I have worked before with the traditional NYC modeling agency setup several times. Now, it's about marketing on social media as much as, if not more than, the standard modeling jobs. I am available for hire if you would like me to discuss your brand online or use your products in an image on my scoial media accounts, such as Twitter at @nicrussin.
I love working social media and have a fairly good following online. I can do a lot for your brand!
"Why are you still pursuing modeling without an agency?"
I believe by not pursuing it, I'm letting the negative people win. Nowadays, you're never the wrong dress size, age, or anything to model in an ad campaign. Check out Nicole Kidman, Sofia Coppola for Louis Vuitton, Jennifer Laurence nabbing big campaigns, Christina Hendricks for London Fog, and other strong, beautiful women who defy the standard modeling requirements! Natalie Portman who is nowhere near runway height and a teen model in age doing Miss Dior!
I believe I can do a lot to encourage young people to be the best version of themselves by representing a healthy, happy, normal person who brings a touch of her "I can do anything!" personal brand into the job.
"Why don't you have an agency anymore?"
A frequent question on people's minds is why I would leave any modeling agency that sends out models for NYFW and brand name jobs. It isn't my age or any other factor. I look the same. I was not fired.
Please note, what I am about to say describes my experiences only and does not represent all agencies, I hope. I know a lot of fashion industry people don't approve of what agencies do to young women in lifestyle decisions or slimming down without muscle tone. What we need is a major designer to hire women like Lindsey Vonn to model!
I changed my phone numbers and e-mail addresses they had on file because of the bad experiences, such as:
• During and after my modeling agency search/es. I felt like I was in the best shape I'd been in. I had been eating clean and working out. At once curvy, thin, and athleetic! I had muscle tone where I didn't know I could have it! I was always pressured by them to work out only cardio and starve down. You can exercise as long as it doesn't build muscle tone. Kids and young women see you and think you're naturally sickly looking. I can promise you also, losing weight to an extent won't get you more jobs. You can have a dress size be too loose on your frame and it won't get you more jobs. There will always be an excuse to exclude you from work because, read on. They'll withhold it. I didn't want kids to look at me and question why they didn't look like that with proper dieting and workouts, and, I argued how my size and so forth should not matter if I'm photographed sitting down for jewelry, hair, and makeup. This did not go well with my agencies.
• I was encouraged through someone one agency dealt with regularly to do porn for hardly any money. Pornography is a career I won't shame women for doing. The key is, doing so must be your own choice and you must be in control of your earnings. I did not want to do porn. To be clear, this wasn't nude modeling I was asked to do. It was actual porn on a XXX website the photographer/errand runner wanted me to do. The man asking me was a photographer who routinely did the Photoshop for all of the agency's test shoots. The agency pressured me to "have meetings" with him "about your career." Yeah, not the direction I wanted to take.
• I was asked to do prostitution. It was always disguised as "NYFW massage modeling." Me being asked to eat dinners or go out to a club as a "companion" with creepy men for hire not always but often "diplomats" or "businessmen visiting in town." Things of that nature. They always denied it was what it was when confronted. When I declined, this agency tried to make me feel bad by saying, "But someone asked for you! They really think you're pretty." Or, "Modeling comes in different types. All of this leads to more modeling jobs." When I told the agency/ies this was ILLEGAL and complained about my rights, they hardly gave me any jobs and withheld my auditions.
• They want you to do a test shoot every four to six months. Including when you look the same from head to toe. Of course, you cannot get a test shoot done with any photographer of your choice. They have to do it. Some agencies have their own agents do it as "expert photographers." When you're like me and don't age one bit overnight, test shoots are pointless and certainly so when done every four months. I'd argue most models look similar because they are all 16-23 and you don't age that much in that time period when you have your own work and other photos to show for it.
• I was accused of needing to pay an agency back money I had "borrowed" and never did. It never resulted in being fixed until I got a photographer involved who claimed he was paid and yelled at the agency. I supposedly owed them back money I "borrowed" to pay for a test shoot. The photorgapher produced the check. It didn't work when I showed the check images. The agency was forced to pay me my earnings as they had tried to claim they were not because I owed them old borrowed funds.
