it takes to be a model in this blog post.
Quick backstory, Maddie and I were roommates for less than a year before she moved to NYC. I was one of the first photographers to shoot her and we became good friends. Not even a month after shooting she needed a place to live to finish college and my roommates and I thought she would be an awesome fit in the house. Since living together, I've seen Maddie's modeling career go from zero to 100 real quick over the last 2 years. She's gone on to work with L'Oreal, Vanity Fair, Redken, Adidas, Oribe, Finish Line, Apple, Maybelline, Urban Outfitters, and probably every single one of your favorite Instagram photographers.
So what's it take to be a model? I know thats a loaded question. Its very ambiguous.
The most important thing it takes to be a model is drive. You're going to hear a lot of "no's", at least thats how it was in my experience. As long as you are consistent and have real passion and drive and just a little bit of patience, you can go a long way. You also very much need confidence. The entire modeling industry thrives off of their subject being confident. If you are not, well- the pictures probably won't turn out very good and your bookings will become less and less.
What advice would you give to someone from transitioning from shooting with their friends for fun to getting signed to an agency?
My own transition from shooting for fun to a full time career was DIFFICULT, as it will be for almost everyone. I think there comes a point in a models life where he or she needs to put their foot down and decide they will no longer shoot for free. When I reached this point, I had shot with well over 100 photographers in my area, my book was stacked, and I was broke. It was then that I knew I needed to make the choice to be a serious model, and that meant being serious about money. So naturally, I quit my day job! Ha! Sounds counterproductive and when you think about it, it totally is. But I knew that if I wanted to become full time, I had to take a leap of faith. This was a pivotal point in my career and who did I immediately reach out to for advice? Dustin Genereux. Dustin, you were actually the person who taught me how to handle rates. I remember I asked you what a good hourly rate for me would be, and you said to start at $50/hr and raise your rate by $25 every few months as you start to get busier. I still use that method to this day.
So after telling everyone and their mothers that collaborations were no longer on the table but they could hire me for $50/hr, something happened....my inbox went radio silent for 2 full months. Photographers unfollowed me (you don't want these people following you anyway), told me I should be paying them (this is an entirely too long conversation that I might address later), basically- people got angry. But I stuck to my guns. IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO STAND YOUR GROUND. Fast forward to 2 months later when someone finally hired me for my rate. Then another. Then another. The rest of the Instagram world started catching on. What's that? Maddie is still shooting everyday? But how? Her rates are $50 an hour? Are people hiring her? Goddamn right they were. Almost instantly I bumped my rates by $25, and people paid. I was working almost every day just hustling for myself, without an agency. After busting my butt and finding my own modeling jobs online, I got an email from MSA Models in New York City. They wanted to meet with me. Long story short, they offered me a 3 year non exclusive contract, which I sat on and did not sign for about 4 months. I was very skeptical and the thought of signing my life away for 3 years scared me to death, especially since I knew nothing about the professional modeling world or legally binding contracts for that matter.
So to answer the question, I think each model will have a different path to getting signed. But know that being broke and not getting work right away will be a common theme. Just hang in there. Find casting sites, research agencies, email them, set up meetings, SHOW UP. And remember that you will hear a lot of "no's" before you get a "yes".
Well I know you're in the 5'2" range, so how does that play a factor in your career?