Myths About Becoming a Professional Model

There are many myths about the modeling profession that can create confusion for new or aspiring models. Sadly, these fables may stop them from pursuing their lifelong dream of becoming a career model.

Here are five of the top myths about professional modeling along with the truth to help you succeed in your modeling career.

You Have to Be Tall

Head shot of a female model
RunPhoto/Getty Images

While there are certain height requirements for runway models and high-fashion (editorial) models, there is a tremendous amount of work available for models who are under 5 feet 9 inches tall. Even the big agencies in New York, Paris, and Milan are willing to make exceptions for a model who is a "complete package."

Supermodel Kate Moss was one of the first to break the height barrier at 5 feet 6 inches (some agencies list Moss an inch or two taller, but most people think that is generous). There are even male models like Aaron Frew who, at just 5 feet 7 inches, is represented by top fashion agency d'Management in Milan, Italy. Agents have been known to hire models who were 5 feet 3 inches to top agencies like Elite Model Management and Ford Models. 

But don't worry if you can't get signed to a top fashion agency due to a height issue, because there is a substantial commercial market for models of all heights.

You Have to Be Skinny

Plus-size woman in sequin dress set against sky
Marla Rutherford/Getty Images

With more women demanding to see models who better represent what "real" women look like, the fashion industry has responded. Over the past 10 years, the plus-size modeling market has become one of the fastest-growing and most important sectors of the industry. 

Not only are modeling agencies welcoming models who are curvier and more voluptuous than the usual pencil-thin fashion model, but they are turning these girls into superstars. Many of the top modeling agencies in New York, Los Angeles, and even Paris and Milan now have divisions devoted solely to plus-size models. Victoria's Secret even made waves in late 2019 by hiring its first plus-size model.

So, if you're curvy or big, bold and beautiful, and know how to work it, then many of the top agencies will be eager to see you.

You Have to Be Young

Older woman modeling on a runway with a younger model next to her
Jasper Juinen/Staff/Getty Images

Just as consumers demanded to see models who better represent the various size categories of real women (see Myth #2), many demand to see models who represent a broader variety of ages.  

The baby boomers are aging, and there is a real demand for models who can represent products that are important to this demographic. There is a wide range of industries for which mature models are needed, from travel and healthcare to pharmaceuticals and even high fashion.  

So, if you've always dreamed of becoming a model and you're over 25, don't let age hold you back. Agencies are always looking for mature models of all ages.

You Need Professional Photos

Woman photographing young female model in photo studio at dusk
Ryan McVay/Getty Images

Professional photographs are never required when you're starting out. All you need are some simple snapshots for the agents to determine your potential as either a fashion model or commercial model.

Once an agency has decided that it would like to represent you, then you can discuss with the agents what type of photos you'll need for them to promote you to their clients. Depending on the type of agency and the market you're in, the agency may even be willing to advance the cost of your first photo shoot. Otherwise, this will be an investment you'll have to make.

The Agency Will Pay for Everything

Partial view of a woman holding a portfolio in her hands with models and photos in the background
webphotographeer/Getty Images

One of the areas that can create the most confusion for new models is the area of fees, expenses, and startup costs. There is a lot of hype and misinformation, particularly online and in modeling forums, surrounding modeling expenses and what a model should and shouldn't pay for. This can bewilder new models to the point of giving up on pursuing their dreams. 

You've probably heard the phrase, "If an agency likes me it will pay for everything." In actuality, this couldn't be further from the truth. Make sure you have a clear idea of the costs involved in launching your modeling career.

A Place for Everyone In Modeling

When you first think of models, you'll likely picture supermodels like Gisele Bündchen, Coco Rocha, Naomi Campbell, Candice Swanepoel, or Miranda Kerr. However, there are thousands of other models whose names you wouldn't know who are making a substantial income in the industry.

Think of the modeling industry like professional sports. You will always know the names of the superstars like Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, or Magic Johnson, but there are lots of other team members whose names you've never heard but who are earning a fantastic living as part of the team. It's very similar in the modeling industry. You will always have the superstars, but the other models in the agency have an important part to play as well.