• I was being paid a year later or more for work. That is, when I wasn't being harassed about fake oweing agencies.
• When you audition, some people Photoshop backgrounds into your sample image and sell it to photographers or use it for overseas advertising of their brand in magazines. I happen to be that rare person who for fun reads foreign magazines and does her best to read in German, Spanish, so on. I've had to chase people down and confront them to remove the ads off foreign websites and within publications. I once found myself being sold as a stock image for a tech business in Europe. You'll find some people are so naive about it. I know a girl who was over the moon because she found her image in a superstore catalog without receiving money and never agreeing to sell the image. People forge your signatures. Crazy.
• People want you to model for free without covering your transportation and food/beverage needs. Examples. My agency being mad I wouldn't agree to have my hair cut to a near pixie for free. A designer told me I couldn't do his NYFW show for pay because "my clothes are for beautiful women" only to weeks later when someone dropped out text me he badly needed me for free. A major Saks/Neiman Marcus designer pays celebrities' children top money to walk in his shows but wants unknown models to do them for free alongside them.
• One brand wanted to hire me for a recurring job because they had a good experience with me. An agency lied I was going to be paid far less for each recurring job opportunity with them. Meaning, the agency was stealing my money.
• The con artist game. Every model regardless of BMI, height, ethnicity and other variables is asked to lose weight and take new test shoot photographs. It doesn't matter if you have recent photographs done by an Allure big magazine photographer, as I had when I was once seeking new management. The agency gets a cut of everything they sell you. I had another agent trying to sell me a diet book and matching kit she offered new models that was never formally published. Of course! Almost expectedly because it had pro-ana tips in it, right? I was told I had to work out with a trainer of their choice. When I offered a top celebrity training service and told them I was getting good tips left and right from Olympic athletes I was meeting, all of whom were under expensive diet and fitness plans, the agencies wouldn't hear it. Their stuff was always best. The inexperienced photographer who just graduated high school and was not artsy whatsoever was better than the professional master with his own crew, he who had someone work as my stand-in and was down to detail? You run into this stuff. Be expected to be attempt-conned out of more money if your agency doesn't make money from you living in a model aparment. I lived on my own and angered the agencies.
• Agencies encouraged the casting couch.
• Speaking of the casting couch! One agency refused to send me out for auditions once a man complained about me. I was trying out for a series of jobs one morning before I went to meet my editor at The New York Daily News. The auditions were on the way. I tried out for a major hair company's hair ad. They wanted a brunette girl who had naturally long hair. I qualified! Before the audition, I overheard with a few girls, some of whom were teens and younger than I was, saying how upset he was one agency had sent him the same girl again and again for years. She was a girl in my group, very saddened. He didn't "find her" sexually attractive. Tonight, he was going to sleep with a "few girls from today" and see who got the job. He was "hoping for some Brazilians!" When the larger group of young women showed up and the audition started, he unprofessionally refused to photograph myself and a few of the teen girls. I felt sick watching him look up and down licking his mouth at several girls behind me in the classroom-like setting with weird chairs around in rows. He photographed all of the girls he thought were hot and asked them millions of questions about themselves. The teens and I weren't obviously putting out that night for him or he didn't like us. He ignored us as we stood there in line waiting to be photographed in procedure, like say, I was professionally when I auditioned for Bumble & Bumble. The casting man stared until I asked him why we were not being photographed as everyone else. The teens stared on next to me. He told me off bluntly. I was never sent out to audition for anything again. Excuse me, I never thought giving out my body for a mere chance at a job was a modeling requirement!
• An agent got into fights with a major brand. They barred her from sending models for auditions. She regardless learned of an audition from the wire service and, without our knowledge of it, sent myself and a few younger girls to audition. The people told us how awful she was and how we needed to find more respectable representation. We were led out the door. Embarassing and a huge waste of time and transportation money.
