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

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Navigating the Open Call

Dear Ms. Quinn:

Hi my name is Akeembra and I am 25 years old. First off, I want to say that that I am so inspired by you. I’ve read your story over and over again, and I am so encouraged by your determination and your success.

I would LOVE to be a plus sized model (I am 5’8”, 220 pounds, clear skin, and most times photogenic). When I went public (to family and some “friends”) about my desire to model I was told that plus sized models are a joke and that I need to focus on a dream that is more realistic. When I rooted for Tocara on America’s Next Top Model, a friend of mine told me to, “keep dreaming” and later went on to say that a “fat” girl would NEVER win. My mother says things like, “Well, why don’t you loose weight and then pursue a REAL modeling career?” With each criticism, I’ve learned to smile and hold my head a little higher. After all, it’s my dream and no one can take away my dream. Thankfully I have people like you to look to for inspiration. You’ve made it, so that pushes me not to give up.

I’ve read your tips for getting started online, and I am wondering if there are any more tips that you have? Also, is it always best to visit agencies in person as opposed to mailing a photograph?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this email and thank you for showing so many the meaning of true beauty.

I wish you countless blessings.




I was going to open my letter by telling you to not let ANYONE discourage you from your dreams...believe me it's your dreams that keep you alive! But after re-reading your email...I see that you already know that and you know enough to ignore your family and meaning but rather harsh criticisms. The next time a "friend" tells you to "keep dreaming"...Do just what she says! and as for the "A fat girl will never win America's Next Top Model" comment....let your girl know that Toccara, as well as myself are proof positive that winning is not everything. Sometimes losing is the best thing that can happen to you. Toccara is a very good friend of mine and is one of the most well know women to come off of that show....I can't even remember the "winners' from the previous seasons....she's working that "loss" for all it's worth! As for me, there is NO WHERE that I can go anonymously anymore and 2006 is looking to be my biggest year ever!

Before I go on to answering your have one more thing to say on the subject of "friends" mantra has always been "Surround yourself with positive people & positive things!", and I try to live my life like that I am very careful in choosing those that I bestow the title of "my friend" upon. If your "friends" are telling you that plus sized models are a joke...perhaps it is time to do some "house cleaning" and find some friends who are actually supportive of you and your dreams. A career in modeling is filled with many highs and lows and you will need to be around folks who know how to be positive and encouraging when things are going well AND when they are not. (When things get rough...and trust me...they WILL get rough) don't need a "friend" sitting around saying "I told you so". Family is a little different and you will probably have to develop a thick skin, ignore the comments for now and then go on and PROVE THEM WRONG!!!

Now...on to your question..

I looked at the pictures you sent me and you are quite beautiful and you meet the height requirement that most agencies insist upon. You didn't tell me what size you currently are but I am going to guess that you are in the size 16-18 range...which is fine. I am also going to assume from the pictures that you sent me that you don't have any photos yet...(am I correct?)...and that you have already read "The Basics on Modeling" here on my site.

So I am going to tell you "How to Navigate the Open Call":

Yes! it is always better to go to the open calls at modeling agencies in person...they want to see what you look like in person and to try to get a "feel" for you personality. But if you cannot get to the city where the agency is located immediately, then by all means send them a nice cover letter and your best photos anyway, you never know. But ultimately if they like you, you will have to come in anyway.

A picture can show them what you look like but agencies want to see what YOU look like in natural light, without a ton of makeup on.

They will be checking to see what type of skin you have. What sort of bone structure you have. What your best features are. They cannot tell this if you walk in the door "beat to a pulp."

Your best bet is to put on a light foundation (if you have blemishes you need to conceal) or a little bit of powder or bronzer (if you have nothing to hide), a little bit of mascara and a natural looking lip-gloss. You really don't need anymore than that.

Don't make the mistake of not wearing any makeup at all, as few of us leap out of bed looking fabulous first thing in the morning. Don't show up to your audition looking tired and worn out...take a moment to touch yourself up. If you prefer being barefaced (as I do) when you are not working...always keep the basics (powder/foundation, mascara & gloss) in your bag at all times.

Keep your clothing simple as well, this would not be a good time to have your boobies bursting out all over or having the crack of you butt showing.

A nice, crisp, white shirt and a pair of jeans or slacks generally go over well. Think: All American Girl.

Keep your hair simple and off your face, if that's a good look for you...and leave the colored hairpieces at home. Wear fashionable but comfortable shoes that you can walk in, if necessary.

There is no need to bring a full portfolio with you. A few pictures, snapshots or Polaroid's shot in natural lighting will do. They really just want to see how well you photograph.

FYI: Fight the urge to bring your high school graduation photos or that picture you took at Sears last year with you. You will be lucky if they don't laugh right in your face. If push comes to shove, buy a disposable camera and have a friend take a roll of shots of you in a natural setting in natural light.

The open call is one of the first steps to getting an agent. It's a job interview and you should treat it as such.

Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it a good one!

Good Luck!