Ethnically Ambiguous Model

In January of 2009 I quit my crappy, horrible, terrible, mundane, soul-sucking desk job and enrolled at the Natural Healing Institute in Encinitas, California.  I decided to take a chance and pursue my real passion – natural medicine.  I was also motivated to try something I had always wanted to do when I was younger, but never did:  Modeling.  I was in the best shape of my life mainly due to my growing interest in alternative medicine.  I was eating healthier, working out, and developing my spirituality.  I felt confident enough to give modeling a real shot.

I was 28 years old.  My first real experience with modeling was with a tiny company called Haiku Wear.  My girl friend was friend’s with the owner of the clothing company – they had known each other since high school.  The shoot didn’t pay anything, but I got to keep the clothes that I modeled.  That was nice, but I wanted to see how I would do with posing and how well I would photograph.

My poses were stiff and my body was rigid.  I felt like I was doing “The Robot.”  I had a girl friend at the shoot who was a natural – it seemed like she had been posing all her life.  It helped to have her there because she would make me laugh and compliment me; it was nice to have a cheerleader rooting me on.  Ultimately, I lacked the confidence I thought I had; plus I wasn’t prepared to shoot in thong underwear and I was super self-conscious about it.  It’s easy to criticize the person in front of the camera…”Oh she should be standing like this.  Her hands should be lower on her hips.  Her expressions look stupid.”  Posing in front of the camera and essentially becoming the center of attention to everyone present is so very different.  I needed to practice.  So that’s what I did.

I practiced a little bit in the mirror at home and was given plenty of advice from photographers, make-up artists, hairstylists…..everybody had an opinion!  Taking suggestions/directions from multiple people all at once can make you confused and that seems to be when the photographer snaps the camera!  It’s a learning process.  You learn what looks good and what looks weird.  In the beginning, you have to do quite a bit of experimenting with poses.

Commercial modeling is very different from being a super model.  Super models are wicked tall, thin, and beautiful in an alien sort of way; it’s also highly competitive.  High end commercial models, for the most part, are in fantastic shape (and usually skinny or very skinny) according to New York City or Los Angeles standards.  What I think is skinny may not be skinny to the Big City folks.  High end commercial models are usually young (late teens, early 20’s) and very tall.  Commercial modeling, as a whole, is a lot more forgiving when it comes to body type – you can be a little “fuller” looking and not quite as tall.  This was perfect for me because I wasn’t interested in giving up any of my food – I may have been thinner but I would’ve been cranky as shit.  Models are needed for all sorts of advertisements so there really is an opportunity for everyone.  You’ve got to capitalize on your strong points.  I decided to market myself as ethnically ambiguous.

I started out as a freelance model.  I had applied at a modeling agency 2 times and was rejected 2 times.  I didn’t take the first casting very seriously and thought I could just roll up without brushing my hair, and my portfolio sucked.  Fail.  The second time I went I said during the interview that “I wanted to see if I could be a model before I got too old.”  Rejection.  I prepared for my third try.  I had a full portfolio with a variety of good, solid photos; I was dressed professionally with my hair and make-up done, and I went into my interview with a very bright and positive attitude.  I was accepted!  You think I would’ve known all of that right from the start, right?  Wrong.  I didn’t know anything about the industry initially and that was apparent to all.

Here’s the interesting thing – I’ve made more money as a freelance model than I have with my agency.  In fact, I’ve made diddly-squat with them.  Quality representation is key.  I had to find out from experience that the agency I was with was a joke.  You live and you learn.

As a freelance model, and especially when I was first starting out, I did a lot of shoots for free.  There was no pay, but I got to have the pictures which I could use for my book.  After I had a decent amount of quality photos in my portfolio, I could demand a little more in exchange for my images;  I received a lot of free product and eventually I started to get paid.  As I said before I’ve done shoots for free or almost nothing, but then I’ve also done gigs for hundreds of dollars.  My biggest paying job dished out $11,000 for 1 day of work.  That is very unusual.  A company wanted me specifically to represent their brand and so I was able to negotiate my rate.  This is the very exciting, and stressful part of modeling – figuring out what you’re worth monetary wise.