• Ever see that Twilight Zone episode where everyone in society picks one face and body? The female lead does not want to look like everyone else until the ending where she tells her mother she loves her new look "because I look just like you!" Agencies wanted me to be their token pale white, chocolate hair with highlights, non-curvy brunette girl. The only issue with that is I don't look much like that. I can lose weight but won't look ruler shaped at any weight. My hair breaks off unless it's extensions or a good weave when highlighted much. I'm "white" but not the generic "all American white" girl they wanted. I was encourgaged to change my look drastically from head to toe and Photoshopped into the idea of who they thought I should look like. I myself started editing my photos to look more like that. Whereas before people used to say I looked like some major movie stars like "Jennifer Connelly in her young days!" by every man I ever met, the compliments quit rolling in when I did the dumb stuff agencies wanted me to do. I looked pretty generic and had no self left. It sucked. And, it was unhealthy mentally and physically when you toss in the major problem of having had lifelong diabetes. I don't do this anymore!
• You are pressured to go out to clubs for no pay and free alcohol because the clubs "want pretty girls around." Meaning, they want you there like a piece of meat to be picked up by club goers all for you getting drunk for free. Sorry.
• "Dye your hair blonde. You'll get more work!" Do this, that. You won't get more work. I've been every hair color for fun and never saw anything change with my agencies. They do not work for you. They were out to exploit us young women.
• In the oddest twist of events, two agencies yelled at me they wouldn't send me out for work because I was full of plastic surgery and lip fillers – while telling girls at the same agencies I found out to have plastic surgery. "You can't be sent out because you're so plastic. Companies don't like that." I kindly corrected them it's impossible for me to have lip fillers because the one time I tried it, I had a horrible reaction to the substance when I was 18 to where it damaged my upper lip. A girl I met in the locker room at Equinox told me she was with a big top supermodel name agency and was always told she had a nose job and could not be sent for work. Aka. another excuse when they realize you don't want to hooker for them. She and I both looked like normal, healthy young women who resemble some actresses' noses before their nose jobs.
• I once had an agent go on a national TV network denouncing NYFW practices of hiring emaciated models only to tell me in person how I had to fork over my chicken cutlets in my bra I had on, which I did and placed them in my purse, and lose weight "immediately" because "models can't be curvy." So much for that!
• I was "not allowed" to try out for Victoria's Secret PINK despite being very thin, actually a lot thinner than I am now, and fit. I thought I perfectly fit PINK's idea of a healthy, college age girl who isn't VS Angel tall or super skinny but still on that track for a more mainstream version. Everyone I asked said they couldn't understand this decision. The agencies did crazy things. One time, they told me I had to be like another girl they pointed to on the wall who modeled all the time for Victoria's Secret. I had to have her measurements! When I pointed out mine were smaller because I had been at the gym a lot and lost weight, they told me they did not believe I was "really the dress size you claim." My agency argued I was "too big" to model for them and "they won't like you!" Additionally, "you're too busty" and "you are too curvy" for an underwear company!?! Having lost a lot of my shape top and bottom from fulfilling the agency standard of attractive!? This, while a neighbor lady had a word with me about losing too much weight and being concerned I chose just an egg sandwich and not my usual hamburger at the diner when I saw her!? My neighbor from down another block told me in my face when we dined out how she was worried about me and my well being. I used to look "fit" and I to her was looking "too thin and not your natural body type." This, also heard from waiters and lots of people I met from everyday NYC businesses. Obviously, I did not look above the dress size I claimed – and as good as I looked on camera, to everyday people, I didn't. To this day, I am still angry I never got to model for one of my favorite everyday girl brands, Victoria's Secret PINK, a brand I regularly buy sweatpants and bras from.
