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, March 13, 2008

The 7 Deadly Sins for a Plus Sized Model

Part 2: The 7 Deadly Sins for a Plus Model

This month's article comes from my many experiences as a casting producer for Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance and from my new experiences as a model booker for IPM Models. We have weekly open calls and I repeatedly amazed at the lack of knowledge that aspiring plus sized models have about the tools needed to begin a career as a plus sized model. Listed below is a list that I have put together over the years and I like to call it "The 7 Deadly Sins of Plus Modeling." It consists of the things that I see over and over again in new aspiring models and I can pretty much guarantee that if you show up for a casting or and open call sporting one of the things on this list.....You will work infrequently or in most cases....not at all.

1. Bad Teeth/Gold Teeth - When was the last time you saw an advertisement (that wasn't for a dentist) using a model who had gold teeth, missing and/or bad teeth? Dare I say never? That's pretty much because those are not the sort of things that can sell a product and always remember that at the end of the's ALWAYS about SELLING THE PRODUCT!! A beautiful smile can be captivating and it definitely can boost sales of a product. That's not to say that you cannot have a great career with not-so-great teeth, supermodel Paulina Porizkova managed to do this for years but the flip side of her story is that she took EXTRAORDINARY photos whether she smiled or not. But remember that her story is the exception NOT the rule.

Bottom line: See a dentist and get that smile in order before you start your career!

2. Body graffiti/Tattoos – I don't know what this new trend is regarding tattoos, a small tattoo can be beautiful – body graffiti is a totally different matter. Why would you think that someone is going to hire you for their ad campaign when you show up at the casting with a panther tattooed up and down the length of your leg OR your name is written in large script letters on your breast OR you have a memorial tribute to your mom emblazoned on your neck!!!?? It's MUCH easier for the client to go with someone who will not have the staff spending hours trying to cover up 5-6 tattoos.

Bottom Line: A small tattoo in a place that will generally NOT be photographed is cool any thing other than that and you risk losing the job to someone who's skin is unmarked.

3. Poor Personal Hygiene/Bad skin – I have been on many a set where a model shows up er..."less than fresh", this is just not good no matter how you slice it. You run the risk of soiling the clothes and becoming fodder for the gossip mills and possibly ruining your relationship with the client. Bad skin pretty much speaks for itself, models are supposed to be picture perfect and while most flaws these days can be fixed with retouching as I said earlier – it's much easier for the client to hire someone who has clear skin from the start.

Bottom Line: See a dermatologist about getting your skin cleared up and always keep a washcloth, soap, deodorant & wet wipes in your model bag at all times!

4. Bad Attitude/Low or No Energy – I have had women come to open calls who can barely speak loud enough for me to hear their names. I have interviewed women on the road who come in with some of the worst attitudes I have ever seen. The name of the game is "selling YOU". As a booker, I can get you the appointment to see a client but after that – it's all on you. You must be able to convey to that client that you are the best possible choice for them and they are making a big mistake if they miss out on all of the gloriousness that is you. You simply cannot do that if you walk in with a funky attitude or you are apathetic about everything that comes your way. It's much easier for the client to hire someone who THEY believe can sell their product. If you cannot impress me when you come to my open call, then why would I take the next step of signing you and setting you loose on a client who is used to me sending them the best of the best?

Bottom Line: Your attitude and energy speaks volumes to a potential client, if you know you woke up on the wrong side of the bed – get yourself together BEFORE you leave your home and if you simply cannot pull yourself together, STAY AT HOME. I believe it's better to pass on a casting than to show up and leave a bad taste in the client's mouth about you. Remember the model that has a bad day, is the model who doesn't work on that particular day.

5. Crazy Colored Hair/Hairstyles – Natural hair seems to be all the rage at the moment. While I happen to think that big, beautiful afros are wonderful, I also know that not everyone can pull off that look and quite frankly nothing limits your possibilities more than being a "one-trick pony". I have come across women who are so rigid about their hair that it's just ridiculous. If you insist upon wearing your hair the same way all the time, then I won't be able to work with you. It will keep you in that "box" labeled "Ethnic" and for a model who wants to be in the" mainstream" - that's just not a box that you want to be in. The same rules apply to that Kool-Aid red color that you just put in your hair last week or to the micro braids that you just spent a small fortune having done.

Bottom Line: Be a chameleon. Learn to adapt and overcome obstacles. If you are reluctant about applying chemicals to your natural hair, then invest in some excellent wigs and/or weaves. Try to avoid getting stuck in a fashion rut. Learn to reinvent yourself when necessary. Versatility is the key to success in this industry.

6. Poor posture/Low self esteem – A woman that has her stuff together walks tall, with her head held up high, ready to face the challenges of the world. This is exactly what you need to win over a casting director. Confidence is sexy and we all know that sexy sells. I see women all over the country who will TELL me that they love themselves and that they are confident but their body language tells me something completely different. Slumped over shoulders, the inability to look me in the eye when we are conversing, and even the way you dress are all tell tale signs of low self esteem. In the business of modeling where you get rejected 75% of the time everyday, there is absolutely no room for a model that is unsure of herself or doesn't feel good enough about herself to "make it happen". You won't last a minute in this business if you don't have your self esteem in check.

Bottom Line: It's only business, it's rarely personal. But if you cannot wrap your mind around the way things work in this business and/or you get angry each time you go on a casting that you don't get – find another business to be in, this one isn't for you.

7. Being Unprepared – many shows or sets have I been on where a model doesn't have all the things she needs in her bag. Be it shoes, a robe, body foundations, pantyhose, you name it, I have heard it. The veterans know that a model bag is the key. Ask in advance what you need to bring on set and then have it in your bag when you arrive. If you know you have big feet and always have to bring shoes with you, make sure you pack the basics (Black, gold, silver, maybe a white shoe and a clear one). You don't know what kind of substitution you will get if you don't have what you need in your bag...but I bet you won't like it.

Bottom Line: Be prepared at all times. You don't want to lose a job because you didn't bring what the client requested. Have your model bag on standby and ready to go at all times.

Now of course I could go on and on, but the 7 "Sins" that I have listed above are at the top of all of my lists. However an honorable mention goes out for the following lesser offenses: Outdated/Raggedy Shoes, Body Piercings and Ill fitting clothing. It takes a lot of work to make it as a successful plus sized model. If you think you have what it takes, I hope that you will read all of the articles that I write and then make changes as necessary.

I wish you all nothing but success!.

(reprinted from Mar 08 issue Plus Model Magazine)