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, May 02, 2008

“Model” Behavior: – Taking YOUR Career Seriously (The Business of YOU)

As I enter the 4 month period in my new position as a Model Booker for IPM Models, I gotta tell you….I come home every night with a new story about an aspiring model that crossed my path that day. Last month I could have easily written several more pages on the topic of Agency/Model Expectations but I only had a limited amount of space that I could work with. I promise you, I will do a second part to that article later, as many of you have given me plenty of material to pull from.

Throughout my career, I have encountered THOUSANDS of women in my travels who, when asked what they do for a living, will tell you without hesitation – I AM A MODEL. What I find is while everyone loves to SAY those four words; few are willing to seriously put in the time, money and effort it takes to have a successful career as a plus sized model. Most folks just want to SAY that because they like how it sounds and it probably makes them quite popular. It seems these days that EVERYONE thinks that they have “what it takes” to be a plus sized model and that’s what usually comes through the doors of the agency… quite literally “Everyone”. And nothing confirms that the last statement ISN’T true more than what I see at open calls and from email submissions.

I liken modeling to a high stakes world championship poker match. There are millions of dollars at stake; and there are definitive qualifications/requirements that you must to meet and rules you must know and follow, BEFORE you are allowed to participate. You CANNOT play if you don’t meet the qualifications and/or don’t know the rules. The same line of thinking applies to plus modeling and many of you don’t bother to take the time to learn the rules or you already know them and believe that you are the exception to the rule. Anyone who thinks that all you need is to be big and have a pretty face, is seriously fooling themselves. The business of plus modeling is a billion dollar business and if YOU don’t take YOUR business seriously, I promise you, you will wind up wasting a lot of your time and hard earned money.

Right now I am speaking directly to the aspiring model who is trying to ascend from a career on a local level to a career in the industry mainstream.

The rules of the game on the local level can be drastically different from the “industry standards” and I most definitely want to cover those topics as well at a later date.

Basic Qualifications:

a) Are you at least 5’8’ tall barefoot?

I have hired models who were 5’6” because their faces were extraordinary, they took great photos and they had that “something special” about them that made it hard for me to stop looking at them and that’s REALLY important if you want to be “the exception to the rule”. This is probably one of the easiest places to take some er…liberties with. But let’s face it I’m probably not going to sign you if you are 5’3”. There isn’t anything in the mainstream market for you at 5’3” at them moment besides the occasional fit jobs or “Real People” modeling.

b) Do You Have Clear Skin/Complexion?

I have covered this in past articles, I really do believe it’s self explanatory – clear skin is a must, so if your skin isn’t up to par yet…seek out a dermatologist, buy some Proactive, get some fade cream for the dark spots, drink more water – I don’t care WHAT you have to do, just do it BEFORE you come to see me. I can’t and won’t send you out to see clients if your skin is a mess! Get your skin together first! This way NO ONE’S time is wasted.

c) Are You Between Sizes 8 – 18?

Yes, I said a size 8! The industry is quietly discriminatory to plus sized models and many clients are reverting back to the old days of hiring a decidedly smaller model and then padding them up to make the clothes fit. Look more closely at some of the current window display ads for some of the major plus sized stores? Notice anything off? It doesn’t seem to matter that the models look like little girls playing in their mother’s clothing – all that seems to matter is that their faces are slimmer. The fashion industry has standards across the board for the type of model they are looking for because it’s a business and history has shown them what works and what does not. It seems to me that if you are outside of the size range that they are requesting and this is the business you SAY you want to be in, then why wouldn’t you get down to the size you need to be if you are as SERIOUS about your career as you say you are? The likelihood of the industry adjusting their standards to fit your personal needs is pretty much slim to none. It’s easier for you to come to them, the way they want – they simply are not going to come to you.

d) Are Your Measurements Fairly Even (i.e. 40-35-40)

Your measurements don’t have to be perfect, but they should be in balance. You have some liberties here as well. However if ONE of your measurements is grossly disproportionate (i.e. 40-35-60 or 60-38-40 etc.) or just plain odd, you are going to have a lot of problems with garments properly fitting your body. Some things can be adjusted with simple diet and exercise, while others might need more drastic steps. But again, it all depends on how seriously YOU take the BUSINESS of YOU.

e) Are Your Facial Features in Balance?