• Don't believe they're con artists yet? An agency told me how awful my new photos were one day and I looked "cheap, too Maxim, hideous, fake, tacky, not what brands like." The next afternoon, they were so drunk/high/confused, the agency owner offered to sign me in regards to the same e-mail thread because she was "impressed!" with my look and photos. She could use some of my photos for my new comp cards and take new ones with me! I, for the record, think looking anything Maxim is a major compliment and wish I'd hear it daily. ;)
• Ever wonder why most models all have the same measurements when they photograph so differently in body type and size? The agency makes them up. I was supposed to be a size 4-6 with specific measurements as a pack of girls. When I tried out for other work, I had to say I was a 2-4. You can never say you're a zero despite fitting into some zero clothes – I have everything in my closet from a 0 in stretch skirts to an 8 in stiffly fabriced dresses – because they believe you have to appear skeletal to be so. All measurements are built on lies. Kids and teens read them on agency websites or model fun facts and question why they don't look like that. I can tell you some of your favorite supermodels in person are not size 0 petite widths and get Photoshopped in half. Chances are, the taller, curvier, and/or more athletic you really are, you are not going to be a bone in person. People are either Photoshopped curvier or have their curves and muscle removed. You have to physically be everything at once, precisely why this is humanly impossible and damaging to models' health.
"Are all agencies this bad? My daughter wants to be a model."
You need to be present with her/him or have a guardian who will be. This stuff happens a lot. Many teens and college age young people don't tell their parents all that they do alone. I know a girl whose dad came from the Midwest to pick her up and yelled at the agent I had who was doing all of this same harassment and money stealing.
Your kids aren't going to tell you they booked a good job because they "dated" a photographer for an evening. Don't wait for them to be alone on a film/modeling set or out at dinner with a group of industry people and fellow actors/models alone with the wrong person. Sexual assault takes very little time and is scarring for life. Or, a teen can think the wrong decision is all you're able to do to make it.
"Isn't all of this the exception, not the rule?"
Between all the smiling faces in magazines within fashion and acting, do you really believe any of those women/men are going to come forward and say they got where they were over this? It happens to everyone at assorted levels. Some people may deal with it more. Life is about making choices that fit within your moral boundaries. You hear rumors or firsthand experiences about people being cast in specific major work and some not where the rejects refuse things like the casting people offering to "help" them change or "make plans later." When you hear enough about the same castings, you know there is at 50+ percent truth to them.
Nobody famous, or if not famous, popular within the entertainement/fashion industry is going to tell you they were with handfuls of people casting them for jobs nor working as an illegal side profession to please their management and be sent out on more auditions/given work without auditioning.
I understand partially why people do it. You take months, years or a decade longer to make it when you don't. On the other end of things, can you really live with yourself knowing you did that when you look back on your achievements? I could not.
"Ate there scams for social media influencers too?"
Yes! Plenty! Social media influencers, or models, depending on how you view it because I feel modeling is modeling when you're seen with a product, are conned big time.
The way a social media influencer agency app goes is they ask the models to buy the product, sometimes at discount and often at regular price. Hundreds to thousands of people buy the product from the company. Like you, they dream big and think maybe this time, it'll happen. Only a handful or two of those social media influencers are chosen and if so, they are paid less than or equal to the product they bought. You're out of however much you spent buying the product. Meanwhile, in our fake example of a makeup brand selling a $20 USD lipstick to 5,000 desperate models has made $100,000 profiting off the desperation of people wanting another fashion industry job.
Products on the social media inluencer apps range from $5 to $400, often. You'll find people want you to buy a handbag in the upper range.
Please don't be naive about this. You are going to waste a lot of money giving it to people who have no intentions of hiring you, and your time. The apps won't let you make proposals to people. They want you to take creative, original snapshots previewing you wearing the product you plan on posting on social media. Often, models complain brands copy their submitted original work and have influencers of their choice or ad campaigns recreating it. Were it you buy a product and be guaranteed the job, seedy, but I could maybe understand that. The no guarantee factor makes it pay for play and something worthy of being reported to the business bureau in your locality.
This gimmick makes me sick. The app founders and staffers ask you why you are not doing as told or send you massive chain newsletters pressuring you into submitting in test photos of you wearing products. They messaged me this year when I tried a few apps and got mad when I said I was not going to do a pay for play deal for the mere chance of being selected. When I complained to some of the assorted influencer app founders and their managers running it about it as a form of explotation.
