DR. WALLACE: Several family members have told me that I have the physical attributes to be a fashion model. My friends say this to me, too. I'm aware that becoming a glamorous model would take a lot of hard work and that it's difficult to be "discovered." I could do the hard work, but how can I increase my chances of someday being discovered? I don't live near New York or Los Angeles. I'm a girl who is a long way from the bright lights of the big cities. — Dreaming of Being Discovered, Ames, Iowa
DREAMING: In reality, modeling is a tough, demanding profession, and young women who aspire to model should know the facts about the business.
"High times in front of the camera followed by big nights out on the town are not really what modeling is all about," says writer Cathryn Jakobson. "It is hard on the body and the face — and much tougher on the ego."
The business can be especially rigorous in New York City, a destination for many would-be models who hope to be signed by an agency.
However, top modeling agencies rarely find fresh modeling prospects waiting in their reception area. In most instances, new models are found through the mail. A young woman who wants to model should send agencies a headshot and body shot of herself, along with her measurements, height, weight, hair color and eye color.
"Any agents worth their salt can tell all they need to know from a good, clear snapshot," Jakobson notes. And if these agencies like what they see, they can bring the girl to New York for a closer look.
One word of caution: If one of the well-respected agencies won't sign you, then it is probably best to move on. Signing with an unknown agency is unwise and may even be dangerous. The large agencies are ethical and honorable, but that structure and safety are often in shorter supply in opportunistic small, unknown agencies that "promise the moon."
But even if a girl is signed by a major agency, that does not necessarily mean she will be flooded with work. Agencies send their models to interviews with clients and editors on what are called "go-sees," and many times, these models are not chosen for the job.
As one young model noted, "You have to remember that if you get rejected, you still exist. The world hasn't ended."
Another common fantasy young women may have about modeling, Jakobson says, is that their faces will be splattered across magazine fashion pages. In truth, the majority of models find work on the pages of mail-order catalogs, and others do work as extras for television commercials.
No one would argue that the career of a model is lasting, either. Agencies like to sign models as young as 15, and they are quick to decide that a girl is looking "old." By the time a woman is 25, her career as a model can begin to decline. Only the most famous, highly recognizable models have decadeslong careers in the industry — in front of the camera, that is.
Most models do not survive even their first year in New York. Some girls view this short time in the Big Apple as a good experience and then head back home. Others may be overcome with disappointment at failing to "make it."
These young women should not be disheartened. As one young model pointed out, "All models have to find something else eventually."
Does this mean you should give up your dream to become a fashion model? Absolutely not! If you meet all the qualifications and have the dedication, desire, diligence and drive, go for it! But do so realistically and protect yourself at all times. There are great people in this industry and a few who are not as reputable. Spend your time at or very near the top of the industry's "food chain." Be prepared to move on to another career path at some point — unless you are one of the lucky ones!
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.