One of the questions I get asked most is how to break into the modeling industry as a petite model? Let me start off by saying that it is not an easy task, but it is definitely possible. Agencies are becoming more and more accepting of different body types and industry standards are changing. People realize women of all different shapes, sizes, and heights deserve to be represented; not just models who are 6 foot and 100 lbs.
If you are a petite model (under 5’6” is the technical height in the industry) and you are interested in becoming a model, there are several things you can do to get your start in the modeling industry. You may not be able to walk the runways in Paris or New York, but there are still plenty of opportunities available for you. Here are my top suggestions:
- Get A Solid, NATURAL Portfolio Together
One of the first steps to breaking into the modeling industry is to put together a solid portfolio. Agencies want to see what you really look like, not what you look like after 2 hours of hair and makeup with fake eyelashes and extreme contour. Anyone can look good with Photoshop and a professional hair and makeup team, but agencies want to know that you can look good naturally.
I recommend getting a variety of images ranging from clean headshots, fitness, business/industrial, and casual. You want to show range in your portfolio so that you can be booked for an assortment of jobs. If you just have images of you in swimwear, it is unlikely that a company will want to hire you for a business shoot. Get the idea? Once you have these images you can put together what is called a Composite Card or a “Comp Card”. This is your modeling business card. It usually has a headshot on the front side and 4 or 5 images on the back that shows you in a variety of poses and outfits. You can use these to give to agents or potential clients when at auditions.
- Submit To Agencies With PRINT Divisions
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of agencies that won’t even consider models that are under 5’8”. However, these agencies primarily represent runway and editorial models. Petite models tend to get the most work from “print” jobs (catalogs, ads, etc.). Although runway agencies such as FORD and ELITE book print jobs, there are also agencies that specialize in booking print models. These are the agencies you want to apply to. They help book anything from parts modeling, fitness, swimwear, catalog work, ads, and more!
Many print agencies don’t even have height requirements. All they require is a portfolio (see tip #1), and a good personality. Acting experience is a plus if you are interested in doing commercials, as many print agencies also help models get non-speaking or small speaking roles in TV ads. If you Google search “Reputable Print Agencies” in your area, you can search their websites for ways to apply. Many agencies have open calls where you can go and audition, or you can submit images via email or regular mail.
If you don’t get accepted into one agency, don’t give up. The rule of thumb is to apply every 6 months. Agencies change their needs as their clients request models of different shapes, sizes and ethnicities. Just because they denied you last year doesn’t mean they won’t need someone like you now. Also, be sure to diversify yourself and apply to a variety of agencies. The more agencies you are with = the more work you can potentially book.
- Promos and Tradeshows
I started my modeling career by doing promotions and tradeshows. It’s a fantastic way to get your foot in the door and to network with other models. There are many companies that specifically hire promotional and trade show models and book really fun events all over the country. I’ve worked everything from the Motorcycle Grand Prix in Indianapolis to Dos Equis samplings and Red Bull promos. Print agencies also book tradeshow models from time to time, so having experience is a huge plus!
- Social Media Is Your New Best Friend
Outside of agency work, I book a lot of my freelance modeling gigs via social media. Over the last 5 years, I have grown a large following on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram which has opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve had several clients hire me so that they could be seen by my social media network.
There are also a lot of companies that now scout models on Instagram. Paul Marciano is the owner of Guess Jeans and has stated multiple times that he finds his models and photographers via Instagram. Even magazines like Maxim and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit have had contests via Instagram to find models. Case in point: If you are not on social media (or if you refuse to have a public profile) – you are in the wrong industry my friend. Plain and simple.
Of course, you do have to be careful booking jobs through the internet. This goes without saying – but please check references and make sure you are safe before meeting random strangers who want to shoot you. I have worked with some of the most amazing photographers that I met via Instagram and Facebook but I have also had some bad experiences as well. I would like to say everyone has good intentions, but that is not always the case. Use your best judgement.
- Submit – Even if There Are Height Requirements
This one is important. I have had many instances in my career where I applied for a modeling gig which had a height requirement of 5’8” and above, and I still got the job. Now I’m not saying you should lie about your height, but don’t be afraid to try and apply to opportunities just because you are a few inches short of the cutoff. Sometimes you will have the perfect look and the client will be willing to overlook the height factor.
At the end of the day, the worst that can happen is the client says no. At least you tried and at least you put yourself out there. If you don’t try, the answer will always be no.
There are many things you can do to start your journey as a petite model, but it will take work. Don’t expect anything to happen overnight and be prepared for a solid amount of rejection. If you are truly passionate about it, no amount of rejection will stop you. I would love to hear your thoughts – let me know if you have any other ideas in the comment section below