Take a look at the modeling industry from those who know
I had the pleasure of interviewing Karine Roman, Vice President and New Faces Director of LA Model Management, in Los Angeles, on various aspects of the modeling industry. Karine proved to be a mine of information after almost a lifetime in the business. She told me, “I have been in the modeling world most of my entire life. I did my first job when I was three months old and my last when I was twenty-seven and pregnant.” Her career began in France where she was born and took her to Germany, England and Asia. When she came to America, her first agency was LA Models where she stayed for several years. Then marriage and a growing family helped unfold a different chapter of her life. She said, “When I decided to return to the modeling world, I realized I was a little too old to start again in high fashion, so I became an agent.”
Since taking over the position of Director of the New Faces division, her mission has been to educate new models on the career they have chosen and guide them onto a successful career path. When she was working her way to the top, there were no how-to books for a modeling career; there was no way of knowing what the pitfalls and problems were, or how to avoid them. To accomplish her goal she started an intensive, free weekend modeling camp for new models at the agency with workshops, talks and seminars. She included the following topics for the weekend: runway technique, skincare, makeup, hair instruction, and posing for photographic shoots. The pros and cons of social media and how it can be used safely and to their advantage is also a vital part of the curriculum. Karine told me during the camp models create a lasting bond. They are taught that each of them is unique and has a specific category of modeling to which they are most suited.
We discussed changes in the industry in recent years. She told me, “Now, it’s not just about size and height. It is about someone who has more to offer the client than just a pretty face. Clients are looking for interesting people to represent their brand. It is no longer just about how you look, but about your passion, your ethics, your talent and your other qualities.”
Karine cautioned that Haute Couture (High Fashion) is a specialty which has mandatory height requirements of 5’9” and over. At the other end of the spectrum she encouraged, “Right now some of our biggest money makers are girls who are 5’4” and 5’5”. Five years ago that would never have happened. Now we have the possibility of representing all kinds of people and ethnicities. It is really beautiful.” When I asked her what kind of models she looked for, she answered, “We are looking for a person who sends out a message, someone who is going to be kind, caring and who has a lovely personality.”
Her advice for parents and models is, “For parents it is a little scary and they need to have great communication with their daughter’s agent. The agent also has to give a lot of support. It is a two-way commitment. I tell the models, “No matter who you are or what your talents are, be true to yourself. Be authentic! Don’t try to be someone you are not. Be very cautious and aware of your surroundings at all times. Stay alert! It isn’t necessary to be scared, but be cautious!’” Karen also advised the best way for prospective models to get started is to send the agency an email which includes their name, height, measurements and age and to also attach a few pictures.
LA Model Management has a sister agency in New York called New York Model Management. The bi-coastal agencies can represent models in all aspects of the industry all over the world. It is a happy agency. For over twenty years I have talked with models, bookers and others at both agencies and they have always been kind, sincere and generous with their time and information. An atmosphere of courtesy and friendliness prevails, which accounts for the agencies’ respect and popularity in the industry.
Model and actress, Autumn Russell, is a training instructor at the John Casablancas Center in Detroit, Michigan. She graduated with a BA degree in Digital Media Specialties in film, video editing, web developing and graphic design from the University of Detroit Mercy. Her students benefit greatly from the diversity of her education and experience. I met Autumn at the International Model and Talent Association 2019 in Los Angeles where she had brought some of her trainees. I asked her what she enjoyed most about her career. She told me, “As a model I love the energy of being on stage for a runway show and feeling the energy from the audience. I also like fashion and editorial shoots because I like seeing the end product turn out to be something amazing. I do graphic design in film, so when I am editing I get to see the raw footage process culminate into something awesome and polished.”
We discussed changes she had seen in the modeling industry since she started five years ago. She said, “This is a good time for African American models. People want to draw out that culture. I have also seen extreme changes as far as acceptance of body types, hairstyles and different lifestyles. When I started, you had to be a specific size. Some designers still have sharp stipulations about height and measurements, but I know there are designers who are becoming more inclusive. We need more role models who are plus-sized.”
Here is Autumn’s advice to young people contemplating a modeling career, “Start with local fashion shows. Find out who does them in your area and try out. Make sure you can take the pressure and that this is something you want to pursue. If you are 5’8”, don’t try out for high fashion shoots because you will be discouraged when you don’t book the job due to your height. If you are 5’8” or under, you are not tall enough for high fashion and you might want to consider commercial modeling. It is important to know your niche in the fashion market.” Autumn stressed that in the beginning there will be a lot of “No’s” and rejection is all part of the process. New models must be prepared to travel and invest in themselves. Her advice for parents is, “Be supportive! Modeling is not like a career in nursing, or becoming a surgeon where you are guaranteed a career. In modeling, there is a lot of trial and error. Young people need to be encouraged to persevere. Parents have to understand and accept that.”
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