Please do not agree to this.
You need to be receiving a free product and/or compensation for wearing it on social media. Some restaurants offer people free meals, I saw plastic surgeons offer free lip fillers, all of which is fine. You should not plaster across all of your social media a photo of you wearing a purse you bought for $450 and were paid $100 to model. You should not, period, be auditioning for influencer jobs where you have to lose money auditioning. Absurd and wrong.
"Will my child be asked to have an eating disorder?"
Yes. Never believe anyone when they say their agencies won't. Most of them do. I can't say all for legal purposes. I do believe all do. Agencies and fashion brands are not one and the same. Some brands and their casting people are excellent. A few agencies now with the body confidence movement are probably afraid to do so, though I have heard plenty how some people are told to fatten up to get plus size modeling work. Be warned.
"If I'm like you and not skeletal or plus size, do I fit into modeling?"
You're a hard sell. It can be done but know if you do not fit a gimmick of the moment, you will have a lot more difficulty finding work. Fitness is too demanding and likes really muscular women like the types who win fitness competitions as opposed to everyday girls with muscle on them. People will accuse you of not fitting into sample sizes including if you do, like some girls deal with as a major complaint. Some people refuse to work with you because they think plus size is awesome but anything below it is not a politically correct promotion of their brand and won't gain sales.
Find those nice people who do exist within fashion and don't care about gimmicks. They will hire you. Skinny, plus size, average, fit, somewhere that doesn't fit a box, you'll be hired with enough hard work.
"Does height matter?"
It depends. If you're an unknown model, agency or unsigned or heck with it, never having been signed, unknown is unknown. You need to be either extra tall, too plus size for it to be a question if you model regular or plus size clothes, or delicately petite. This applies for everyone.
"How can I get around strict modeling requirements?"
Don't believe those dream stories about people being discovered in the street or dropping by an agency to have a meeting. People are not friendly. They do not do these things. People claiming they do have changed their stories to be more fairy tale-like. Of all the people who claim to be discovered, probably five percent are telling the truth.
Speaking from my own experiences:
• Make yourself look extra pretty or high fashion strange. Many brands don't want someone to be too pretty and like strange better. I can't guarantee you'll get somewhere but at minimum you'll be signed to an agency if they feel you have an exotic, striking face.
• Meet as many agency owners and fashion people outside of the workplace. Not everyone gets signed at casting days.
• Do make an effort to drop by new model signing castings anyway. You never know.
• Approach the same people again and again. They don't remember they met you two months ago, nor last week at a party. That you e-mailed them. They won't, OK.
• Have a magazine and/or fashion designer with a direct connection to the agency approach them. Remind them to say, "NAME met you last month." Rub it in. Or tell the agency you have an existing relationship with people and they can ask them for a reference. Doesn't always work. I have had a major fashion person pitch me to "the" agency and it failed.
"Does being famous help me at all?"
A lot! Get on social media and promote yourself. Make yourself at minimum online famous. Be an actress. Do anything to make yourself someone who can be at the least an online celebrity. Affiliate yourself with brand name opportunities. People are more lenient about working with someone when he/she has a following online and/or offline. You might start out getting paid social media mentions and work your way into modeling for a brand in a traditional sense. When someone like the haus of Versace sticks you in their show and ad campaign proclaiming you their season's it girl, everyone else will follow. You need that one big name to say you're the one. Don't give up until it happens.
"Does networking help me?"
To an extent. You can meet everyone in fashion and not have anyone help you. People have to help you by choice. I don't ask people for favors knowing when people have tried to help me, it's done out of their heart's kindness.
"Should I ask a celebrity/powerful person for help when I meet them?"
No! I've seen firsthand how weirded out people get when strangers run up to them selling them movie scripts or asking fashion people for help becoming models. A stranger asking you for a favor with nothing in return is pretty weird in itself. People don't realize how odd it is when they do it and always act like they're the first people to ask NAME CELEBRITY for something. Reverse the situation and imagine some guy out of breath runs up to you asking you for money without giving you a favor back. What's in it for you? Doesn't that come off rude the guy asked you for money? Pretty much the same feeling for people in that situation.
