The Runway Diva Says. . . Is an online advice column for aspiring models. As a 20 year veteran of the fashion industry as a plus sized model, I have found in my travels that most aspiring models, no matter their size, don't have a clue of the tools needed to become a successful model. Hopefully, I can help make their journey a little easier. Please Email me your questions to

Friday, January 02, 2009

A New Year, A New You!!

"What you have accomplished in the past is a much stronger example than talking about what you are capable of doing in the future. Actions do speak louder than words!"
- Catherine Pulsifer

Happy New Year Family!

A new day has dawned and a new year is upon us. Despite the gloomy economy, 2008 managed to be a stellar year in accomplishments for and by plus sized women around the world. Among the highlights:

In Fashion:

• Toccara became the first plus sized model to appear in the pages of Vogue Italia.
• Crystal Renn became the first plus sized model to make the cover of and get a 14-page layout in Elle Italia.
• Plus Size Designer Abby Z. opened her flagship store in Soho.
• Milan opened Fashion Week with designer Elena Miro’s plus sized collection.

In Music:

• Jordin Sparks won an American Music Award.
• Jennifer Hudson, Maiysha, Jazmine Sullivan & Ledisi all received Grammy nominations!
• Rolling Stone Magazine declares Aretha Franklin “The Greatest Singer of All Time!”

And in Television:

• DeShawn Snow manages to come out smelling like a rose on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”.
• Mia Amber holds her own against Janice Dickinson on “The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency”.
• Whitney Thompson becomes the 1st Plus Sized Model to win on “America’s Next Top Model”.
• The Plus Model Episode of “Made” wins a Daytime Emmy for the series!

And a few disappointments:

• P. Diddy & Rip The Runway 2008 – After unsuccessfully trying to eliminate the plus sized showcase from the show; producers cut the segment down to 2 minutes 37 seconds (from start to finish) making the most popular segment of the show the shortest segment in the history of the broadcast.

• Wyclef Jean – Who had the nerve to believe (and say) that 200 1bs. would actually break a damn stage!

• Essence Magazine’s Plus Size Issue – Came and went without so much as a whimper.

• Rosie Live! – Well I’m not gonna waste anymore space panning this one…the critics already did a real nice job of that.

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.”
- Edith Lovejoy Pierce

The world is changing right before our eyes, with a new president set to take office in a few weeks; along with a first lady with a vision….change is most definitely on the horizon. With every New Year comes a new chapter in our lives. Perhaps this would be a good time to rethink some of the ways that we’ve viewed things regarding our careers this past year.

Take a moment and ask yourselves:

• What worked for me last year and what didn’t?
• What do I toss and what do I keep?
• How do adjust my view and attitude to make 2009 more successful than 2008 was?
• How do I become a better plus sized model in 2009?

The answers to all these questions and many others lie deep inside YOU.

This year I challenge you to:

• View your career achievements positively rather than negatively.
• Highlight your accomplishments and
• Examine your missteps,
• Pinpoint your mistakes, correct them and
• Learn from them immediately.
• Visualize where you see your career going this year.
• Put together a “to-do” list for yourself and then cross of each goal as it’s reached.

Get out of your own way. Get your finances in order, plan ahead and make smart, intelligent choices in regard to your career in plus modeling. Reinvesting in your career is a smart choice (i.e. - When you get a nice payday, set aside a percentage to cover your next shoot/test).

Don’t hate. Be genuinely happy when something good happens for someone else. Take comfort in knowing that your turn at bat is right around the corner.

Talent alone won't make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: “Are you ready?”


• Preparation is KEY!
• Do your homework.
• Use the Internet to research everything about modeling thoroughly.
• Listen to good advice when it’s given to you.
• Hone your skills.
• Don’t get stuck in a rut.
• Be flexible and willing to reinvent yourself whenever necessary.
• Diligence and persistence are essential for success.
• Be READY for success when YOUR turn at bat comes.

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better person.”

~Benjamin Franklin

A New Year, A New YOU!

The first day of the New Year is like a rebirth of sorts. Like a clean page, a blank slate or a chance to start anew. All the sins of excess on Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years Eve are forgiven today.

Lol…Resolutions are a beautiful thing aren’t they?

This year make a pledge to leave the past in the past. Forget the petty dramas and messes from 2008. It is time for a new focus. We have to challenge ourselves to think outside of the box and move forward. As you can see plus sized women are moving mountains and forcing the industry to change it way of thinking. The good thing about change is that it tends to have a ripple effect across the board. Resolve to make the changes that will work best for you.

The realization of my life hit me over the head in April 2005. That was my “wake-up” or “Aha” moment. It was the moment that I sat at my desk and realized that the very ordinary life that I was living for the last 20 years couldn’t POSSIBLY be the life that the Creator had mapped out for me. I KNEW in my soul that I was special and destined for great things. And I knew in that moment that I would never get them sitting behind that desk comfortable in my regular paycheck & benefits. I knew I would never get all was waiting for me by being afraid to step out on faith and live. I vowed to follow my dreams in that moment and I have never looked back. Has the ride been terrifying? Absolutely. It has definitely been the scariest ride I have ever taken but I wouldn’t go back to my old life for all the money in the world.

Is your life feeling a little bit stale to you? Do you feel like you’re on a treadmill going nowhere? Resolve to try and do things a little differently this year.

• Go ahead and make that promise to yourself to lose that extra 10-15 pounds (I know I am!),
• Blow the dust off that Billy Blanks DVD and get that body moving.
• Get a partner to work out with if you’re not a self-starter.
• Resolve to drink more water and get more sleep.
• Update your book and/or pictures if necessary.
• Start thinking about new healthy ways of eating.
• Remember to take a 15-20 minutes of “Me” time for yourself once a day.
• If that’s too daunting for you – start small; take a short, brisk walk after lunch or dinner but do SOMETHING.

Commit to being the best YOU that you can be. I am rooting for you all! The time for “Unity in the Plus Community!” is right now! Make 2009 your best year ever!

Peace Love & Prosperity in the Coming Year!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Is it time for a Plus Model Coalition?

Is It Time For A Plus Model Coalition?

With the end of 2008 rapidly approaching, I thought I would for go my usual “Model Behavior” series and leave a little bit of “food for thought” with you to chew on to nourish and fortify you for the new year.

At the beginning of 2008, a few of my close friends got special invites to a very exclusive meeting at an undisclosed location. I found out later from these friends that this meeting included most if not all of the African-American movers and shakers in the modeling industry. It was a resurrection of the Black Girls Coalition, an organization determined to change the status quo in the fashion industry. This particular meeting’s mediator was none other than one of BGC’s founding members Bethann Hardison.

Check out the excerpt from a story that ran in The Observer:

“It's been the biggest fashion story of the year and it's had nothing to do with harem pants, the coat versus the cape, or the alluring comeback of the brogue. An industry not known for its crises of confidence has been forced to ask itself some uncomfortable questions. Might there be something nearing apartheid inside the pages of the glossy magazines and on the runways of the international designer collections? Is fashion racist?

The debate - some say long overdue - would not have been kick-started without a woman called Bethann Hardison. The first black saleswoman in the Garment District of New York in the Sixties and a runway model in the Seventies, she spent the Eighties and Nineties as one of the few black women with her own modeling agency (for black and white clients). She's so celebrated in the business that she's known mostly by her first name only, like Naomi and Iman, to each of whom she also happens to be a long-time confidante and mentor.

Over the past 14 months she's held campaign meetings in New York to speak out about a subject that has been largely taboo in the fashion industry. These are protest groups like no other - a cross between a rambunctious church service and the coolest party you have ever been to. Here, the likes of Naomi Campbell, Liya Kebede, Iman, Tyson Beckford and Veronica Webb squeeze into a room with some of the fashion world's biggest players such as André Leon Talley, editor-at-large of American Vogue and designer Vera Wang, as well as casting agents, stylists and representatives from the modeling agencies.

At each meeting, Hardison sits at the front and beckons people she knows to stand up and speak. 'I knew I could make things happen,' she says. 'I knew I could make the rest of the industry feel self-conscious about what was going on.'

