Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An excerpt from my modeling memoir Almost 5'4" on overcoming modeling mistakes with so-called modeling agencies

Hey Girls,

Along with being asked often about how to start modeling and the type of photography a shorter girls needs to pursue print modeling, I also get asked about finding agencies. You will have a hard time finding petite modeling agencies, but print modeling agencies are the best thing to pursue. To skip scams, be on top of what you need to succeed, know the type of photos a print model needs and I think it is best to be prepared, yes with the photos you need, a comp card and a portfolio that is in the making. It's best to take it upon yourself to be professional and do your homework and research before you attend a meeting with an agency. Here is more on model scams and skipping themmodel photography and finding a legit agency.

Agencies that work with all sizes and ages and agencies that have great reputations are out there. But when you work with one (or more) this doesn't mean you will be a Supermodel and the phone will be ringing non-stop and you'll be jet set, umm nothing is promised, because of course it is all really up to you and how much effort you put into your pursuits as a model.

Having an agency for a shorter girl typically means working non-exclusive and in a way always being your own manager. Modeling no matter if you are Giraffe tall or Pint-Size is a competitive, often unstable pursuit that is full of rejection and this can lead aspiring models to feel desperate or act in ways that degrade their self-worth and goals. I encourage you to keep your self-love, keep your confidence, keep focusing on aiming high. Nothing is worth degrading yourself for.  Thankfully, I got off the road to nowhere before it was too late and have found great success by believing in myself and aiming higher and focusing on my assets and by simply not giving up or settling for less, and working hard, of course.

It seems these days that every five minutes there is a new so-called modeling agency and a scam in the works. Back when I was starting out I experienced so-called modeling agency scams...and here is an excerpt from Almost 5'4" on some of my own experiences with these type of scams. 

I hope by sharing them, you skip them.

They were located in the meatpacking district. I loved the cobblestone pavement and the vintage look of the crusty brick buildings and the warehouse garage-like restaurants. Unfortunately I would only love the agency for a few weeks.

Mr. Know-It-All with his slick greasy hair, sat behind a desk in a room with only a few posters on the cement wall. He had about twenty photos taped up with clear tape revealing his hopeful Giraffes. I foolishly gave the bastard two hundred dollars.

He counted the twenties and said, “That girl—” and pointed to a photo of a Giraffe with blond hair and nice, curvy breasts— “she was just in FHM magazine!”

I was mad to have to pay him. I looked at my stack of twenties sitting in front of him, and I must have looked a little nervous because he said, “The money will be used for printing costs.” I hoped he wouldn’t spend it on some dinner he had planned with some Giraffe slut. I focused on the Giraffe’s photo on the wall. She was lean, skinny, and had a fake tan. Her nails were painted red and her teeth were perfect.

I wanted to be her.

I ignored the fact that I had made my own comp card and that I got headshots and comp cards printed for two hundred bucks myself. He rolled his eyes and huffed, “Your comp card doesn’t sell you!” and “We can’t use this comp card if you want to work with us.”

Mr. Know-It-All gave me the comp card back and a plan. “I will need to shoot you. We’ll shoot commercial shots outside with real film and we’ll make you a brand new, sellable comp card in about three weeks.”

I was confused because Gene took my comp card even though it might have looked like shit. Gene at least said he would “try” to work with it.

Now I had no choice. Mr.-Know-It-All’s words went right through me. It was as if all the buildings in Manhattan would come crashing down if I didn’t say yes. So I had to fork out the cash that I was planning on spending for my first real designer bag, a Kate Spade or a Michael Kors maybe. I was learning all about these names from reading Vogue and I really wanted something expensive that I could keep for a lifetime.

Four days later, we shot at a park on Eleventh Avenue; I met him near the highway. I snuck out early of my marketing class that afternoon. I didn’t take off any of my clothing and I wore a tan knitted button down sweater from Forever 21, which I really liked. It was all very quick, only about a thirty minute shoot. I leaned against a brick mechanic shop and gave a shy smile. I didn’t feel as confident with my clothing on. We used the entire three rolls of film, which I’m sure I paid for. When I posed on the corner of Jane and Washington Street, a dump truck drove by. The guys inside stared out of the windows and one Hispanic guy said, as best he could in English, “What magazine is that for?”

I felt like yelling back, “It’s for Vogue!”

Although after the shoot, when the photographer asked for more money to get the photos retouched, I felt the guy really wasn’t on my side. I didn’t want anything to do with the agency anymore, so I deleted their number out of my cell phone. But before I did, I called for my images and I did get my photos this time. I liked a few of them and could even have used them, but I didn’t because they reminded me too much of that fucking Mr. Know-It-All.

A few weeks later, I answered another casting I found with a few of the photos from the day with the sexual French freak. This agency had a website and it looked pretty damn professional. The models shown looked ethnic and exotic, and came from countries I had never heard of. All of the Giraffes had really good posture and they looked tall and elegant, pretty much like the fashion agencies and I was sure I would get rejected from my emailed submission. Only I wasn’t. My meeting was for 3:00 P.M. and I was to bring any photos I had with me.

