To be honest, I never thought I was model material. Growing up, I never thought of myself as conventionally beautiful, and my perception of modeling from the media made me think that super-human looks were a requirement. I also thought models had to be a level of thin that my body could not healthily sustain. I had never known anyone who modeled so the industry was a total mystery to me. I had no idea how to begin and at 21, I was probably too old to even start, right?
All those inhibiting mindsets were wrong! I’ve been surprised and thrilled to find through my journey that there is a place in the industry for women like me.
So how did I get started?
While pursuing my BFA in Musical Theatre at ECU (go Pirates), I needed some new headshots to use for acting auditions. I hired a local photog and while we were shooting he asked if I had ever modeled before. As I said, the thought had never crossed my mind, but he gave me some pointers on posing and moving naturally for the camera and I had so much fun and felt so empowered. A few weeks later, I got a random DM on Instagram from a photographer who asked if I would be willing to shoot with him. I saw he had shot with a few of my friends already and his work was incredible, so I pushed through my fears (I don’t know how to pose! What do I do with my hands! What if he regrets asking me!) and I said YES.
First Headshots by @officiallonzo
And a lot of those fears happened! I froze up, I didn’t know what to do with my hands literally the whole time, and I had accidentally chosen a shirt that exposed my belly every time I raised my arms (oops). But Matt was so kind as to walk me through every shot and encouraged me the whole way through (he is still one of my favorite photogs to this day). And WOW his work was incredible. With these images, I thought “maybe I COULD actually do some modeling”.
From my first ever shoot with @matthewmarlowphotography
I had been seeing a girl in some of my FB groups absolutely killing it as a freelance model. At some point I commented on one of her pics and we ended up following each other. She had been SO generous in the comments of all her modeling posts to hype up aspiring models and give them advice and one day I replied to one of her stories saying I wish I knew where to start. She recommended creating a separate IG account for modeling to use as a portfolio. And I did just that!
Once I had uploaded a few pics on my new Instagram account, I started searching through photography hashtags that were location-based (like #raleighphotographer #ncphotographer) as Lauren had suggested. I followed a lot of photographers that I saw working with models, and I responded to any castings I saw (even the ones that asked for experienced models). Fake it until you make it, baby. If you’re interested in growing a following on instagram, click here to read my post listing the apps I use to keep my followers active and engaged.
So thankful for @laurenalbertdoes
I also joined FB groups created for models and photographers to network in my area. I put out requests to shoot TFP (time for portfolio, aka a trade of modeling for pictures). However, for me personally, I’ve found a lot more success responding to photographers posts than creating my own posts. So I turned on FB notifications for those groups and worked with a variety of photographers. This is also how I got a paid gig for my 3rd shoot ever, by responding to a FB group casting. There are also a LOT of creeps in these groups, so please be sure to check portfolio and references before meeting up with someone. There is a huge difference between a photographer and a pervert with a camera, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference until you are in a dangerous situation (I’ll be making a post about safety tips soon).
This is one of the first groups I joined. And hey! Now I’m the cover photo.
Here’s one of my posts that I made looking for photographers.
Before you know it, another local model (Cailyn Connelly) and I created an IG feature page/meetup group called Sweet Carolina Collaborative! Through this account we created a community of creatives that I will be forever grateful for. Community is key, and being kind and giving will get you far. Through SCC, we organize photography meetups that generally revolve around a theme. My favorite theme we’ve done was “Celestial in the City”! At these meetups, models and photographers network and shoot photos. These events are my favorite because you can work with a lot of different photography styles, even some people you may never have worked with otherwise. I also learned a lot from watching other models pose at my first few meetups.
@sweetcarolinacollaborative, the feature page that @cailynconnelly and I created together.
For the next few months, I continued to do TFP to build my portfolio in all categories: lifestyle, editorial, fitness, swimwear, fashion, beauty, etc. I also did occasional paid freelance jobs during this time. I knew my dream was to go to NYC for my final semester of college, and that an agency contract would not allow me to leave, so I did not apply for any agencies yet. I got accepted to the Tepper program and was able to make it to NYC (yay!). I was mostly focused on theatre and school at this time but also got the chance to work with some incredible photographers and attend some big girl NYC castings (it took me at least a month and a half to build up the courage to even go). Overall, I was thriving and had decided to stay in NYC after school. I had just taken some digitals to apply to New York agencies when…
Cue COVID-19. Not even a week after I had taken my digitals, my program was moved to online and I was asked to leave the university housing. So, I went back to North Carolina. The only benefit I saw from this was that I knew of an amazing photographer here in NC who could take much better digitals than the ones I had snapped with my iPhone.
And it worked!
Digitals taken by @jclarkphotography
I got an email from a few agencies interested in (digitally) meeting with me, and after careful consideration I signed with Locke Models. I love my agency and chose them because they truly care about me and my career, and see my size as an asset, not something that needs to change.
I have really loved my time with them so far and feel so blessed to be able to do what I love. I hope you enjoyed reading my personal story. If you are interested in signing with an agency, the first step is avoiding scams! Click here to read my post on how to make sure a modeling agency is legit.