There are two common ways a model can find an agent: open calls and mail in. Relying on being discovered while shopping at the mall is not a good strategy (but it can happen).
Finding agencies to approach
When looking for an agent, find the nearest mid to large size city with agencies who represent plus-size models. You want to find a good mother agency that will guide you and develop your career. This process is much easier if you don’t live too far away (a few hours drive is about the limit).
Large markets include New York, LA, Chicago, and Miami. Mid-size markets include Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, and a number of other cities.
There are PLENTY of people out there looking to take advantage of aspiring models. Stay away from any agency who asks for money as a “signing fee” or pushes classes. They make their money off of the fees they charge rather than finding you work. A good agency makes money only when you work. The bottom line is that you don’t want to spend any more than what is absolutely necessary at this point and you do NOT need classes to model.
“Look at me!” photos
While the first step in becoming a plus-size model is finding an agent, every aspiring model needs one thing before approaching agencies either via open call or a mail-in: photos. Do not give into the temptation of a “professional” shoot right now whether that means Glamour Shots, portraiture, or a fashion shoot with a pro. Trust me when I tell you that agents don’t want to see them at this point. They really, honestly only want to see snapshots.
Consider this, what you think makes you look amazing may not be in line with how an agency will market you. This means that $500 you just spent to impress the agencies could actually backfire. If you are signed, you will likely be asked to test with another photographer which means shelling out another $500+. And, guess what? They are going to take candid snaps of you anyway and that is what they will base their decision on, not your spendy photos.
Find a friend or relative with a decent eye and get shooting!
- Outside is better than inside. Natural lighting is much more flattering than being blinded by a flash.
- Pick an overcast day when the sun is filtered. Sunlight is harsh and unflattering. It generally makes most people squint or tear up and can cause really nasty shadows. The only exception to this rule is shooting at sunset. The gorgeous golden tone of the light is very flattering!
- Wear form-fitting clothing. Avoid wearing all black, patterns, shiny, or bulky items. Also a no-no: anything that makes you look like you are going to a club.
- Keep your hair and make-up fairly natural. If your hair is naturally curly, wear it curly. You don’t have to go without make-up, but really keep it light. Trust me, if you have bad skin, the agents are going to notice when they see you in person.
- Smile in at least one photo. Being a model isn’t all about looking sultry and pouty, especially in the plus industry.
- Don’t get tripped up attempting fancy poses. Just relax and be yourself.
- Bouquets of roses, pianos, hats, gloves, puppies, stuffed critters, wine glasses, sexy lingerie, latex, rubber, your boyfriend/sister/BFF/children, and props of any kind do not belong in your snapshots.
- For agency visits, you really only need one headshot and one full length shot. Anything else is overkill. Take at least two rolls of film and pick only the very best.
Obviously, going into an agency for an open call can be a nerve-wracking experience. Not knowing what to expect or what the agency will think of you can be daunting. Most agencies will hold an open call at least once a week. This essentially means anyone and everyone who wants to model shows up. Chances are, you will be one of the few plus girls in the room (but don’t let that get to you).
As mentioned above, when attending an open call bring one headshot and one body shot. On the back of each, you should write your full name, phone number, height, dress size, measurements, age, and shoe size. Wear clothing that is body conscious and stylish that emphasizes your assets, but do not dress like you are hitting a club. Jeans and a fitted t-shirt with some cute heels is perfectly appropriate. Style your hair as you normally would. The agents will want to see the texture, condition and length of your hair. If you opt to wear make-up, keep it really light and natural.
At the open call, you may or may not meet with agents. Some open calls have you provide your photos and information to a receptionist. Your pictures are taken to the back of the agency where they are reviewed. If the agent is interested, you will be asked to stay and will be interviewed in person. If they are not interested, you will get your photos back and will most likely be given a letter with information about other local agencies.
Some agents walk out and actually tell you what is wrong with you and why you aren’t cut out to be a model. While some agents are tactful, others really have no problem at all announcing to the room that you are too flabby. If that thought causes you to think twice about open call, you might not be prepared for this industry. Criticism (sometimes harsh) goes with the territory and you need to approach every harsh word as a chance to make an improvement.
Common mistakes models make at open calls:
- Heels are fine, but wearing heels thinking that the agency won’t notice that you are 5’5” is a mistake.
- Wearing tons of makeup. We would, on occasion, ask potential models to remove their makeup if we thought they were hiding something.
- Don’t get too tan or wear heavy self-tanners or bronzers. Though some color is good (fake or real is up to you), too much color can make you look old.
- Looking slutty or too sexy. Agents want to know you will present yourself well on a casting or go-see.
- Coping an attitude. Oh puh-lease… You may be gorgeous, but if you are snotty, it won’t fly.
- Lying about height, age, experience, or dress size to impress agents (there is no faster way to humiliation)
If making it to an open call is a challenge for you, most agencies will accept mail or email submissions from prospective models. In terms of photography, the same rules apply as with open calls.
Remember, when you mail photos in, you probably will not get your photos back, so ensure you have plenty of copies. If you enclose a self-addressed, stamped return envelope, your chances of getting your photos returned is much higher. Just be sure you include your stats and contact information on the backs of your photos. You want to be sure the agency can contact you if they are interested.
Though being proactive about finding an agency is the fastest and easiest way to start your career, models are scouted by agents every day across the country in malls, at colleges, events, and most anywhere you can imagine. However, not all scouts are legit. Ask to take a business card and then do your homework.
Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, accompany a scout or agent anywhere. Take their card, thank them, let them know you’ll think about it, and then call and make sure they work for the agency they say they do.
Some scouts represent conventions passing through town or modeling schools. I still recommend avoiding modeling schools, however, conventions are a legitimate way to find representation as they typically attract agents from around the country. However, if you are right for modeling, you don’t really need a convention to find representation. Also, do your homework and make sure the convention is a well-respected one. It’s perfectly acceptable to call an agency and ask if they are either attending or familiar with the event.