I wholeheartedly agree on the need for the BGC, I saw the need when it was conceived and I see an even more urgent need for it now! Someone HAS to monitor the “shot callers” who consistently send out the ridiculous message to the majority of the population that “beauty begins at a size zero”. Black models have long been discriminated against in fashion but plus-sized models are literally ignored across the board in fashion, music and media. It’s as if we don’t even exist and (if we are seen at all) the bigger you are the fewer opportunities you are allowed. But what really puzzles me is that I know for a fact that there were several representatives of the Plus Model industry in attendance at that meeting; yet whenever someone tried to bring up the issues concerning plus-sized models-- I am told that at every turn the conversation was abruptly shut down and after several attempts; they were told quite rudely that no one was interested in hearing the plight of plus-sized models at this meeting.

It is interesting that the last paragraph of the above excerpt says that “she sits at the front and beckons people she knows to stand up and speak” but what of those people that she DOESN’T know, those whose interests include subjects that hold no interest for her. Do the voices of those that they represent not deserve a moment to have the floor?

This puzzled me. Black women are known for their diversity and most of all for their luscious curves – Statistics show that over 2/3 of the population is a size 14 and larger, therefore how can you NOT include plus models in a coalition for models??? That doesn’t make sense to me at all – to exclude a certain group of models from a so-called “coalition” of models IS discriminatory in itself…. Isn’t it? Perhaps a name change to “The Skinny Black Models Coalition” is in order.

Initially, these reports incensed me but once the stories had a chance to marinate within me, it got me to thinking:

Is it time for a Plus Models Coalition?

Q: Is it time for us to step up to the plate and form a group that monitors the fashion/entertainment industry and calls them on the carpet for discriminatory practices?

Q: And if it is indeed time, how do we do it and do it correctly so that united we become a force to be reckoned with?

I have tried to touch on the subject of “Unity in the Plus Community” in several online forums, usually in the form of a posting that I believe might ignite anger and/or disgust amongst us. (i.e. a certain celebrity interrupting his concert to ask women who weighed over 200 pounds NOT to come up and join him on stage – for fear of breaking it”). Unfortunately, that rarely happens – what I find is that most of us will take the attitude of “Oh well, he or she is not talking to me, so I won’t pay this any mind.”

Where is the anger? Where is the ire? Why do we not immediately unite to boycott the artist(s) who made the slur? If someone makes a homophobic or anti-Semitic remark, those groups will close ranks immediately and SHUT THINGS DOWN immediately if an apology and/or some sort of retraction doesn’t immediately follow! They threaten to boycott businesses and go right for the offender’s pockets because they know that a unified organization targeting their money can hurt them. They respect their power and go out of their way not to offend. We as a community don’t react like that. If I had been in that audience I would have taken my 200 plus pounds straight to the box office and demanded a refund! No one in their right mind should have to shell out their hard earned money to see their favorite performer(s) and then be insulted. Remember that the plus-size apparel market reports numbers upwards of 45 billion annually spent on clothing alone. There is power in our spending dollars – but only if we choose to wield it.

Q: How do we begin and who will be amongst the organizers, the mobilizers and the Board of Directors of such a group?

Several people have mentioned to me (and others) about a need for this type of organization because of the rampant discriminatory practices in the plus modeling industry. But the problem is that no one person wants to take on the responsibility because it’s extremely time consuming and has the potential to become a financial burden on a single person. I think that the founding board should be a diverse mix but ALL members should have a following and or connections in the industry.

Q: How do we get the veterans and/or models that are actually working steadily to get on board and unite with the coalition?

No one ever wants to rock the boat when things are going well, so it will be hard to get the models that are working to get on board because they are fearful of being blackballed and losing the few crumbs that are being tossed to them. It’s easy to join a group if you are not working and feel like you are being slighted, but if you can’t get the successful girls to unite and join their “sister models in the struggle” to make the situation better for all – then we might wind up not being taken seriously by the industry or worse yet--written off as a bunch of disgruntled fat girls.

Q: How do we stop the in fighting amongst ourselves long enough to get the job done?

I don’t believe this is the time to argue about “Who is plus enough to be in the plus model club”. The fact is that in fashion plus-sizes begin at 10-12 and there is definitely strength in numbers, so perhaps we should begin with what is within the parameters of “plus-sized” and then work our way from there. The foundation has to be built first and then the expansion can come. If we cannot come together for the common goal – the plan will never work.

As the New Year approaches, a groundbreaking new President is about to take office and change is most definitely on the horizon. It has been a pretty decent year for plus-sized women in Fashion (Whitney wins ANTM, Toccara in Vogue Italia), Film & Music (Jennifer Hudson Wins Oscar for Dreamgirls and then releases a hit debut album) and Television (word has it that Kim Kearney AKA “Poprah” from VH1’s “I Want To Work For Diddy” will get her own dating show!)…And that makes me happy! Things are looking up for my curvy divas but they can always be better.

Perhaps it’s finally time to fight for more realistic changes to take place in the business of fashion. We no longer have the luxury of being complacent in where we are – comfortable is dangerous in this business – it’s usually a sign that you are not progressing. Perhaps it is time that we begin to create our own heroes and celebrities and no longer wait for someone else to proclaim them for us.

As 2008 comes to an end, I ask that you take this “food for thought” and chew it slowly and as you chew, savor and taste every single bite. Let these thoughts inspire and motivate you into paving new ground and blazing new trails for the plus community in the coming year. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this subject.

Finally, Happy Holidays Family, I thank you for all for making this column a phenomenal success! I love reading all of the wonderful emails of encouragement that you send me regarding this column. It has been a wonderful year for me and I look forward to sharing a successful and prosperous new year with everyone!

Please be safe and enjoy your holiday season and continued success into the New Year!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

What’s in YOUR Model Bag?

What’s a “model bag” you ask?

The Model Bag is indispensable in the life of a plus sized model; as a matter of fact it is indispensable in the life of ANY model. Your model bag holds the “tools of your trade” which may vary from city to city and model to model. In time and with some experience under your belt, you will learn what to carry in it and eventually you will be able to anticipate what your clients will want.

I recently took a poll of some of my model girlfriends (both veterans and newbies) and asked them to send me a list of their top 10-15 “must have” items in their model bags. I then took the responses I collected both from them and from information obtained from the internet, I compiled a working list of what a serious model should keep on hand at all times. This is what I came up with…..

Let’s start with the “bag” itself:

Over the last 20 years I can honestly say I have performed hundreds of shows and I can recall the early years of dragging several heavy bags with me going back and forth to show, shoots & rehearsals. I say “dragging” because in the early days of my career folks were just getting around to putting wheels on luggage and it wasn’t always affordable then. Trust me when I tell you that it is NOT cute to lug around 3-4 heavy bags on the subways of New York or up and down the East Coast! I practically wore my shoulders and back out from doing that very thing for many years. So I strongly suggest that you use a wheeled bag of some sort.

Does Size Matter?

Yes, very much so. I would try to keep the size of your model bag to no larger than the size of a standard airplane carry-on bag (between 19” and 22”).

I know that 22” may seem pretty small to a plus sized model but you’d be surprised at what you can fit in that bag. Anyone who has done a fashion show at all knows that there is a usually a limited amount of space allotted to a model to prep and dress in. Models who come on set with more than one suitcase or with a bag large enough to carry a body in it can eat up space quickly and often times can wreak havoc with the heavy model traffic in the backstage area (i.e. people tripping over your bag(s) trying to move back & forth between segments). Ideally you want to find a bag that you can either prop on top of a chair (since that’s what you are usually given to “set up” your space with) or slide underneath it to keep it out of the way.

Now if you are like me and have feet that are a size 10 or larger (I wear a size 12), you are probably thinking “I can fill up that little bag with my shoes alone”. And I feel your pain here because it’s so true – the bigger your feet are, the more likely it is that you will have to supply your own shoes (and this happens even in the mainstream shows). Big shoes can eat up your bag space quickly. To remedy that problem I found this little lifesaver in the form of a shoe bag many years ago and trust me when I tell you that I never leave home without it!