People rarely talk about this one; they’ll say it behind your back but will most likely be uncomfortable saying it in your face. Your features are very important as well, you can have the prettiest face in the world but if your features are not in alignment with the rest of your face –you’re going to have problems. When I first went to Wilhelmina seeking a contract, the first thing Susan Georget told me was that I could make a lot more money if I were willing to close the gap between my front teeth. I hesitated, mainly because I had become quite attached to my gap, for a few days and then I made an appointment to see my dentist to have it bonded. And she was right, I began working almost immediately and my smile is my “moneymaker” it’s the number 1 thing I am most requested for AND the bonding is removable, should I ever want my gap back. Extremely large foreheads, receding hairlines, noticeable scars, large or oddly shaped noses, lazy or crossed eyes, buck and/or protruding teeth, gaps are some of the facial flaws that might stand out in a picture first rather than your natural beauty. If you are not willing to fix the flaws that are detracting from your photos that says to me that you are not serious about the business you say you want to be in AND you probably won’t work much.

f) Are You Photogenic?

I have come across some very pretty women in my travels and since I usually have my camera with me, if I see someone who I think might have “the Look”, I will approach and ask them if I can take some photographs of them. Usually, I can tell from those few photos if I am going to give you my card or not. Pretty does not always equate photogenic just as Odd or quirky looks do not equate non-photogenic and trust me - the photogenic model is what ALL agencies are looking for. It’s the model that has the “IT” factor. It’s the chick who can convey emotion using her eyes alone. It’s the chick that can “get the shot” quickly and things like that. The first thing I’m going to look at in your photos is what jumps out at me first (and that’s where those “flaws” come in). At the end of the day, being a model is ALWAYS about YOU and the relationship you have with the CAMERA. I don’t think it’s anything that can be forced either, the camera doesn’t lie, it either loves you or it doesn’t. Before you spend a ridiculous amount of money on photographers & testing on your own, get yourself a digital camera (or a disposable one if digital isn’t in your budget yet) and have some start taking photos of you, so you can get comfortable in front of a camera and learn how your face works so you can determine if you have what the camera loves.

g) Are You Prepared Financially to Get Started Immediately?

The overhead for the new model can be quite high, and the first thing I am going to ask you if I am interested in signing you is: “Do you have a job and/or money?” If the answer to this is “no” or “not at the moment” then I am going to suggest that you come back when you have one or the other – preferably some immediate disposable income. You will need at LEAST $1500-$2000 to get started. If I am seriously interested in signing you then I want you to shoot/test with photographers that I already know can get the job done. Hair & makeup are generally included in the photographer costs but I will want to hire a stylist who can put together the looks that I want/need for you to start working quickly and that’s additional. Then you have to get composite cards and actual prints to put in your portfolios (yours and the in-house book) which you will have to pay for as well. If your agency has a website, you will probably have to pay an annual fee to be on it – and if it isn’t mandatory by the agencies yet, it will be soon. The lists of expenses associated with plus modeling can run high but that initial cost listed above should cover most of these things you need to get started.

h) Can you walk in a heel that’s at LEAST 2 ½ inches or higher?

While there is a distinct shortage of runway shows for plus models at the moment, you still will have to WEAR a heel most of the time AND you will need to be able to balance yourself in them. You will need to be able to carry yourself gracefully in those shoes so that when you are on the set taking photos you won’t look like you are uncomfortable or are in pain. If you don’t know how to walk when I sign you I probably won’t have a hissy fit, since I can teach you but most of you will NOT get the benefit of having an in house coach and private lessons are not cheap! Big changes are quietly happening in the plus model industry and I strongly suggest you learn how to develop your runway strut now. The Plus Academy ( is an excellent school based in Manhattan that gives instructional runway classes.

i) Can You Handle Rejection Comfortably?

Heck, NONE of us like rejection but rejection is 75% of this business for most models and if you take every “no” personally, you are going to wear yourself out and/or down by always trying to “figure out what you did wrong”. Always remember that it’s almost never about YOU the model….it’s always about the client and the product that they are trying to sell. They might actually LOVE you as a person but perhaps you are simply not a right fit for what they are trying to sell. Say thank you, leave the audition and then shake it off and go on to your next audition without missing a beat. Try not to dwell on the jobs that you don’t get, it will only drive you crazy. It’s always business, almost never personal and if you can’t wrap your mind around that, this isn’t the business for you.

Speaking as someone who has already traveled down the road you are on, I implore you to take a moment to at LEAST learn the basic qualifications needed to begin a career as a plus model before you show up on the doorsteps of a major agency. The information IS out there and all you need is access to a computer or a book, do yourself a favor and find out as much as you can about the business you want to be in before you get started. Treat your open call as a job interview (Be properly groomed, wear proper undergarments, have the necessary documents/items needed and bring a pen!) and prepare accordingly because that’s exactly what it is. The Plus Sized industry is slowly changing right before our eyes. Will YOU be prepared when change comes?

One more thing, thanks for all of the wonderful comments and emails you all have been sending me; I am glad to be able to share my information with folks who need it. If you all have a specific topic that you’d like me to cover or a question that you need an answer to, you can send me an email at and I will be happy to accommodate you!

(reprinted from May 08 issue Plus Model Magazine)

“Surround yourself with positive people & positive things!”