Models need more than looks
"Modelling has been built up by society and the media as a cool industry that is desirable. But in reality, models are just like other [people] who get frustrated at work," says Christopher McCurdy, a model from California, whose face graces numerous TV commercials and magazines across Asia. He has also appeared in the music videos of American superstars Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.
"Even worse, some models lack self-esteem and take modelling not as a job to be treated seriously and professionally but as an occasion, a time to party. In the end, they get lost," he says.
Celina Jade, a Hong Kong model turned actress-singer, agrees.
"Like any other career, it should be taken seriously. Those who want to start modelling should adopt the same professional attitude that they would if they were to get a job in the finance world," she says.
The first rule is to show up on time, McCurdy stresses.
It's "discipline, discipline and discipline", according to Jade, who started modelling at 13.
"It's the first thing people judge you by," McCurdy says. "Imagine being late for a project that has a production cost of HK$100,000 an hour. How satisfied will the client and the people working with you be?
"What is your chance of getting another job from them? So you have to be professional," he adds.
"Once you establish a reputation that you can do the job, you don't even need an agent anymore."
Besides discipline, the ability to handle rejection and frustration is essential.
"Most people who get into modelling find the rejection part the hardest," Jade says.
"We go to casting [calls and auditions] and a lot of times clients will tell it to your face that you're too fat, too short, not pretty enough, too white, or too tanned.
"Then you find out later that you've lost the job to another person. It's hard not to take it personally and think you're not good enough, but you really can't let it get to you," she adds.
"Clients have a very specific image or character in mind. If they are looking for a Meg Ryan and you look like Megan Fox, it doesn't mean one's better than the other.
"For me, I am just in disbelief every time I score a job. Not getting one is a given, getting one is a bonus," she elaborates.
McCurdy agrees. "The modelling industry is for the determined who are not afraid of failure and can turn it into an opportunity to learn. If you fear rejections, don't be a model."
Jade says that initially, one is attracted to modelling because of its glamour, the fancy clothes, make-up, the attention and fast cash.
"Yet after a while, you realise there's a lot more to be gained.
"Being a model is like being thrown into the deep end of the pool and learning how to swim and survive," she adds.
"Having said this, when you do survive - and most of us do - you learn some very valuable lessons along the way. You meet diverse and interesting people and travel to culturally enriching places. That's satisfying," Jade says.
To McCurdy, determination and dedication are the key to success. He says top models do extra things to improve their career prospects. Networking is one of them.
"Nowadays, there's no excuse for us to do nothing to build and maintain good relationships with people in the business. It doesn't take much effort to broadcast your projects on YouTube and to connect with them via Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or whatever to show your desire [and availability] for jobs. Keep doing this and you will soon be rewarded," McCurdy says.
Tips for newcomers
- No need to buy the latest fashion items. Stay fit and you'll look good in anything
- Don't base your identity on your looks - it's a dark and windy road
- Manage your finances as money comes in chunks of lump sum