A shoe bag is a nylon bag with enough compartments for 6 or 8 pairs of shoes (and if you’re a creative packer, like I am – you can sneak a few more in). Unless you are specifically asked to bring a certain number or type of shoe – more than 8 pairs is really excessive. Most rolling suitcases come equipped with a bag clamp on top and you can latch your shoe bag handles onto that for effortless travel. You can find a 6-shoe bag online at Lillian Vernon ( and an 8-shoe bag at Walter Drake (

and it retails for about $15 to $20 dollars and believe me when I tell you it’s money well spent. This bag travels really well and because I am so paranoid about airlines losing my bags – THIS is generally the bag that I will carry on a flight with me. I rarely check my shoe bag on a flight because I can quickly replace or borrow the other items in my bag in any city should it get lost or delayed but my shoes? Obviously those will be harder if not impossible for me to replace on the spot.

“Must have” items for your model bag:

Keep in mind that you will probably have more luck at adding the below items in your bag if you fill it as many with “travel sized” products as possible. You can keep the full sized items at home and refill the dispensers as necessary.

Hanging Toiletry Bag – This will come in handy in keeping your bag organized and neat. An expandable bag is a good idea because it holds a lot, can hang when it is fully expanded and when it’s closed it only takes up a small amount of room in your model bag.

In your toiletry bag you should try to keep it stocked with the following items:

· Band-aids/Mini first aid kit/mini sewing kit – Because accidents can and do happen!
· Clear nail polish – The polish is for the occasional run in your pantyhose and of course to add a shiny new top coat to your manicure if necessary.
· Nail file/Clipper/ Krazy Glue – Because nails break and snag clothing Krazy Glue is good for a temporary patch job and it’s also good for repairing jewelry on the spot.
· Double Sided Tape – For plunging necklines and to make a quick invisible hem if needed.
· False Eyelashes & Glue – Because often times makeup artists don’t carry them or they don’t have enough on hand for everyone. Note: If you’re going to carry them – you’d better know how to put them on!
· Concealers/Foundation Makeup/Mascara & Eyeliner – For the times when the makeup artist is late, is a no-show and/or doesn’t have foundation in your color.
· Deodorant/Wash Cloth/Baby Wipes/Soap – For freshening up after long hours on the set.
· Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Mouthwash/Floss/Mints or Gum – Because fresh breath counts – Always!
· Lotion/Baby Oil Gel – To combat occasional dry or ashy skin and to keep your feet, hands and legs nice and soft. Note: Use the baby oil gel carefully and sparingly – you don’t want to risk getting oil stains on the clothing.
· Hairpins/Hairbrush/Comb/Scrunchies – For controlling wayward hair and for quick touch ups or quick styling changes.
· Pencil Sharpener – For sharpening your eyeliner and/or eyebrow pencils. Have you ever tried to line your eyes with a pencil that needed sharpening or that you tried to sharpen with a scissor or knife? One word: Painful.
· Visine / Saline Solution – For dry and/or irritated eyes and for when your contact lenses need lubricating.
· Makeup Net/Scarf – For keeping the designer’s garments make up free as you get fitted or change clothes during shows and shoots.
· Makeup Remover, Q-Tips & Cotton balls – For gently removing the makeup from your skin after a show or shoot. Makeup remover is better than soap and water because it has ingredients that help breakdown the makeup quickly for easy removal. Q-tips for cleaning the makeup residue from the corner of your eyes on set. Cotton balls are good for removing mascara and eye shadows from the delicate skin area around the eyes.
· A couple of pencils (with erasers) – Erasers make really good earring backs in a pinch and they work especially well with heavier bejeweled earrings.
· Straws – Use these to drink beverages with on set to keep your lipstick on and to avoid staining your teeth.
· Safety pins – For immediate fixes when a zipper breaks, a garment rips or a clasp breaks on a piece of jewelry.
· Airbrush legs/Bronzer - If you are like me and have a few scars leftover from childhood or have varicose veins; leg makeup and or bronzer can help to give you a nice even overall tone.
· A Small Mirror – So you can apply your makeup and touch up your makeup when necessary.
· Fresh individual mascara brushes and lip brushes – You might need to use or borrow someone else’s mascara, lipstick or gloss in a pinch. To avoid transference of germs use a fresh new applicator every time.

Note: The more items that you can place in your toiletry bag the more room you will have for adding other things to your actual bag.

Accessories/”Bling” Earrings/Sunglasses - Most designers already have a specific “look” in mind when accessorizing their garments, generally when a model does a “mainstream” shows, the designer will bring along the accessories that they wish to accompany their clothing on the runway, so you don’t have to pack your entire jewelry bag. Occasionally on the local level the same thing will occur but when it doesn’t (which is more often the case) it helps to keep a few pieces (a gold or silver bangle, a rhinestone hoop, stud or a “bling” earring) will usually come in handy in a pinch. A standard pair of black or brown tinted sunglasses (I like the Jackie O. look myself) is a good thing to keep on hand too!

Body Foundation/waist nipper/Spanx/Nude and Black Undergarments & A Strapless or Convertible BraA plus sized model should never come out of her house without a proper body foundation. Actually a smart model will keep several different ones on hand. A Spanx is a requirement because it keeps the “jiggle factor” down to a minimum. But if you are over a size 14 or you have a little more “junk in your trunk” than most, you will probably need something in addition to a Spanx to keep everything in place. Your foundation(s) should come in both nude and black and a convertible bra in the same colors will drastically lessen the number of bras you need to pack.

Black Slacks/Turtleneck/Little Black Dress and/or Camisole
There will be many a time when you will walk for a designer who is showing furs, hats and/or accessories; the designer will usually ask that a model wear all black underneath the coat or head to toe black so that the fur, hat and/or accessory remains the focus of the showcase. Since black is always considered chic you should keep it in your bag because you never know what last minute invitation may pop up and you’ll always have something stylish to wear.

RobeModels spend an inordinate amount of time in their underwear or nude. Nothing can make you more uncomfortable than having to prance around naked in a room filled with strangers. Keep it in your bag always.

Comfortable Active Wear or Yoga PantsGood for lounging around in as you sit in hair and makeup and also useful when you have a lot of down time between shots. You will need to either wear of bring something that’s easy to get in and out of when you are on the set of show or spending long hours backstage for a show.

A Crisp White ShirtA white shirt can go a long way when you are shooting pictures. You can dress it up or dress it down. It’s sexy and versatile and it photographs like a dream and when your clothing isn’t up to par, a simple white shirt and some accessories can get you an awesome photo!

Curling & Flat Irons and Ponytails & WigsBecause I don’t have hair anymore, I ALWAYS keep a wig or two in my bag in case I or the designer wants to mix up the looks. When I had hair, I absolutely LOVED wearing a clip on ponytail in varying lengths. It’s a quick look that’s very simple and chic. With the mainstream shows you don’t generally need to pack a curling iron because the hair people usually bring all the tools that they need. But it is definitely a good idea to keep one in your bag when doing local fashion show. You might have to pull it out at the last minute and do your own hair if the hair people are running behind or are totally overwhelmed.

Slippers/flip flopsTo protect your feet while you are walking around on set and to give your feet and legs a break before you put on heels.

Sneakers/Gym Shoes – I used to keep a simple pair of white Keds in my bag back in the day. I find that they are not really a necessity any more but it may vary from designer to designer. You’ll probably need them more if you are doing catalog shoots but it’s better to ask beforehand if you need to pack them.

Pantyhose & Black Tights Some designers like them and some don’t; it’s smart to keep a few pairs in the zippered pouch part of your bag just in case. I would suggest you have a few pairs in nude or suntan, black and perhaps a gold or silver shimmer color.

