Interested in modeling as a career?
Timing is everything, and you need to go for it! Where to start? Right here.
Plus-sized teens who want to get into modeling shouldn’t expect any different requirements just because they are teens. Junior plus models must meet the same physical requirements as any other plus model. They must be between 5’9 and 6’0″ – no more and no less. Ford will consider teens aged 14 and up. However, Gary did cite a case when he signed a 13-year old but once again that is extremely rare. Also, teens must be between sizes 10 to 16. In general, a 12/14 is the ideal size for plus modeling in major markets.
The most essential requirement for junior plus models is a close, working relationship with the model’s parents and school. There is no way a junior plus model can be successful without the support and cooperation of her parents and school. Model bookings and auditions are mainly held during the week and can interfere with school, so an agent needs to be able to coordinate a model’s schedule with her parents and school.
Even though modeling is a great career and learning experience, school is of the utmost importance and should be taken seriously. Dropping out of school also isn’t a wise option. Work for plus models fluctuates between being a lot and a little. Most plus models don’t work every day so staying in school keeps teen models busy until their next audition or booking. Many teen models take their books on the job and study if there is any down time. Others get their assignments ahead of time or hire tutors. But with the help of teachers and parents, junior plus models can get the job done in the classroom and on a booking.
Teens prone to breakouts beware: models need to have clear skin, plus healthy hair and teeth. Models also need to be toned and in proportion. So if you’ve got the physical requirements, this could be a career for you.
Modeling is Work
Teen models need to realize that even though they are young, modeling is an adult world. Teens need to be as professional as possible on the set, in the dressing area or wherever the booking takes place. Most of the time, the junior model will be the only teen there, so teens should be adept in dealing with adults in a work situation.
Many young girls flip through magazines and dream of seeing themselves in an ad or editorial spread. But modeling isn’t as fun and glamorous as it appears. Modeling is waking up at 5:00 am in the morning, long hours on the set, and going on countless auditions and maybe not getting any of them. And if a model wants to work with a client again, she has to know how to please the client, connect with the photographer and work that camera or runway, so a teen interested in a modeling career should be prepared to work.
The demand is growing
Two years ago, the American image of a plus model was a an all-American woman in her late twenties or early thirties. Supermodel Emme fit this ideal perfectly and became famous because of her appeal. Emme was everywhere – on billboards in Times Square, one of People magazines 50 most beautiful people, on the cover of Mode, in Revlon spokesperson and host of E!’s Fashion emergency.
Take a look at all of the current top plus models like Kate Dillion, Natalie McLaughlin, Angellique, and Barbara Bricker. All of their plus modeling careers took off when they were out of their teens. However, that ideal is shifting. The average age of plus models working in the major markets today is in the 21 to 25 range. “And the demand is going younger and fresher, ” says Gary. We are beginning to see many junior lines like Bongo create contemporary, urban styles for plus. This creates more work for junior plus models.
But junior plus models aren’t modeling only for clients geared to the junior market. Mode regularly uses junior plus models like Ford’s Ashleigh Foster and Audra Marie for their editorial spreads. So the demand for junior plus models is not only growing in the junior market but also in the plus market in general.
So what if you are 29 years old and trying to break into the plus modeling industry? Well, luckily, plus modeling isn’t like straight sized modeling where the best time to get into the industry is when you are a teen. Most agencies in major markets will sign plus models up to 30 years of age. Local markets tend to be more lenient with age. Therefore, if a plus model has the right look and physical requirements, whether she is 19 or 29, she has the same opportunity to work. There is no indication that plus models out of there teens will lose their appeal. It is a known fact that over half of all American women are sizes 12 and up. Magazines and retailers will continue to use plus models of all ages to represent their customers. This just gives junior plus models the opportunity to have longer careers since plus models can work well into their 30’s and in some cases even longer.
A Model on the Move
When I get in contact with Ashleigh, she doesn’t have time to talk. She’s out the door on her way to a booking. That’s how life is for Ashleigh Foster, Ford 12+ division’s top junior plus model. If she’s not doing editorial spreads for magazines like Mode, Girl and YM, then she’s being featured as a role model for teens in Cosmo Girl. Also, she has appeared in countless ads and catalogs.
But life wasn’t always peaches and cream for Ashleigh. Even though she may be a top junior plus model, she is no overnight success. Her big break came when her agency, Plus Figure Models in Toronto, forged an alliance with Ford’s NYC 12+ division. Even though Ford has an agency in Toronto, at the time Ashleigh sought their representation, they were only taking straight sized models. However, Ford 12+ in New York expressed interest in representing Ashleigh so she visited New York City in November of 1997. Ashleigh promptly signed with Ford’s 12+ division and moved permanently to New York when she turned 18 and finished high school.
But modeling isn’t the end all be all for Ashleigh. She travels back and forth between courses she takes in Toronto and work in New York City. Ashleigh is studying to become a make-up or special effects artist. For Ashleigh, modeling is a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
Ashleigh says to those teens interested in plus modeling to be persistent and go for it but, it is not easy. “I have seen girls get signed one day and booked the next, but that’s not usually the case. For the majority of models, it doesn’t come easy. Most of the girls I know had to work hard.”
Ashleigh notes that rejection in the modeling industry can be hard on a teen’s self esteem. “This is a business and you can’t take rejection personally. You cant let it affect you. Stick with modeling and your persistence will pay off.”
Ashleigh has been modeling for 41/2 years and it is evident that her dedication to the business has paid off. But Ashleigh doesn’t take all the credit. She notes that she could not have done it without her parents who were there to support her every step of the way. “There were times when I couldn’t pay my rent and my parents helped me out, ” Ashleigh notes. “They are my biggest fans. Also, I was lucky to have Gary at Ford, believe in me and my potential.” PM wishes Ashleigh the best of luck in her career.
So if you are a plus sized teen and interested in modeling, go for it! In an industry where timing is everything, this may be your golden opportunity. Where to start? You’re at it. Read all you can. Ask questions. Try sending your pictures to local agencies in your city and see if they will represent you. If they do, see if you can get your feet wet by doing local mall shows or appearing in local newspaper or magazine ads. This is a great way to get experience and maybe even get noticed by the larger agencies. Or if you are really ambitious, go for New York City.
Check out PM’s Modeling 101 section for all the details on what you should do to get started. And, if you are a teen, don’t forget to talk to your parents and have them help you with your career. Your parents will want to make sure that the agency you are interested in is a legitimate business and not a school. Also start up costs for a modeling career isn’t cheap so your parents will probably have to help pay for your pictures and cards. But most importantly, believe in yourself and good luck!
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