"Is there ever a time when I should model for free?"
A magazine cover or feature. Anything that big that gives you major exposure and possibilities to earn more money. A popular juniors brand wanted myself and others to model for free for a pair of pants. They could afford to pay us. Not starting out newbies. A different place wanted to give me a $50 Italian restaurant gift card. You don't pay expensive NYC rent on modeling for free. You better save your free modeling Monopoly card for Sports Illustrated or Harper's Bazaar.
"Should I do TFP (Time for Print) free modeling for a photographer i met?"
No. When you sign off on the release form, photographers aren't being generous. They resell your images to stock photos and brands globally. You could end up as the face of an escort agency, strip club ad on the side of a taxi, a Wal-mart catalogue, or plastic surgery clinic like you were a former patient. You never know. In Asia, you could be the face of a porn website in a print ad. Some people have their faces stuck on other people's bodies in porn this way. People don't take photos of you for your time and building their resumes. Nobody is that nice. The best thing that can happen is you by technicality model something for a major brand and they look like you modeled for them directly. Without you ever being paid, your image can be everywhere. Don't you in that case think some form of payment should've happened?
"Should I ever do an IMDb credit for free?"
To build your acting resume, sure. You can never have enough.
"Should I be a film extra?"
Be picky about it and make sure it's an IMDb credit if possible. Nobody hires people who are career extras. What people say is it makes it look like you don't take your acting seriously and are happy to be there. Having three extra credits on your resume is fine. 89, not so much. Wrong or right, it is how it is to casting people's and filmmakers' minds.
"I thought modeling agencies were safe when they didn't ask you for fees up front? Isn't all you say fee-involved?"
Modeling agencies hide it. Every modeling agency sending people to NYFW makes people pay a yearly fee to be listed on their website. They will ask you for all kinds of ridiculous things. People charge fees for someone to be sent your comp cards. They bill you for anything.
"When I'm a model or actor/actress, will I quit my day job?"
A model can have an Armani ad in a magazine and be in debt to an agency. You can be in magazines and have to waitress on the side. It is not a coincidence that you see the most gorgeous people waiting on your tables and working at clothing stores in Manhattan and LA. These people are appearing on TV and in magazines. They have guest spot roles on major shows. The girl who rung up your makeup may be a big deal in fashion or have sung backing vocals for a rapper's hit. You don't know these things because of the stereotypes about people getting rich. The reality is you don't get paid a lot until you make it big and you better be independently wealthy or be willing to rough it working at a bad job.
Oh yes, the latter is especially relevant. You may have a college degree or a master's. Stuffy corporate places dislike hiring people from the entertainment world who badly need day jobs. Good luck when your boss finds out you're the shirtless actor on the nighttime soap episode last week. People get fired for no reason coincidentally *sarcasm* after the boss learns you do this on the side. Everyone tells me this. I'm not making it up out of thin air. You'll find a good number of people working jobs where a degree isn't required do have college degrees. You get punished on your path to being an entertainer because it isn't a traditional career choice. Ironic, because corporate places see no issue with workplace affairs or inappropriate job interview questions like gender/race/sexuality. Being an actor or model though is not looking good for them.
Don't believe me? I know a person who was fired from working at the mall as a "conflict of interest" contract clause after he was featured in a publication. He was not nude or speaking explicit statements. The man had a nice little profile with one photo about his work and was fired. You will risk getting fired if you're in a tabloid in one sentence or have a fashion spread with your name on it. Fake employers don't like this. They love entertainment for so long as their employees are not the rappers, actors and models in it.
"Will modeling in my town help me?"
Not really. You don't get a Revlon contract by modeling in the local 40,000 population town's mall runway show. Do it for money and something to throw on your resume. Don't do it as a lifelong thing. Staying in a small town really won't help you. You need to be doing a lot on social media while you're in that town and looking your best.
Acting is a different story. Ensure that project comes with an IMDb credit. You can never have enough.