Snacks & Bottled Water (Fruit & Nuts, Trail Mix, Energy Bars/Drinks)Not every producer will be thoughtful enough to supply the models with food & beverages on set. More than likely you won’t have a chance to run out and get something to eat (unless you are waiting for hair and makeup and have some down time). It’s good to keep some trail mix bars, some nuts and/or fruit along with a bottle of water in your bag to keep you hydrated and to keep your energy and blood sugar levels up while you wait. Note: Try to pack snacks that are not greasy and/or messy to eat.

CameraThis is a personal choice of mine. I like to document my life experiences and the people that I meet while I am working. I try not to ever leave home without my camera. Memories are priceless.

Music (CD or IPod) or a Good Book or Magazine - You will find as you progress in your career that you spend a great deal of the time on set waiting for things to begin. It’s a good idea to pack an iPod or bring a book to read during the down time. You will avoid trouble and on set drama this way.

Small Totes Umbrella & Shawl or PashminaBecause weather can be so very unpredictable. I keep the Pashmina shawl with me because I don’t like air conditioning and I am always cold.

Static Guard and/or Tide To Go - To control annoying static cling on clothing and for immediate stain removal.

Makeup Brushes or a Brush Roll - Having learned much from my early experiences of make up artists treating me like I had the plague – I always toss my brush roll (the bag I keep my brushes in) in my bag, so that when necessary – I have the proper tools to apply my make up.

If you've ever searched in vain for that errant lip brush or wondered where that enormous blush brush could have disappeared, you already understand the importance of owning a quality makeup brush bag. This is a fantastic investment for anyone who regularly employs cosmetic brushes as part of her daily regime. Not only does it keep them clean and separated from each other, it also provides brushes with an ideal storage space and it won’t take up too much space in your model bag.

The following should go without saying but I’m going to say it again anyway just in case you don’t know. The veterans and the pros in this game already know that you NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT these 6 things:

Your Appointment Book – So you can keep track of how your day is lining up and so that you know where you are headed next.

Small Notepad for taking notes or a Journal– You will probably learn something or meet someone new on every set or at every show. Remember to write things down.

Cell Phone/Blackberry – A model is on call at all times. Put your phone or blackberry on the vibrate setting when on set to keep from disrupting things but always keep it on.

Composite Cards – You can meet a new potential client anytime and anywhere. Your comp card is your business/calling card. If you’re going to call yourself a model you should always have a few on your person.

Portfolio – And that potential client might want to take a look at your book. It helps to have it handy.

Vouchers - Proof of work performed – it’s how you get paid, keep a few in your bag at all times.

Remember This: Having a properly stocked model bag will make you much easier to work with and will convey to others that you are professional. So pack it carefully and remember to check it after a few shows/gigs and restock as necessary. Remember, your looks, your attitude and your professionalism will either make or break you in this industry. It’s always better to be well prepared than unprepared. Add or edit things as you feel you need to but always keep your bag packed and ready to go at a moment's notice!

Continued Success!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fine Tuning Your Runway "Strut"

Ever since I appeared as a contestant on the first season of Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance, I have gotten questions on a daily basis regarding runway coaching or tips on how to make someone’s “strut” better. Well, in my opinion “there ain’t nothing to it but to do it”, but I have put together a “can’t miss” list of things you need to “tighten your runway game up”!

Stretching & Warming Up – I cannot stress enough how very important it is to warm up and stretch your muscles BEFORE you put on a pair of heels and even THINK of hitting a runway. Have you ever done a show and had to stand around in 3” or 4” pumps and your feet or legs start to cramp? Have you ever been in a show where you continuously had to change heel heights for different outfits? Have you ever been on a runway in mid strut and gotten a cramp and had to try and “walk” it out without screaming or letting the audience know? It’s not pretty people and it happens all the time. A 5-10 minute stretching routine is a great way to avoid foot & leg cramps as well as muscle spasms in the middle of a show.

The routine does not have to be difficult; you can start with the basics here:

Warming up or stretching before walking prepares the mind, heart, muscles and joints for the runway. Warming up lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow to the heart, increases muscle temperature and makes muscles more pliable. Warm up for five minutes at an easy walking pace before stretching, never stretch cold muscles or you risk tearing them. Stretching creates flexibility and can make your walk more comfortable.

Stretch all the major muscle groups used when walking. Slowly apply each stretch listed below; stretch until tension, but not pain, is felt. Hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds. Do not bounce up and down while stretching. Breathe normally. These low-intensity exercises should last from five to 15 minutes.

Quadricep Stretch - Stand erect, holding onto a wall or post for support. Bend your knee behind you so that you can grasp your foot, holding your heel against your buttock. Stand up straight and push your knee gently back as far as you can. (Your hand just keeps your heel in place. Some people find it more comfortable to use the opposite hand.) Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and then switch sides.

Calf Stretch - Stand an arm's-length from the wall or a support. Lean into wall, bracing yourself with your arms. Place one leg forward with your knee bent (this leg will not bear any weight). Keep your other leg back, with your knee straight and your heel down. Keeping your back straight; move your hips toward the wall until you feel a stretch. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. And then repeat with other leg.

Achilles Stretch - From the calf stretch position, bend your back knee so that the angle is changed to stretch the Achilles tendon. Keep your heel down. Hold 15 to 30 seconds, and then switch legs.

Ankles and Feet Stretch - Balance on your left leg, supporting yourself by holding onto something or someone for support. Point your right foot/toes forward. Gently rotate to make small circles your foot. Alternate/change legs and repeat procedure.

Lastly, place your feet together. Hold onto a wall or ledge for balance then push up and down your toes for 10/20 seconds.

Always try to do this warm up routine before you begin walking and remember do slowly and gently without bouncing.

It’s ALL About the Shoe – One of the very first mistakes that a new model makes when learning runway for the first time is choosing the wrong shoe to practice in. If you have never worn a pair of heels before you should start out small, around a 2 ½ inch heel should do it. The shoe should be a closed back pump with a sturdy heel to hold your foot well and to help keep you balanced.

I would also suggest that you try and “break” your shoes in before you begin practicing, nothing is more annoying than trying to focus on your walking in a brand new shoe that’s pinching your feet.

FYI - I am totally against beginners in runway training wearing stiletto heels – just like anything else, you really do have to “learn” how to wear a stiletto and if you have never worn a heel before, you will need to find your balance first. Wearing a stiletto this early in the learning process will only give you wobbly ankles.

These same rules apply to wedge shoes, mules, ankle strap shoes (with no back to hold your foot steady) and any shoe that is OVER 3 inches in height are out when you are a beginner.

Also, any heel that’s UNDER 2 ½ inches in height; (i.e. the “cobbie cuddler wide width shoes with the “lemon peel” heel and “kitten heels”) are no-no on the runway as well.

Finding the Runways in Your City – There are so many virtual runways in New York City – heck in ANY city for that matter that it’s mind-boggling. You only have to open your eyes to see them. All you need is a good 15-20 feet (the more the better) of unencumbered space to practice your strut on, and fortunately for New Yorkers, there’s more than enough space available to you. A few good examples are sidewalks, subway walkways, hallways, empty parking lots, supermarket aisles, crosswalks, dead end streets, malls, parks, driveways etc…the list is endless. ANY place you can get your walk on is a good place to start.

Check out some of the examples below:

FYIKeep in mind that you want to try and utilize the above suggestions at a time when pedestrian traffic is fairly light and automobile traffic is virtually non existent. You really don’t want to try this during your city’s busy rush hour period.

Keeping Your Head in the Game – In order to truly get your strut down pat, you have to be “ON’ 24/7, even if it’s only inwardly. What I mean by “inwardly” is that you must be thinking like a model at all times. For me that means when you are making that quick run to the grocery store, when you are dropping your child off to school, when you are walking to the gym or on your way to work; you should be thinking that from the moment your feet touch the pavement – you are on a runway. I find that music helps make practicing easier (I have a special playlist on my iPod called “Strut” specifically for this purpose). I suggest that you put together a playlist of a variety of songs, put on your headphones and get walking! Now keep in mind that I don’t mean you should be practicing turns, pivots & poses as you walk to work or school…lol…if you do that you will probably get some strange looks or reactions from passersby. But you should use every available opportunity to get some runway practice in (i.e. being constantly aware of the 3 “P’s – Poise, Posture & Personality at all times) IF you are serious about what you are doing. And the best part is that you don’t have to wear your pumps to practice when doing your every day chores or routines. Whatever you happen to have on your feet at that moment is just fine.

