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

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Is it time for a “Spring Cleaning” of YOUR Career?

A few weeks ago I found myself in the difficult position of comforting a friend whose world had recently been turned upside down, when both her lover and her roommate abruptly moved out of her apartment on the same day. After watching her pack up the remaining belongings of her former lover and roommate and place them in bags to be given to Goodwill, I told her to try and think of all of the events that took place during the last few days as a “Spring Cleaning” of the closet of her life. It got me to thinking about “Spring Cleaning” from a model’s perspective and I wondered aloud….

Is it time for a “Spring Cleaning” of that “Closet” that’s otherwise known as your modeling career?

Let’s pull out that portfolio shall we? Open it up and take a long look…then ask yourself honestly:
  • Are the last photos that I shot over 6 months old?
  • Do I have photos in my book that are OVER 5 years old?
  • Do I have clippings from circular advertisements (i.e. K-Mart or Macy’s) in my book?
  • Does my book contain photos that are out of focus and/or dated?
  • Do I have photos in my book that no longer look like how I look NOW?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions then it’s probably time for you to do a “Spring Cleaning” of your portfolio. If your photos are more than six months old and you aren’t getting many requests from your book, it’s probably time for you to think about testing again. On the other hand if you are still walking around with a book filled with pictures that are more than a few years old unless they are tear sheets, you should probably start removing those as well. Clients are always interested in seeing the work you’ve done but they are more interested in the “current” you.

Putting circular advertisements in your book is generally an across the board no-no. They are usually printed on newspaper quality paper and are cheaply printed and they just don’t look “professional” and that’s why most models (although we DO love getting the work don’t get it twisted) refrain from putting those particular “tears” in their books. If you have them in your book currently – EVEN if you have NO OTHER tear sheets…do yourself a favor and take them out. You can verbally TELL a client that you’ve done this sort of work if asked…you don’t HAVE to show them the actual circular. The same goes with tear sheet pages ripped from a mail order catalog. FYI, when you DO begin to acquire tear sheets please take a moment to make sure that they are evenly trimmed on all sides before you add them to your book. Neatness DOES count here - A neatly kept portfolio is a professional looking portfolio.

If you still have poor quality photos in your book from when you first started testing AND you have already gotten better photos from more recent photo shoots….then it’s time to remove all of the photos that are muddy, blurry, dated, out of focus, badly lit, overtly sexual, with poor hair and makeup jobs and just plain old bad quality photos from your book. The same goes for photos that do not show you off in a good light. Remember quality NOT quantity is what counts when it comes to building your portfolio. Start purging the photos that don’t flatter you from your book…You always want to show yourself off in the best possible light. If you have made drastic changes to your appearance since you first began building your book, such as an extreme weight loss or gain and/ or cosmetic surgery, then you will need to begin testing again and start filling your book up with photos of the way you look TODAY. No sense making clients mouths water for food they can no longer have. No one is interested in what you looked like 10 years ago.

Now that you’ve gone through your portfolio, let’s pull out those composite or Z cards….

Do you look like your current card? If you’ve changed your hair color or dropped a few sizes you will need to shoot a new comp card A.S.A.P. It is imperative that you show up to castings and jobs looking as close to the person that’s on your card as possible. If you give someone a card and they look startled and say “This is you?” while doing double takes from the card to you and back to the card…..yeah…you definitely need to shoot a new card.

Likewise if you have had the same card for more than six months and no one’s biting….the card isn’t working for you and you need to make an appointment with a photographer to start testing again.

Okay now let’s head to the closet and take a look at our wardrobe…..

Clothing: Start purging from your closets any garments that are stained, worn, missing buttons or clasps, heavily “pilled” (the fuzz balls or beads that magically appear on sweaters) or ill fitting as well as your “FAT” Clothes (lol…we all have them, clothes that fit you well when you were 30lbs heavier but you hang onto “just in case” you return to that size). You MOST certainly don’t want to bring those things on set with you to shoot in. Check your lingerie drawer make sure that you have the proper foundation garments in the proper colors (black, nude, white) to keep in your “Model Bag”. Check the foundation garments, if they are soiled, stretched out of shape, or your bras are missing hooks and eyes, or don’t support your breasts the way they used to; it’s time to go shopping for new ones. This would also be a good time to check your stock of panty hose and/or Spanx and refill as necessary.

Shoes: As a model your shoe game is VERY important and (the bigger your feet are – the more important it is), your annual spring cleaning would be a good reason to check the soles & heels on your shoes and then make appointments to get the lifts and/or soles replaced and fabric cleaned and repaired as needed. Toss any shoes that are worn beyond repair and if they hurt your feet, and this includes those "Payless Cobbie Cuddlers with The Lemon Peel Heel" (you know those wide width shoes with the 1 & 1/2 inch heel). If they “lean to the side” when you take them off or you can’t possibly walk or stand in them – sell or donate them to someone who can wear them proudly and pain free. Showing up on the set with worn down, out dated or dirty shoes is a big faux paus for any model.

