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Modeling in Seattle

Hannah Larson at TCM Models

 (Updated September 2016)

For some reason I have been receiving a lot of modeling inquiries lately from people who are aspiring to become one.  Instead of replying to it all, let me list the proper steps of approaching modeling in our city.  I am not a modeling agency, even though I work with a lot of them, so contacting me really does not accomplish much.  This post applies to real-world, commercial modeling in Seattle, not for amateurs or those who only want to do it for fun.  Remember, modeling is a business.

Modeling in Seattle:

Here are the steps:

– You should go to one of the major modeling agencies in Seattle’s websites to see when their open-calls are and what requirements you need to meet (height, measurements etc.).  The agencies are TCM and SMG. I do not recommend other agencies in Seattle.

1. Open-calls are castings open to public, you do not need to make an appointment to go nor do you need connections.
2. You only need to bring two photos: One “headshot” and one “full-body” photo. Snapshots will do.
3. You do not need to have professionally taken photographs to get signed if you meet the requirements and have the specific looks that the agencies are looking for.
4. You definitely do not need to go to any “modeling school” or “modeling camp”.

Once again: Do NOT go to modeling school or modeling camp. They do nothing to a modeling career, nor does it strengthen any young girls’ self-esteem (see later). Save the thousands of dollars from these profiteers that, in my opinion, provide nothing of value.

Once, and if, you are signed, your agency will give you a list of photographers whom they have already vetted to get photos taken.  It is not free, no one on the list needs to shoot for their portfolios.  Any business would require some investment, your book/portfolio is your investment.  In the Seattle area, a test costs about $400-600, depending on the experience and caliber of the photographer.  A test should never cost over $2,000, that’s absurd and a sign of a portfolio mill, and you should just walk away (repeat from Step 1).

Once you have your book, your agent will create your composite cards (big business cards with your photos on it), put you on their websites etc, both of which you generally have to pay for.  You do not pay to get signed, you only pay for the promotional materials so they can do their jobs on your behalf.  That said, if you are good at graphic design, you can also create and print your own compcards, saving you even more money. After that, with some luck, you will attend some castings, and you may get work as a commercial/fashion model.

One note on rejection:

If the agencies reject you, because of your height, measurements or “looks” (that’s all they look for initially), do not despair. It does not make you any less of a person or any less beautiful. It only means that maybe commercial modeling is not for you. A huge majority of the commercial models only last a few years, and will go to college and have a wonderful life as contributing members of society. For example, Hannah shown above goes to college and will be a doctor soon. A few smart models are now a professor at UW, a biochemist doing thyroid research, a lawyer, a cancer researcher, a teacher, a marketer, professional artists, entrepreneurs and software developers.

You have a lot of choices.

There are also many parts of you, your look is only one of the many parts, but it is also the only part that you cannot change.

You can’t change how you look (I am short for a guy, too!), but you can change what you learn. If you are rejected, smile at yourself, and move on to better things. If you want career/life mentorship, you can contact me via my consulting company.

One note on the “industry” – and a serious note to parents.

CNN Money has recently (in 2016) done an extensive exposé series called Runway Injustice. I advice all parents of teenagers who are thinking about putting your children in this “industry” to read it carefully. The practices identified in the investigative piece are real, and are current. Most of such practices in other industries would have resulted in immediate firing.

Hannah Larson, The Healthful Model, has written a first-hand experience piece in response to this series as well. I encourage you to read it.

CNN’s Lisa Ling has done another piece on modeling (2016) on how models make less than minimum wage and how teenagers are treated. It is entirely accurate. “Who knew teen models had to do this?

Parents: Your children are beautiful and do not need third party validations. Modeling can be hazardous to your children’s mental health, physical health and also financial well-being. Your children do not need to be judged on being “fat” or other random physical attributes. Many in the fashion industry are nothing but bullies, bullying young teenagers in their formative years. The majority of them do not have any medical training, mental health training or any interest other than profits. I have seen this first hand. Please think twice before enrolling them into any modeling career.

(2016) Update to add this timely and important video from the Harvard School of Public Health on eating disorders, mental health and body image. Many models suffer from negative self-image and eating disorders to dangerous degrees. With all the beating on their “looks” (and nothing else of substance), I am not surprised.

I hope this is helpful for someone out there. Please share if you think this is valuable to you, or someone you know and have questions about modeling.

11 thoughts on “Modeling in Seattle”
  1. lisa miller June 8, 2012 on 8:10 pm

    my daughter just got accepted to john casablancas modleing and career center, do u know any thing about them?

  2. Madison Barnhart May 28, 2013 on 3:58 pm

    I am a 15 year old girl that has big dreams in modeling. My very first photo shoot was when i was around three. I just moved here from cali and i would love to start somewhere that can take me and and help me get somewhere. thank you.

  3. Leo June 6, 2013 on 12:03 am

    Please read through the blog post again, and follow the step-by-step instruction there. It is accurate. Thanks!

  4. Leo June 6, 2013 on 12:04 am

    It is a “modeling school”.

  5. Lisa Brandon December 8, 2013 on 11:05 am

    Could you give me feedback about Seattle talent?

  6. Allyson Norton August 24, 2014 on 10:30 pm

    Can you add “teacher” and “mom” to your list? :) Awesome article, per usual.

  7. Leo August 24, 2014 on 10:32 pm

    Of course, Allyson. Teacher added. :)

  8. Jennifer Chaney October 14, 2015 on 4:02 pm

    Just curious…do you ever shoot short girls who will never “make it” in the real modeling world but know how to pose and are photogenic (5’1″ and curvaceous, in the good way that is popular right now). Has done many photo shoots just for fun after getting involved with some of the agencies who accept short girls, which of course never went anywhere. Also told too old (20). It is nice to take pretty pics (even if costly) and am making a really nice portfolio even if it will never be used (which is a pity). By the way, I am her mom. She’s done with modeling, but I still enjoy a good photo shoot.

  9. Leo April 4, 2016 on 7:40 pm

    All humans are beautiful regardless of height. I would, of course, photograph anyone when asked.

  10. Adéle July 2, 2016 on 1:05 pm

    Good article…..

  11. Susan Rivera August 15, 2016 on 12:27 am

    Hi Leo,
    I just wanted you to know that I found your post to be kind and heartfelt.
    I am nearly 58, and am considering pursuing a”senior” modeling career.
    I am keeping your steps on hand and will refer to them often during the process.
    Thank you,
    Susan Rivera

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