FYIA smart model will try a variety of different types of music to walk to – not just what’s hot on the top 40 radio playlist at the moment. Select music that has a different beat or tempo or perhaps something with a different “feel” to it. Try to figure out what sort of mood or feeling the music puts you in and then try to convey that in your “walk”. You never know what type of music you will be walking to, so it helps to be familiar with them all.

Finding your Swagger – I bet most of you are asking yourselves, er…What’s a “Swagger”?

1. How one presents him or herself to the world, the ability to handle a situation with a sense of calm and uncanny grace. The ability to maintain a healthy level of self-confidence without appearing arrogant.

2. The seeming effortlessness to a person's admired style, the way they walk, talk and dress.

3. The inability to be easily shaken by anyone or anything.

Now you know.

But knowing the definition is the easy part, finding and unleashing it is probably harder than actually learning how to walk. Focus, drive & determination are all crucial in developing your swagger, but more importantly, you have to be about YOU, completely confident (but not arrogant) in who you are and what you want to do. You cannot find your swagger, if you are still unable to look in the mirror and love all that you see (including the parts you don’t like), you will not find your swagger if you are worried about what other people think or say about you (and if you are worried, modeling probably isn’t the business for you). You must be able to be the picture of grace & poise even if you are wearing the most horrific clothing in the world. You must be comfortable in your skin and master the ability to never let people see you sweat. You will know you have found your swagger when folks can’t take to take their eyes off of you or stop talking about you when you are on a runway because YOU OWN IT!

Now break out that iPod, put your headphones on and GET TO STEPPING!!!!

See you on the runway!

-George Washington Carver

Monday, September 01, 2008

Model Behavior - Making it Work on the Local Level

The majority of my columns have been devoted to talking about what the business is about in the upper echelon of the plus modeling industry (i.e. the “signed” model) but few people ever talk about how to make your career work from a local/regional standpoint or “The Underground” as I like to call it. Let’s face it, the vast majority of aspiring models won’t make it beyond the local level and that can be because of a number of factors. The reality of the business is that maybe 25% of aspiring models will reach that brass ring that’s known as “the signed model”. The other 75% will either quit or remain working at a local level.

I signed a contract with Wilhelmina Models in 1995 but before that I had been honing my skills on the local level since the 80’s. I worked in church fashion shows, nightclub fashion shows, model competitions; I joined modeling groups and entered beauty pageants as well. These experiences definitely helped prepare me for “life in the big leagues” (lol) as well as making it possible for me to travel all over the US, the Caribbean and even Europe! I took the years of working locally as an opportunity to “fill up my bag of tricks” until the right time came along for me to use them.

Many of you are not aware of the differences between working as a signed agency model and an unsigned model working locally. The signed model has the resources and backing of her agency behind her while the unsigned model is a sole proprietor. Trust me when I tell you this; you CAN thrive as a model working locally but the rules of the game are different and that’s what I want to talk about this month.

Basic Requirements – Ahhh…now THIS is the beauty of working locally! Most if not all of the strict standards (height, weight, etc) imposed on agency models do NOT apply here. This is where the petite plus gal, the size 20 or larger model, the 6 foot 3 model and the sister with that big bold blonde Afro or those beautiful red locks can thrive. When doing local shows the emphasis is generally on putting bodies in the seats (i.e. filling up the room) rather than having everyone looking the same or be a certain size. Because of the emphasis on getting the venue sold out a new producer will more than likely get as many models as he or she can because they have to find a way to pay for the production that they are trying to put on. The upside of this is that an aspiring model with little or no experience can use this as an opportunity to learn some new skills but unfortunately, you will probably have to sell some tickets.

Selling Tickets – I know a lot of aspiring models who turn their noses up at the mere thought of having to sell tickets, many think it’s beneath them. Selling tickets is a way of life in the Underground and there are certain types of shows where you might even have to bring your own clothing to wear in the show! (Lol we all have to start somewhere). Well, I hate to break the news to you but if you are just starting out and no one knows who you are and what you can do….you will probably have to sell some tickets just to get in the show, that’s just how it goes. Once you build up your skills and/or reputation for being a show stopper (and please know that doing 2-3 shows will probably NOT make you a runway diva overnight!) then you can begin to negotiate to either get a percentage of what you sell or omit the ticket selling completely. Most producers want to keep the model that everyone leaves the show talking about (in a good way of course) or the model that brings the crowd to their feet each time she graces the runway. It all depends on you and what you bring to the production. Will you have to sell tickets forever? Most certainly not, but if you are not blessed to be signed with an agency immediately – and you are just starting your career, you probably will have to do it for at least a year. When I entered the Maybelline Model of The Year Contest in 1995, the first thing all the contestants were told was that it was mandatory for each contestant to sell 10 tickets (at $15.00 each), there was absolutely no negotiation on this point; if you didn’t sell the tickets or buy them outright you could not enter the contest. I was very fortunate to have a sponsor who dressed me and supplied me with all that I needed but I STILL had to either sell or purchase those tickets (I bought mine outright and then resold them to my friends and family). The upside for me was not only did I recoup the monies I laid out because my family & friends scooped up those tickets quickly but I became the first plus sized model to ever win that title and my prize was a trip to Paris, France a place I had dreamed of visiting since I was a child!

One more thing: Don’t be surprised if the number of tickets you sell determines how many appearances you make on the runway. Unfortunately, this is the way that it works in the underground; if you are given a quota of 10 tickets to sell and you only sell 1 or 2 but another model sells the allotted 10 and then asks for 10 more – chances are the person who sold the most tickets will have more wardrobe changes. I have seen producers make wardrobe edits the night after all ticket monies have been turned in and a person who started out with 5 changes will arrive on set to find that she now only has 2 changes because she didn’t fulfill her end of the deal. Some producers will actually cut you from a show if you don’t sell ANY tickets. It’s usually not personal, that’s just the way it goes.

Application and/or Submission Fees – Okay, I will admit it – I don’t like paying these either but I HAVE paid a fee in the past to submit my photos for a contest. I have read on several plus modeling forums that anyone who asks you to pay an application or submission fee is not a legitimate company or they are not on the level. I have to disagree with that advice somewhat. I have worked behind the scenes on many a “starter” production and I understand that there is an overhead that comes with putting on a fashion production. A lot of the producers are first timers and usually have good intentions but little funding. What the producer will do to try and keep from bankrupting their company is to try and find a way to offset some of the overhead costs to you. I don’t really think that’s unfair as long as the “fee” is not some ridiculously large amount of money. It does cost quite a bit of money to put on a production. Studios and rehearsal spaces cost money to rent and staff will sometimes need to be hired to handle the high volume of model traffic. Keep in mind as always that even on a local level you should ALWAYS treat it like the business it is– NO ONE is putting on fashion shows out of the goodness of their hearts! The universal goal of ANY producer is always to make money – remember that!
When I entered the BBW Cover Model Search back in the 1980’s, I had to send in an application fee with my photos in order to be considered. The fee was a small one (maybe $20 dollars) I had a very good job at the time and I figured what the heck…you only live once! I even waited until the last day to submit and wound up having to Fedex my photos to make the deadline. Imagine my surprise when I received a call from the magazine a few weeks later informing me that I was one of the semi finalists and I would be flying out to Las Vegas for the final competition! As you might imagine that experience changed my life, so in my opinion spending that $20 dollars was well worth it to me.

I do, however, draw the line at application and/or submission fees that are $50 to $100 dollars and up to submit yourself, that’s when the situation starts to “smell funny” to me. Start to ask yourself questions: Have you been to or seen a production by this company before? Have any of your friends? Are they well organized or are they’re castings and shows totally chaotic? Do they have a website where you can check out some of their past shows? What venues are they using to put on their productions? Use your instincts here – if your gut is telling you that something is wrong – walk away because it usually is!