When I got there, to my surprise, the agency was located in a young Greek man’s apartment. I doubted their potential quickly. A big painting of some Greek goddess gave away his heritage, along with his frisky hands. Even the shady guy in the Meat Packing District had a fucking office! Well, I was already there, so I took a seat and then stood up quickly when he asked to see my body. I don’t know what came over me but I even undressed to my bra and panties. He might not have known anyone at a single magazine and probably only read Playboy and didn’t know any editors or quality photo people I should know. Still just maybe he had one connection, which would be worth my time. I promised myself I would make every encounter count, somehow. If not to excel and get in a magazine then to get some helpful information. I did a few spins and turns and bends wondering what I would learn today.

 It was obvious that this Gianni, the frisky Greek God, the agent, liked my body and kept saying, “You have such a hot little body.”  It was an innocent compliment and I took it, but then he kept trying to tickle me. When he stopped, I smiled and huffed with an “I know I’m hot” face. Then I noticed how cold the room was and felt more awkward. His apartment was awfully and purposely cold, maybe. I wondered, Is he trying to make my nipples hard?

He said again, “You have such a cute little ass!” Then he went to smack it.

I started to put my jeans back on. For the first time I felt guilty. I was having all of these shoots and encounters, meeting random people in random places, and I wasn’t telling Danny about it.

Gianni didn’t even have a real name for the agency yet or a business card.  He said they just went by Gianni’s Models. I wondered who the other part of “they” was. They would shoot me for free, get me a makeup artist and a stylist, and make me a comp card for free, too! It sounded like a good plan. Like the agency in the Meat Packing District, they were new, aspiring. I figured that’s why they’d given me a chance so I decided to take it. I was excited. Maybe I finally had someone on my side. I had a shoot next Wednesday with a fashion photographer. It seemed like everything always landed on a fucking Wednesday, right when I had class! I figured I would miss my class. I sure as hell couldn’t be a model while I sat in my advertising class.

The young man who I considered Gianni requested the photographer for me, made the phone call and set it all up. I was impressed. It was the first time everything was already set up and planned. It could be a real chance. The photographer had a French accent, and it scared me that if it might have been that jerk that took me to Bloomingdales and made me get naked. Flashes of his stout and his tiny apartment came back to me. And the shoes I wish I stole. The message on my phone said: “Hey, Isobella, we’re shooting next week and I want you to meet me over at the stylist’s apartment on West 4th Street.” I knew that area from shopping for sexy underwear; I grabbed my agenda book and quickly wrote it down. Then I replayed the message five times to get it right, convincing myself that it wasn’t déjà vu.

... The following Wednesday I met the photographer, right on time. He wasn’t familiar thank God, and was about thirty-five or so and wore a suede jacket.  Before I could touch the suede of his jacket from a hug, I was thrown into a makeup chair and beat by the makeup brush for forty minutes. The makeup artist was Russian and not friendly. She told me her name was Ivy, but I doubted it. Ivy sounded like a name of a girl who brushed her hair 100 times a day. This Ivy had blond, teased, permed hair. It did look like dead ivy leaves. A chunk was dyed blue.

I think she knew it was one of the first times I’d ever had makeup put on because I didn’t know which way to look when she did the mascara. She kept saying, “Up up, up,” and then, “Down, down, down.”

 I was getting dizzy, and I was tired of being scolded for looking the wrong way.

Afterwards, I did look hot though.

Then the photographer just said, “Mmmm . . . uh-huh.” He told me we had to leave and took over. We jumped in a cab and I got to see New York City again from a new perspective. I loved it when we drove by the Met Life building. We shot on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in the street with the traffic flying by like race cars. I had never been to the museum but now I really wanted to go. The shots were fantastic. I could feel it, and it had an “editorial appeal,” he said. Whatever “editorial” defined, it had to be something brilliant. The shots seemed very classy, the makeup perfect. I was beautiful. And for education purposes I could consider that I was getting exposed to international people for the first time.

In the street, posing, I felt like a real model, not another Internet Wannabe. At last! Cars honked at me, and men were staring. A few cabbies yelled at me through the cab window saying, “Yeah baby!”

A couple of days later, I saw the slides and they actually looked great. I called the Greek apartment two weeks later and the telephone line was disconnected. The photographer never returned my calls and I never got the pictures. Fuck, I’d wasted my time again, and I was burning pissed. Something was damning me from above or laughing at me from below.

To make matters worse, time was ticking by too quickly. Gene’s agency was the only one that would give me the time of day; he wasn’t calling fast enough with castings, bookings, and jobs.

Isobella Jade TM

Check out Almost 5'4" and my other books here. My graphic novel Model Life: The Journey of a Pint-Size Fashion Warrior and Short Stuff: on the job with an x-small model also share the highs and lows of striving as a model.

More on finding a modeling agency. Starting out modeling tips.  And the photos you need. And finding a photographer.

If you've been scammed, or if something seems fishy, if you have been through a crappy situation, you can always email me at petitepride@yahoo.com and I will do my best to get back to you. Also always use Google as a great research tool, Google the name + word scam.

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