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20 Things You May Not Know About Commercial Modelling

It has been a year and a half since signed with my first modelling agent here in the UK. I stumbled into all this after being scouted . . . in my 40s. Though I had some experience as I modelled in my teens with pageants and a department store, crowns and ball gowns are a far cry from working with agencies and clients across the country.And as a middle-aged woman and mum, I honestly associated modelling with fashion, catwalks and . . anorexic/moody 17-year-olds - a stereotype and prejudice that I've discovered many others have unfortunately as well. Maybe it was my journalism background, or maybe because I had no clue what I was getting into, every time I had a job with another model,  I asked as many questions as I could. I found a lot of commonality with those over 25 in this field. I can't comment for those under 25, especially those involved in fashion/editorial modelling as from what I have noticed it is very competitive and only a few are really successful.

This post is more for the commercial model. I wrote two blog posts (Becoming A Classic Model part 1) and (Becoming a Classic Model part 2) about this last year, but I wanted to continue to dispel misconceptions a paint a clearer picture of what modelling is really like. Here are 20 things you may or may not know about commercial modelling. . .

1) Commercial models primarily are trying to represent normal people who have a great smile and a warm 'look' to them. We do not have the moody catwalk model expressions. Clients hire models to help promote their products or services such as phones, holidays, furniture, and more. In the majority of my model jobs, I look mumsy or corporate, with a cup of tea, reading a magazine on a sofa, chair or outdoor patio set.


2) Modelling, in general, is NOT glamorous. The final product looks polished and great, but this is after you have taken 200 pictures. Often it's a shoot outside when it's cold (pretending it is warm and sunny, but actually you are turning purple) and you are wearing shorts in February for a Spring ad. I have had to contort into odd positions to 'look natural', had my hair and make-up done for photos that I would never, ever wear to create an effect on camera. No, it's sooo not glamorous.

3) I wasn't exaggerating that you take 200 pictures. I can take bad pictures, but also there is the issue when you model something, your feet need to look right, your smile not too gummy, your jewellery needs to be sitting correctly, etc. Out of 200 you may have 50 great pictures but usually there are only about five that capture an emotion or look that you are really going for during a shoot.behindthescenes3





4) If you begin to pursue a modelling career, like any business, there is an investment phase. The investment includes driving to meet agents, going to numerous castings (that you don't get), creating and updating portfolios, along with signing up to essential sites that casting directors and clients can use. All of this adds up. After a year and a half, I finally feel like (in the modelling area), the income is greater than the expenses.

5) To get bigger, well-paid jobs you have an agent. I do freelance work, but if I want a good job with well-known clients, my agent searches those out. I highly advise an agent if you want to be an established model. But beware as a model because there are A LOT of scams out there (especially with children's modelling), and you need to find out the reputable agents before applying.

6) To be full-time in the UK as a model, you have numerous agents but only one per region. Every city has a different client pool, but you don't want separate agents submitting you for the same job, so you keep them spread out. All my agents are non-exclusive but you stick to having one per geographical area.

7) Your portfolio needs to represent the type of work you want to get. As a 40+ mum of two, I'm not going to do swimwear (I don't want to) unless I'm a mum with kids with most of me underneath the water in a pool. I have beauty shots, but agents have told me that a client wants to see you in the environment. My jobs are adverts/stills/videos for sofas, patio furniture, phones, etc. - so my portfolio reflects that.jeanniehighvis

Photographer Chris Rout - OK, so I don't own the high vis gear :) but everything you see me wearing I do own.


8) Most clothes you see on adverts unless its a particular fashion brand, are the model's own clothes, and you have to have an EXTENSIVE wardrobe. I have evening wear, business suits, neutral coloured clothing, pastels, and lots of white tops and beige trousers among other items. Every brief is different, and I always have to bring a ‘selection' that the client chooses. For example, in the last few weeks I had a job that required only light neutral coloured clothing followed by two filming jobs where I was in smart business attire that was mostly darker clothing. The following week I needed outdoor wear such as coats, gloves, boots and then several options of each. For all the jobs, I had to have a selection to show costume/the client or photographer, and they made the selections.