Honing your skills – One of the greatest gifts that I got from working in the Underground was all of the many skills that I acquired. I was in the prime of my youth when I began modeling and I did it mainly for the thrill of walking the runway, getting the enthusiasm and approval of the audience and (most of the time) wearing some of the most beautiful clothing I had ever seen. Back then there were a LOT of fashion shows happening on the East Coast and I worked steadily. Even then a smart producer/designer KNEW the importance of having at least 1 or 2 plus sized models in their shows. We were small in numbers but we were always the show stoppers! It was during those many shows and rehearsals that I learned how to fine tune my “strut”, I learned when to apply a straight “couture” walk and how to add a little “razzle-dazzle” when necessary. I learned how to “strike a pose”, “Chanel” turns, the classic “lean”, half turns, full turns, multiple turns, entrance and exit poses, how to put on and take off a jacket properly, how to “work” a reversible garment, how to walk in an evening gown with a long train WITHOUT tripping all over it – the list was endless! I learned how to do my makeup at a moment’s notice because you just never knew when the makeup staff would be overwhelmed or if someone didn’t want to do my makeup. I learned how to apply false eyelashes. Hair was never my strong suit but I learned enough about hair and wigs to be ready if I needed to do it myself. I pored over my pictures and videos from shows and learned how to work my face and body so that my pictures almost always came out good. I was so incredibly focused back then and because I loved it so, I never took a moment of the work for granted. It was here that I began to fill up my “bag of tricks” to pull out at a moment’s notice. I came to the table with so much to offer to a production that designers and producers began making special requests for me to be in their shows.

Knowing what to keep and what to toss – Mastering this is what truly makes you a “Runway Diva” in my eyes. The best thing about working in the underground is that a model that’s really on top of her game will know what to omit and what to keep as she ascends in the fashion industry. I saw some things in fashion shows back then that I just knew instinctively shouldn’t be done on a runway; other things I learned to omit by watching the responses of the producers and/or the audiences and then there are things that you can only use at certain types of shows. If you stay on top of your game and keep yourself informed about what is going on in the fashion industry – the dos and the don’ts should become obvious to you.

Working for free – The truth of the matter is this – IF you are not fortunate enough to have the strength of agent or agency backing; and you have zero or minimal skills – you WILL have to work for free for a little while - if you want to work. Some of you will probably find the thought of this distasteful but be honest with yourselves for a moment – you can’t honestly think that you can walk into an audition and demand top dollar for your services but you have no skills at all – that just doesn’t make sense in ANY area of life. To make the medicine go down a little easier I suggest that you look at it as a temporary bartering arrangement – the producer gets your services and you learn the skills that you need to progress in your career. The more skills you have mastered will determine how quickly you will become “in demand” as a plus model.

Alternate forms of payment – As your career progress and you find your presence being requested in various productions – that’s your tip off that you are on the right path. Depending on how long you have been on the “circuit” and the relationships you have cultivated with different producers/designers can help you determine a fair amount to charge. Keep in mind that often times a producer or designer is working with a limited budget and can’t afford to pay everyone cash – a lot of the newer productions barely break even these days. Perhaps you can work out an agreement with a designer to work in exchange for clothing. I had a closet full of “designer exclusives” for years because they either couldn’t afford to pay me or the amount they offered was so small that I got more out of getting 1 or 2 pieces of clothing. You can work for pictures also (but before you do that – you need to find out if the photos that you will get can actually be used in your book!). Sometimes I will do a favor for a “friend” or do a benefit or fundraiser and in lieu of my fee all I ask is that the producer pays for my transportation to and from my home – in a taxi. If the producer insists upon keeping you on set for 6-7 hours, you are well within your rights to ask to that lunch and/or dinner be supplied as well. If you KNOW you are a master at selling tickets or you come from a huge, supportive family or have a large amount of friends– after a few shows try to begin to negotiate with the producer to get a percentage (usually about 5 to 10%) of each ticket that you sell. If you are a strong ticket seller, a good producer will usually try to accommodate you to keep you. When I worked with Gwen DeVoe on Dangerous Curves…The Tour! She did this with her models and it worked like a charm – it was a great incentive for the models, it kept the house filled with folks, everyone was happy and no one went home feeling like they had been “pimped”. Everything is negotiable – it’s all up to you but know that you will have to “pay some dues” before the pay day begins.

Some of my greatest memories and strongest relationships have come from the men and women that I worked with in the underground when I was just starting out. I have had the pleasure of working alongside women who graced the runways of some of the biggest names in fashion and I have had the honor of working with some of the baddest plus sized sisters that you have never heard of and I learned immensely from watching them all do their thing. Back then it was less about business and more about simply feeling beautiful and enjoying what I was doing. But even then I was smart enough to know when it was time to begin to request payment for my services and when I had out grown the circuit and it was time to move on. So to my sisters working it out and thriving “underground” – I salute you! Keep on keeping on and never give up on your dreams. I encourage you all to continue to be brave and blaze a trail for others to follow because the world is changing as we speak.

“Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.” ~Earl Nightingale

Continued success!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Model Behavior - Plus Model Etiqutte

The Fashion business has been around since forever and as with any business there are rules and guidelines that have been put in place to ensure that the BUSINESS runs smoothly. The plus model industry is no different; in addition to the rules and guidelines, there is a proper way to carry yourself on and off the set if you wish to continue to work in this industry and climb higher in your goals. I am pretty sure that I’ve covered some of these things in previous articles but of course some subjects bear repeating because apparently many of you just aren’t “getting” it or the information just isn’t getting through….so this month’s column is a gentle “reminder” from The Runway Diva to you……..

On Set Behavior…Attitude, Attitude, Attitude - To put it nicely; don’t bring it with you. Don’t believe every thing that you see on television, and trust me when I tell you that “Divaesque” behavior will not get you repeat business with clients. Show up with a pleasant attitude, rested, ready, willing and able to get to work immediately. Keep in mind that you are the “product” on set and the client already has a “vision” for how they want their product portrayed. That means that you may have to swallow your pride on many occasions…..
Don’t complain about or attempt to alter the makeup provided by the makeup artist. When you are on someone else’s dime and time there will be times when you will not like the makeup. There will be times when you won’t like the clothing. There will be times when you won’t like the hair either. It is important for you to know that it has very little to do with you and most of the time the production staff has already been instructed by the client before hand regarding the “look” that is needed for the shot and it usually has nothing to do with your personal tastes.

Rule of thumb: Keep your personal opinions to yourself unless they are asked for by the client or producers. If you don’t like your hair, makeup or clothing; Reach deep down inside of yourself and let your acting skills take over and become whoever and what ever character the client needs or wants you to be. THAT’S how you get repeat business from clients, by delivering the shot like a pro. “Act” like a model get the job done and then let it go. Remember that it’s business; it’s not personal.

Bringing Children & Spouses to the Set – This is never a good idea….even if you have prior consent from the producers. And showing up with guests in tow without prior permission may get you fired from a set. There is a balance that must be maintained on a photo shoot. As a model, you need to be 100% focused on the job at hand and that is impossible to do if you are distracted by unruly children and/or interfering spouses/mates. Even if your children are well behaved a parent will always be distracted by the constant need to “check in” on their child or children to make sure they are alright.

Bringing spouses or significant others to the set can also wreak havoc and cause a model to be inhibited about what they are doing or feel the need to get approval from their mates on a shot because they don’t want problems when they get home. This can ruin the delicate chemistry between the photographer and the model and it can make everyone involved in the shoot uncomfortable. The same thing applies to bringing spouses, children and/or friends to castings, meetings, appointments etc.

Rule of thumb: Plan ahead! Leave your child or children at home with your spouse or hire a babysitter to watch your child or children (at home) while you handle your business. You would never be able to bring guests along to your 9 to 5 job; the same rules are applicable in modeling.