Accessories: If your accessory drawer looks anything like mine…it is most definitely time for a spring cleaning of your jewelry box. Take out and toss anything that’s broken, tarnished, missing stones, snags your clothing, missing a match, never worn or isn’t your style. This also includes trinkets you got it as a gift and you lol…hate.

Makeup Tools & Cosmetics: Go through your makeup bag and toss any products that smell off or smell like ammonia (mascara & eyelash glues especially). Toss any lipsticks that feel waxy or taste funny on your lips. Get rid of broken foundations and/or cracked eye shadows that have spilled out and have ruined your bags. Throw out or give away colors that you don’t like or never wear. This would also be a good time to wash and condition your makeup brushes. If you’re a MAC Cosmetics girl, like I am, start collecting your “empties” in groups of six to return to the store for recycling and YOU get a free lip gloss, lipstick, eye shadow or pencil in exchange for EACH group of six empty product containers that you turn in!

Getting Organized: Stay on top of your paperwork! As a model who’s had the traumatizing experience of having to take an agent to court to collect back pay, I cannot stress to you how important it is for YOU TO STAY ON TOP OF YOUR PAPERWORK. Every 6 months is a good time to go through your paperwork and organize your vouchers by dates worked and then check them against your agency check stubs, so that you can track what jobs you have and haven’t been paid for. The same thing goes for receipts, gather them up, put them in order by category and then make copies for your files. Remember anything that you have to lay out the cash for in advance and then be reimbursed for later – you will need to keep a copy of the receipts for your files of what you paid and then turn in the originals with your voucher.

You should also be saving your receipts for any purchases toward your modeling career (photos, manicures, dry cleaning, clothing & shoe purchases, transportation, cosmetics…the list is endless) and then find a good accountant who can show you how you can be reimbursed for most if not all these expenses on your yearly tax returns.

If you have old checks that, for whatever reason, you have not cashed yet, cash them. A lot of checks are only valid for a few months and often times your agent will charge you additional fees if they have to void and/or reissue a check. A smart model will process her paychecks as soon as she receives them, it’s just good business.

It is not your agent’s job to keep track of your paperwork for you. It would behoove you to become your OWN personal assistant and stay on top of YOUR business. Remember, no voucher and/or no receipt means you can’t prove that you worked and if you can’t prove to the client that you worked….you won’t get paid for your work.

Now let’s head to the bathroom and take a look in the mirror:

Is your hairstyle the same style you have been wearing for the last 10 years? Is your hair a strange color: Crayola Red, Chromium Yellow, Electric Blue, Lime Green or Hot Pink? Perhaps it’s time for you to refresh your look. Would a new cut or color take years off your face? Perhaps some highlights or a rinse? Is your hair in bad need of deep conditioning or you need your ends trimmed? A fresh new cut for spring may be just the thing to turn things around for you! Do you wear wigs? Go through your wig bag and toss any wigs that are matted or have raggedy ends or outdated. Take your best wigs to the wig shop and ask them to wash and reset your wigs (if you can afford it) or you can do it yourself. Pick up the phone and make that appointment at your local beauty shop today!

But before you make that call….make sure you clear any drastic changes to your hair with your agent BEFORE you make that appointment.

Now, let’s move down to your face and let’s see what’s happening there…..

  • Are you still wearing the same “face” that you’ve had for the last 10 years?
  • Still rocking the MAC Vino lip liner with the pink lipstick filled in?
  • Are you (GASP!) still lining your lips with black eyeliner and then filling it in with gold and/or silver lipstick?
  • Are you lining your eyelids with white eye pencil?
  • Are you still wearing “Cleopatra” eyeliner or “Cleopatra Jones” eye makeup?
  • Is your foundation the correct color/shade?

If you are still doing ANY of the things on the above list it is definitely time for you to upgrade your look…it’s probably “dated” and making you look old. Go to any department store or a Sephora –like cosmetics store and get someone to help you choose the correct color foundation. Have them apply it and then GO OUTSIDE into the day light and then look at how it looks against your skin. If you look like a corpse or you look like you have a “mask” on then it’s the wrong color. Pick up the fashion magazines and start reading about what the current trends are in makeup then explore, experiment and play with new colors and shades to go with that new hairstyle. Then make a conscious decision to never wear white eyeliner OR line your lips in black EVER AGAIN!

The business of fashion is an ever changing one and in the words of Project Runway’s Heidi Klum, “As you know, in fashion, one day you are in…the next day you’re out!” In plus modeling “Spring Cleaning” is really about staying current and ahead of the trends. An annual spring cleaning of your book, look, wardrobe and business can only help you in your quest to be the best plus sized model you can be!

Reprinted with an addendum from the June 08 Issue of Plus Model Magazine