Hi mom! We have talked for years about reaching out in one way or another to aspiring models and educating them through the process of beginning their modeling career. When I showed interest in high school, we didn’t even know where to start. We thought our only option was to pay thousands of dollars to an agency that took us to a NYC convention that did nothing for the models but grab our money and run.
Now 10 years later, you and I both have learned a lot of lessons along the way.
~My mom rode the rollercoaster of emotions with me over the past 10 years…the amazing travels and highs to the many rejections. Sometimes I don’t think I would have lasted as long if it weren’t for her (and my dad’s) love and support .
What would you have done differently with me knowing what we know now? Most definitely, I would have trusted your instincts more. You were such a level-headed teen. You researched everything (and still do) before you made any decisions. You have loved New York City since you were a little girl. When you started to talk about moving to NYC, your dad and I were totally against it – we thought it would be a bad career move for you. Miami seemed a better fit – you have that wholesome blonde, beach girl look which was perfect for Miami, in our opinion. But when you finally went to NYC, almost immediately, you had jobs, felt very comfortable living there, and – I’ll say it, you LOVED NYC and still do!
I can tell other parents, if you are unsure if the time is right for your teen to start modeling and they are given an opportunity to move to a different city, make sure you make a trip and see for yourself what the city is like. Check out the transportation, the living quarters, anything your child will encounter and make your own decision. So much depends on them – how old are they, would you leave them unsupervised at your house for a week? If under 18, you still make the final decision.
Probably my biggest mistake was taking you to an agency that was 4 hours away. I should have done more research and found a local agency to start with. Even ten years ago, the internet would have given me more advice on watch outs. We just kind of blundered our way into the modeling world and I feel we wasted valuable time.
Do you think I would have emotionally been ready at 17 to start modeling full time? In your opinion what is the ideal age to start? Every person is different. As a mom, and your dad agrees, YOU were not ready at 17 to handle the rejection, the travel overseas to countries where no one seemed to speak English, living alone in a different state and country, and managing finances. I am so glad you waited until you were a little older to make modeling your full-time career. When you got serious about it, you had the ‘know-how’, drive and courage to be successful. High school was not your happiest time – even pretty girls get bullied. But, you survived, made a few good friends, played sports, went to proms and learned how to survive some really negative emotional experiences. Those four years prepared you for the modeling industry whether you know or not.
Do you think I would have benefited from going right to NYC out of high school or are you happy I went to college? You know how I feel about college or additional education – every year spent in college gives you a polish, shaping the young woman you have become. Whether you believe it or not, I think your four years in college added to your appeal as a model. You are so well spoken and confident – much of that came from your years in the academia world. Maybe if we had let you go to NYC at 17, you would have been another Tyra Banks but I think not. The modeling world for most is short-lived. When it is over, you must be prepared to do something else and having a college degree or even college experience is invaluable.
Would you recommend parents put their kids through modeling classes? I have mixed feelings about that. The agency we chose for you did not give you a choice. In retrospect, I think the classes helped you be more comfortable with your height. For the first time, you had adults (other than family) telling you how beautiful you were. They taught you how to walk, apply makeup, dress like a model and introduced you to the fashion industry in a way you would not have had without the classes. That program forced you to be in front of people. But, I will not sugarcoat it – coming up with the money for the sessions was a financial hardship for us. But, we could see what it meant to you and we felt you really had a chance to be successful – so we made choices. You were so passionate about the modeling – we had to give you a shot no matter what it meant for your dad and me. Before any parent shells out money for classes, however, make sure the agency is accredited and has at least 8-10 years in the business. Insist on meeting with them face-to-face and ask for references from other models or photographers. Do not sign a contract without reading every single line!
What are the pre-requisites for a girl/boy to have before they enter this crazy world? A good support system – parents, siblings and/or very close friends – are extremely critical to your success. The aspiring model must have special, compassionate people to call and cry to when the agency tells you your hips are too wide, your hair is too thin, or your face is too pretty (never did understand that one!).
First, ask someone you trust (not just a friend from high school) to be honest about your appearance and be prepared for what you hear. I believe that we were very candid with you – you have striking features, a beautiful athletic body, and a funny, smart personality. You were not the stick-thin beauty that some of the runway models show but you had the hunger and drive to make it work for you. You were determined to be successful and that is imperative for any career – whether modeling or a clown in a circus.
The new model should definitely contact at least one if not two local agencies. Send the agency candid shots and see if they have an interest. It is always a good idea to check all agencies with the BBB – we did that for every modeling agency or photographer that showed an interest in you. If a local agency says you are not model material or you are too young or old, too heavy, too whatever, believe them and look elsewhere for a career. I also encourage all aspiring models to take a class on public speaking.
What about paying taxes and getting paid for the jobs? Help your child set up a spreadsheet to keep track of every job – the date, what was paid, and what expenses you incurred for that job. This will include mileage, cell phones, printer cartridges, photos you paid for, hair color, pantyhose, shoes, etc. Write everything down – every penny spent even if you are not sure it counts. Expect they will not get paid for up to 3 months after the job – this is standard. Search for a tax accountant that is familiar with actors and/or models. It takes a special skill to complete the tax forms for this job.
Any final words of advice for parents or for the models? Be there for your child – encouraging, supporting, and cheering them on. Trust your gut – if something doesn’t seem right with an agency or photographer, pass it up. If your child is really model worthy, there will be another job. Be prepared for disappointment. You might think your ‘baby’ is the most beautiful in the world but very few make it to the top and pull in lots of money. Modeling is long hours in often uncomfortable environments and frequently, for little money.
My final advice is ‘neither you nor the agency should push to lose weight’. My daughter watches what she eats, exercises moderately and has learned to embrace her curvy figure. There are agencies out there that accept her the way she is and find ways to showcase her attributes. Stephanie is passionate about eating healthy and not starving herself to get the next job. Modeling can be rewarding but it is a commitment for the parent as well as the aspiring model. You will be part of the successes and failures. Stephanie has no regrets about going into the modeling world. Our family could not be more proud of all she has accomplished.
For any parents out there who is getting their child into modeling I would suggest you buy this book called Making a Supermodel: A Parent’s Guide. It is written by Supermodel, Sessilee Lopez’s mother/manager.