Proper conduct when dealing with clients – Be respectful at all times; keep in mind that you work for the client and not the other way around. Be prepared, if you are being fitted or meeting with a client and they ask you to bring specific items (i.e. body foundation, bathing suits or matching bra and panty) follow the instructions to the letter. If a body foundation is required be a smart model and WEAR IT TO THE FITTING. You can always take it off after you are done. Running to the bathroom to change generally wastes everyone’s time. Bring a robe if you are uncomfortable sitting around in your bra & panty. The same thing applies with a thong; it is in poor taste to wear them to any fitting and can often make the client uncomfortable. And always keep a heel in your bag because you never know if the client will want to see you walk. Don’t take it upon yourself to improvise on the particulars or it could be the difference between you getting the job or losing it; your behavior can also be the determining factor in your agent gaining or losing a business relationship.

Rule of thumb: Carry yourselves accordingly. Dress as if you are going to a job interview because you are. Remember that your goal is to impress the client because you want them to know that you are the best person for the job, so it would behoove you to arrive looking like a model (that means “face on” and wearing clothing that shows you in your best light.) You are only fooling yourselves if you think that a client won’t “judge a book by its cover”.

Working well with Others – I have often dreamed of a new day in plus modeling where we can all get along and genuinely be happy for each other when something wonderful happens and an aspiring model’s career advances. I have heard enough horror stories about the way models treat other models to make my head spin. We see it all the time on reality television and in the movies and I am sure we have all seen it or experienced it personally at least once….you know, envy thinly disguised as jokes, off the cuff comments or backhanded compliments. Know the difference between being friendly and invading someone’s personal space. Don’t ask questions that are really none of your business and then get offended when you don’t get the answers you are seeking. Keep the bragging and boasting about your own personal career to a minimum, in a competitive business like plus modeling it only breeds an air of animosity and contempt. And that makes the air uncomfortable for everyone. Remember that although fashion is a big business it is a small world and often times you may have to work with people that you do not necessarily like personally.

Rule of thumb: Be nice; be polite but always be about YOUR business and try to avoid cliques and blackballing people who are trying to make a career in the same business that you are trying to be successful in. Remember that trying to sabotage someone else’s career is NEVER a good idea because the same people you meet on the way up; you’re probably going to have to deal with them on the way down. Human beings may or may not remember a kind gesture or word but they will never forget someone who was mean or rude to them.

Freelancing with different agencies – With the work in the plus model market being often times scarce and seasonal; these days most models refrain from signing exclusive contracts with one agency (unless they are being groomed). Often times a good model can maintain her career and lifestyle by freelancing with several different agencies. I actually have no problem with this as I have done it myself on many occasions. The conflict begins when you freelance with every agency that handles plus models in your city. All of the major agencies generally will get the same casting notices when there are gigs requiring plus models available. Confusion ensues when you get a call for the same casting from 3 different agents, who have already submitted you to the client. Unfortunately, you have the exact same composite card (each with a different sticker or logo) at every agency. Now the client is confused because 3 different agents have submitted you with the same card for the job and now you have put the client in the bind of deciding which agent he or she should go through to book you and trust me when I tell you that no matter which agency you decide to give the business to – it’s not going to be a good look for you in the long run; agents usually have relationships other agents and they all have LONG memories.

Rule of thumb: It’s better to freelance in several different markets in different regions rather than spreading your self thin in one city. If the above scenario happens more than once, you are going to have a big problem on your hands.

All that I have in mind when I write these columns is to educate you and to try and make your journey as plus sized models go smoother and easier than mine did. Aspiring plus models today are very fortunate because the internet is your friend; none of this information was available to me when I began my career so I had to find out a lot of things the hard way. Often times I had to make a way or carve out a niche for myself where there was none. I implore you to take my words and the advice that you get from the pros in this business seriously because we are only trying to help you avoid the mistakes that many of us made early on in our careers. Treat the business like a business and you can reap all the rewards and benefits that it has to offer.

Continued Success!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Model Behavior - How to Submit Your Photos Online or Via Mail

A good part of my day consists of going through mail and online submissions from aspiring models. Aside from the basic information (Name, Address, Contact Information), there are very specific questions that are asked on an Online or Mail in Submission form. This information is as crucial to our decision to go forward in the meeting process as a photo is, yet it is the number one thing that aspiring models tend to OMIT from the forms when they submit.

There is usually a page on the site that tells you the TYPE of photos that you should submit as well. I simply don’t understand why models are so lax about the online submission form because there is no expiration date on it nor is there a specific time period in which you need to have it completed – you can submit online 24/7. So you have the time you need to get it right. Below is a list of common mistakes that most aspiring models make when submitting photographs online as well as tips to help you avoid the pitfalls of the submission process.

Your “Stats”

The information that is omitted most often is your statistics, more commonly known as your “stats”. On the submission form your Stats are typically your height, weight, bust, waist and hip measurements. I have covered the basics on getting started MANY times in this column, so I will assume that you already KNOW there’s a basic height requirement necessary to even get you through the doors of a modeling agency. Omitting the fact that you are only 5’2” on the submission form won’t help you slip through the cracks, it will only annoy us when you walk through the doors and we see INSTANTLY that you are not tall enough (even with your heels ON).

INSIDER TIP #1 – Your bust measurement is NOT the same thing as your bra size. Go get properly fitted for a bra, then write the bust measurement down and keep It somewhere in your files. You will be asked this information whenever you go on a casting. It’s important to know your measurements – ALL of them.

I must ask you aspiring models an important question now:

How lazy are you if you don’t take the time to fill out this form properly?

There is no reason to rush this process. Not knowing the information is absolutely, positively NO EXCUSE, because your measurements are with you EVERY DAY for the taking. Take the time to buy a measuring tape ($3-4 dollars at most), if you don’t already have one, call a friend (if you happen to be alone) and have them come over and help you take some proper measurements for yourself. Even if the measurements are “off a little” it will put us in the ball park in figuring out what your body really looks like. I recently received an online submission from a chick who must have thought she was being er…clever… by putting her height (6’0”) on the form and nothing else. You know that form got automatically deleted right? Oh yeah, and don’t bother fudging your measurements because they are not to your liking at the moment. If you stretch the truth about your measurements and we call you in for an interview and you don’t look anywhere CLOSE to what you put on your form…well let’s just say, you have already started off on the wrong foot by not being honest. Not good for building a business relationship.

INSIDER TIP #2 – Take the time to fill in the information on the submission form both accurately and completely. We are not going to call you back and ask you for the missing information. Where does an incomplete form go? In the “YOU ARE NOT SERIOUS” file and that goes right in the trash.

Your Photographs

Let’s say you’ve taken the above steps and gotten all the information needed to complete the form. All that’s left to do is to attach a couple of photographs right? Wrong…I would say that this would be the perfect time for you to read the form again and understand what type of photos the agent or producer is asking for before you go ahead an upload your photos. Most agencies don’t expect you to submit “professional” photographs. It’s nice if you have them (good ones of course) but if you don’t you can have a friend take some shots of you with a digital or disposable camera. Polaroid’s are fine here too. Most agencies will ask for TWO CURRENT photos, one a headshot and the other a full body shot.

A lot of agencies will ask for photos of a specific size as well. Both pictures should be clear enough that we can get a good idea of what you look like. Keep the clothing simple as well, a nice crisp shirt/blouse and a pair of jeans that fit you well is a good start. If you are sending photos in the mail, ALL of the enclosed photographs should have your name and contact information on the back of the photos.

Your headshots should be clear enough that we can see what your features look like with out having to guess and your body shots should not be so far away that we can’t make out anything (yes, people do submit photos like this – from like 50 feet away – go figure). You don’t have to spend extra money getting them retouched but if you know you were having serious issues with your skin or you had a huge, angry pimple in the center of your forehead when you took the picture – stop playing and take another when your skin has cleared up.

INSIDER TIP #3 – When choosing clothing to wear in your photographs, remember to be mindful of fabrics that are not forgiving to a few excess pounds. It would be a good idea to avoid choosing fabrics like Lycra and/or spandex, (particularly in shirts and tops) which have a tendency to cling exactly where we DON’T want it to. The same thing applies to wearing T-Shirts and/or other clothing with profanity laced slogans.

