In many ways, making a career out of modeling depends on three key factors:
- Your genetic makeup
- Your determination and hard work
- Your willingness to focus on the type of modeling best suited toward your answers to 1 and 2.
Many models dream of walking the runways of Milan. Many dream of having their faces in magazines and commercials. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re one of those people. But are you putting your time and energy into the best places for your individual success?
Hard work and determination are important; they can make the difference between sinking and swimming. But no matter how hard you work at it, the nature of your body may limit where you can succeed. It can be harsh to tell someone that, through no fault of their own, they can’t do what they dream of, but the great thing about modeling is that really anyone CAN succeed. It’s about focusing your determination and work toward the areas of the industry that accept the assets you bring.
With this in mind we thought it would be useful to outline a handful of the most popular professional modeling types and explain what it typically takes, physically, to succeed in these markets. In some ways, making a living in modeling is like making a living in sports. If you aren’t tall, it’s going to be very difficult to be a professional basketball player. Yes, there are sometimes exceptions to the rule (do you remember Spud Webb?), but knowing how your genetics align with a particular genre is critical if you want the best chances to truly make a living at modeling. Also, remember that a single individual can fit across multiple genres.
Think of the big fashion week shows like in Milan, Paris, New York and London. The models all fit very strict requirements and also put a lot of work and practice into their walk. Depending on your market, however, the requirements may be less strict.
Model: AJ Knapp
Here are the basic requirements:
- Height: 5’9”– 6’0” (sometimes 5’10” and sometimes up to 6’2”)
- Bust: 32”– 34”
- Waist: 23”– 25”
- Hips: 33”– 35”
- Height: Generally 6’0” minimum
- Waist: 31”– 33”
If this is your goal, make sure your measurements are listed accurately and that your images show both your body structure and your ability to move gracefully. Also, take the time to display your look when wearing different clothing types, like swimwear, dresses and casual looks. There are designers of every kind, so focus on the types you want to appeal to.
If you fit the strict requirements listed above you are in luck, but your work isn’t done yet. Often you will spend hours upon hours practicing your walk, going to castings and then long days of work. While runway is among the most prestigious types of modeling, contrary to popular belief it rarely pays well. For a non-celebrity model, it’s normal to be paid in nothing but clothes or, at best, a few hundred dollars.
If you don’t fit the statistics above, it doesn’t mean you’ll never walk a runway, but it does mean your chances of making it a career are very low. If this is you, read on to see if your energy might be best spent elsewhere.
Model: Luckyfox; Photographer: Sarah Kehoe
Commercial work is usually based on conventional beauty. While having a face that stands out is good, the unique, odd features of many editorial and runway models may not fare so well in commercial work.
- Height: 5’7”– 6’0”
- Bust: 32”– 34”
- Waist: 23”–25”
- Hips: 33”–35”
Thin, tall body type
No minimum height. Only clothing sizes vary.
- Dress size between 2 to 4 (sometimes extending to 6)
For commercial print, think of JC Penney, which often has casual, daily life shots. To excel in commercial print, you need to be able to look natural in front of the camera. There are a lot of smiles and laughs, and usually nothing too posed. The sizing can still be strict, but has more leeway than editorial or runway modeling.
For commercials, height is not an issue. This opens the door for a lot more people, but there are still a lot of specific requirements. Mostly, commercials require acting ability even if there are no lines. There are a lot of great commercial acting classes where you can train and increase your chances of booking commercials. Outside of ability, most commercial actors are thin and fit with conventionally attractive looks.
Model: Kelli Kickham; Photographer: Vivendi Studio
Because editorial is in print, height is usually less important than in other forms of modeling. However, if you are a 5’5” editorial model, your jobs will be limited. Even if you photograph tall, clothing is pulled for taller models.
- Height: 5’8”–6’0” (sometimes 5’9” and sometimes up to 6’2”)
- Bust: 32”–34”
- Waist: 23”–25”
- Hips: 33”–35”
- Height: 6’0” minimum
- Waist: 31”–33”
Editorial modeling, like a fashion spread you would see in Vogue, is very exclusive and generally prefers tall, very thin, young models with sharp facial structures. Unique features such as large or wide-spaced eyes, big lips, high cheekbones and gaps in teeth often open doors for those starting in editorial modeling. Some of these features are considered less conventionally attractive, but are ideal in these jobs.
Model: Rachel Elizabeth Murray; Photographer: Mike Byerly
You see fitness models when you look at ads for gyms, workout videos and fitness magazines. To be a fitness model, you need to have high muscle mass and lean to minimal body fat. Generally, there is no height or measurement requirement, but a body fat mass less than 15% is standard.
Very different from fitness models, fit models are used to size clothing. While the measurements vary greatly from company to company, often a female fit model is an even spread 34-24-34 or 36-26-36.
There is no glamour in fit modeling—you stand in a room and try on clothes to determine the fit and style choices for production. Fit modeling can pay well and be more frequent and dependable than other types of modeling. However, the hardest part of fit modeling is that your measurements have to stay consistent all the time. For some models, even fluctuating an eighth of an inch can mean losing work.
Model: Jessica Vaugn; Photographer: Danny Griffin
While there is no height, age or weight requirement for glamour modeling, most glamour models are between 18 and 30 years of age, thin, fit and large chested. These are the models you see in Maxim and Playboy. Classic beauty is an asset in glamour modeling. Large lips and soft facial features often work well for glamour modeling. Outside of the look, glamour modeling is based in sexy poses and clothing, so sexual allure is a strong focus. Lingerie modeling is a large outlet for glamour models and most successful glamour models incorporate some form of nudity, although glamour photos can also be fully clothed.
Model: Ulorin Vex
Alternative modeling is what you see in Dark Beauty, Gothic Beauty, Alt, Bizarre and tattoo magazines. Often, alternative models have body mods including piercings and heavy tattoos. Alternative modeling can include pin-up work and fetish work, as well. Whereas brightly colored hair, large facial piercings and a lot of tattoos usually hurt your chances in conventional modeling, in this arena it’s an asset. These models are often booked for their unique look and posing ability.
Plus Size Models
Model: Anna Adrielle; Photographer: Arno Nieuwhof
Plus size models, like you see in Plus Model Mag, are larger than the runway and editorial models mentioned above, but still have strict height requirements. Most plus models are fit and active with broad shoulders and a larger build. Plus size models can find a lot of work in plus size catalogs, runway, commercial and lingerie.
- Height: minimum of 5’8”
- Size: 10–16 depending on market (sometimes starting at size 8)
- Fit Model Size: 18
Model: Brennan; Photographer: Corwin Prescott
There is no age, height or weight requirement for art modeling in general, but specific jobs may have requirements. Art modeling is what you see in galleries, whether it is photographed, drawn, painted or in another medium. While art modeling isn’t always nude, most work requires at least some level of nudity. It can also be very physically demanding, especially if you are modeling for an art school. This can mean holding difficult poses for hours at a time while students draw you. By hour, this work doesn’t always have a high pay rate, but it can be more consistent with repeat clients.
Usually mature models are (or appear to be) 50 years old and older. Commercial print and commercials often use mature models –think about pharmacy ads and commercials featuring families. A bright smile with good teeth and a nice facial structure can help make a good mature model, and height and measurement requirements are not strict.
Maternity models work mostly between 5 and 7 months pregnant. There are no specific height or weight requirements, but usually a fit build is desirable. Maternity models are used in ads for pregnancy products, baby stores and in a variety of commercials.