Poses - This is where things become hysterically funny to me. I think that some of you all have really been overdosing on “Top Model” because some of the crazy things you do in your photos simply astound me. If I get another picture of a chick that looks like she’s “smelling her armpits” or “sitting in a chair looking like she’s on the toilet” (ala the old Candies’ ads) in her photos…I swear I’m gonna scream!! The same thing applies to these new poses where models have their hands on their waists, shoulders and chest pushed forward but both their feet are pointed inwardly (think: extreme pigeon toes). Now I know that often times this can be a very high fashion look for some but unfortunately not everyone can pull this particular pose off and if not done correctly, you can come off looking quite crazy.

INSIDER TIP #4 – K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) rules definitely apply here (and NO, I am not calling anyone stupid). Don’t over think your photos. The pictures that you submit should not be too “posed” (ala “Mannequin modeling”) but you DO want to do things that look natural but still manage to convey life and energy in your photos.

Group Photos – Now I would think that common sense would kick in at the moment you pull out that picture of you (that YOU look really good in) & your friends at the bar on Pride Weekend, holding beers and playing pool and say to you “Don’t even THINK of sending this picture to an agency as a submission photo”. But I guarantee you it happens ALL the time. First of all, I am NOT going to take the time to figure out which of the women in the photograph is YOU. Secondly, we KNOW immediately that you are not serious about a career as a plus sized model if you submit a photo like this for consideration.

Too Dark/Too Light/Blurred Photos – I received an online submission recently from a chick whose skin tone was the color of dark chocolate, she had on a burgundy colored velvet dress AND she was positioned against a navy blue colored velvet fabric. She may have been quite beautiful but I couldn’t see a thing in that photo, the whole thing just looked really dark to me. And then there are photos that are overexposed or so overly lit that all of your features get washed out. Submitting a photograph that is blurred or out of focus is just plain lazy. And what does that say to us class? YOU ARE NOT SERIOUS!

Photos taken with your camera phone – This appears to be another new trend with younger aspiring plus models. I receive a lot of photos from young girls & women who think it’s cute to send me a photo that they took of themselves, in the mirror with their camera phone. Most pictures taken from a camera phone are low quality photos, usually slightly out of focus and they don’t get better if you enlarge them. This type of picture would probably look great on your MySpace page but it is NOT suitable for an online or mail in submission form. Don’t do it.

Too Much or Not Enough Makeup – Most of the submissions that we receive don’t make the cut because the aspiring models either have a TON of make up on, obscuring their true features or they flip the script completely and decide to wear no makeup at all, usually scaring the hell out of us.

INSIDER TIP #5 – Shoot for the “middle of the road” when it comes to makeup, use a light hand and apply a little foundation or powder to even out your skin tone, along with a little mascara and a neutral lipstick/gloss….that’s all you really need…then get in front of the camera and “WORK IT!”

Excessive Facial Hair – You would THINK that most aspiring models would already know that you should remove excessive hair BEFORE you take the photo…But I am adding this to this list of “no-no’s” because I SEE IT ALL THE TIME!!!! This includes (but is not limited to) Groucho Marx Eyebrows, Yosemite Sam Moustaches, Goatees, Beards & Mutton Chop Sideburns. Let’s be serious here, you already KNOW that a major agency is not going to look at you if you walk into their offices with all that hair – the same thing applies to the on-line submission. Go shave, pluck, wax your brows, see a professional, if necessary and get that taken care of BEFORE you take your photos.

Colored Contact Lenses & Sunglasses – Personally, I LOVE colored contacts…I actually have worn them quite a bit throughout my career. But usually when I am working, I wear clear lenses. Some of the new lenses can look quite natural but most are obviously artificial. My suggestion here is to submit photographs WITHOUT the contacts because we want to see what you REALLY look like. Does it make sense to WRITE your eye color as “brown” on the submission form and then SUBMIT photographs of you with ‘violet” colored lenses on? One more thing…don’t even THINK of wearing those “Cat Eyes” contacts in your photos. Sunglasses? I don’t care if they ARE Moschino or D&G, we can’t see your eyes – and that’s not a good thing. Don’t do it to yourself.

Rotating Your Pictures – Oooh…THIS is a serious “pet peeve” of mine! I gotta pose the question again people: HOW LAZY ARE YOU IF YOU DON’T BOTHER TO TAKE THE 1-2 MINUTES IT TAKES TO ROTATE A PICTURE???? It only takes a second to “right-click” on a photo to rotate it so that it appears upright, yet I get submissions every day from women who don’t bother to do this and I will be honest, I am NOT going to wear my neck out, leaning to the left or right, trying to look at a picture that hasn’t been rotated. It just tells me: YOU ARE NOT SERIOUS. Your submission is going right in the trash. Next!

INSIDER TIP #6 – If you find that (for whatever reason) you are unable to rotate your photo – find another photo to send.

Sexually Provocative or Explicit Photos/Videos– Lately I have been getting a lot of questions from models who aspire to be “Pin Up Models”, now I am not sure of WHO started this trend but I DO know that it’s not the type of model that we handle. I know absolutely NOTHING about this aspect of the business therefore I am not interested in seeing photos of you in your thong, you in your bra and/or panties or you spread eagle on your couch/bed/kitchen table with your breasts out. If you are submitting to us, it means you have already checked our site and you understand the type of business we handle. Don’t send in these types of photographs, it’s not a good look.

INSIDER TIP #7 - The same rules applies for email address that are sexually explicit or have sexual connotations to them it’s just not a good look and some folks will call your character in to question for using one (seriously). Get a professional email address, it let’s potential clients know that you are serious about what you are doing. Use your “play” email addresses for play – NOT business.

Deer in the Headlights Syndrome – It is important to convey some sort of emotion in ANY photo that you submit. Unfortunately, for some of us it’s one of the hardest things to master as a model. Most aspiring models confuse a “doe-eyed” soft, pretty look with a “Deer in the Headlights” (a wide eyed blank expression) look, where you look like a deer in the path of an oncoming truck, frozen where it stands. I find that this look comes across most when aspiring new models take pictures of themselves with their camera phones. The only thing that will help you over come this is to get in front of that mirror and camera and practice, practice, practice!

Multiple Submissions – If you have submitted your photos and didn’t get a response (see below) please DON’T hit me up on MySpace with a 2-page letter and those same photographs. Don’t mail me a letter along with your composite card that has THE SAME PHOTOS you submitted and then sent to me on MySpace. DON’T hit me up from my website and then send me THE SAME PHOTOS WITH THE SAME LETTER that you submitted online, sent to me on MySpace and then sent via the mail!!!! It’s only going to annoy me and you will only get the same response with the same pictures.

INSIDER TIP #8 – If you’re going to continue to try submitting photos, a smart, focused and driven model will, if she’s serious about her business, wait a few months before submitting again, meanwhile continuing to test to get better photos for the next time. The more you test, the more comfortable you become in front of a camera and the better your pictures will be. However, if you have submitted to the same 5 agencies 30 times already, honey give it a rest…they are simply not interested in you – Move on.

What It Means When You Get No Response To Your Submission(s) – Simply put, if you don’t get a response to your submission, it means that the agent and/or producer was not interested in what you submitted period. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t good enough; it doesn’t mean that you are unattractive; it doesn’t mean that you don’t have what it takes. It just means that, THAT particular agent is not interested in what you offered.

The tips and suggestions I have offered here are in no way a guarantee that you will get a response from every agency you submit to. However, it will greatly increase your chances of getting noticed if you get it right the first time out. These rules can also be applied to contests, competitions or any other project that you are thinking of submitting yourself for. The best advice I can give to any aspiring model is to learn your business and learn it well. Agents like to be inspired as well and they salivate over a model who is knows what she’s doing and is and stays on top of her business. The online submission form is one of the first steps in your budding career. I have given you all of the tools you need to get it right, don’t stumble here.

Good luck!

Reprinted with an addendum from the July 08 issue of Plus Model Magazine