9) One of my secrets (and many other models I know do the same) is that I scour charity/second-hand shops for clothing additions. My wardrobe is probably 20 times the size it was before I started modelling as part of my career (and I've never been a huge fan of shopping). Most of what I buy are things I wouldn't wear normally like pastels or lots of beiges though I have to admit, I have expanded to different colours and styles into my everyday wear. At the beginning of the year, I had a 'colour' consultation and discovered what colours look great on me and what drains my colouring. Before last year, I would have never realised that 'rust' would be one of my best colours.

10) There is a tremendous amount of driving or train rides unless you live in London (and then you are probably on the tube all the time). In August, I had a week where I was in a different city every day for a job. In a usual week in higher model seasons, I travel at least twice a week to another city. If I'm lucky, it's only an hour but it is normal to drive 2-3 hours for a shoot.


11) Most commercial modelling jobs are what I call 'bread and butter' shoots. The large, lucrativeones are few and far between. These are a typical day rate (or half day) plus travel and can range from a corporate video to photographic stills for a brochure or online. These usually don't require a casting and are booked directly by your agent. I appreciate these types of jobs.


12) You have to attend out-of-town castings for larger jobs that are usually commercials or very big, well-known clients. So much can be done with photo editing, and casting directors/want to make sure you are the right person with the look they want for that particular campaign to represent their company. BUT If you want a larger job, you have to go to the castings (if you can) even if you chance is slim. The UK is not that big, and even if you weren't right for one job, the casting director or the production agency might remember you for another one.


13) The percentage of castings you attend and then actually landing the jobs is small. I don't want to put a figure on this, but many models have said 1 out of 10-15, but then they might get 4 in a row. There is no formula or way to predict. However, you have to get out there and show up to have results.

14) It is normal to travel 2-3 hours at stupid o'clock in the morning to get to a job. In November, I had a job with a pram/pushchair aka stroller company in the middle of London. I was picked up by the production company at 3 am to be in central London before traffic hit. They told me to bring a pillow since I wasn't driving so I could nap (which didn't happen *yawn*). The job lasted most of the day, and we headed back right before the London afternoon traffic. If you are not staying overnight somewhere before a job, you have to learn when to avoid the traffic that can make your drive twice as long and WAY more stressful.



15) Every agent operates differently; you have to learn how to work with each one. Some are high tech with online calendars, some phone, some email, others text. Overall, you need to be very organised, highly professional and have a good work ethic to continue to work with your agents.

16) The ‘all models are anorexic' is not true. Of course, there are exceptions but that is not the norm in the commercial model world. I get asked this a lot because I'm this industry, but commercial models are normal fit and healthy people. I have to say here that it makes me sad that this is a huge assumption from those outside the industry. Healthy and fit is the key, not a specific dress size.

17) Another misconception is that those in the modelling industry are ‘full of themselves' and it's all about how they look'. Again, I think the younger ones can fall into this trap, but most older ones I've met have been weathered by life and know that self-centered egotism gets you nowhere. I know that when I get home from a shoot, I make dinner, fold laundry, tidy the lounge, put my kids to bed and all those other things that make up life. I also know my 'flaws' and well, not much I can do about them, so I've learned to be content.

18) I've been asked if I have a ‘shelf life' as a model. I found the opposite is true. Most of the models I've worked with who are over 50 have gotten more work. There is a huge market for those who have grey hair and a nice smile. My favourite was when I worked with a 77-year-old who had been a model since 1968. He said he had more work after he turned 60 then he had most of his career combined.

19) Here is another misconception: The modelling world is full of dodgy/shady people. Again, there are always exceptions but all the individuals I've met in the industry are normal people with families trying to earn a living. This includes not only the models, but the photographers, make-up artists, production companies, as well as the clients. I spend all day with individuals when I am on a job, and I have met some amazing people who have done extraordinary things with their lives.

20) Commercial models usually have one other job that is fairly flexible. There are also busier seasons for modelling and not busy seasons such as the end of December through January. I have colleagues who are lawyers, real estate agents, artists, painter/decorators, truck drivers (really!), etc. I found this also to be true in the acting world as well. The key is having something that pays the bills in low weeks and is flexible when you are busy with castings and bookings. I'm grateful to have a diverse career in voiceovers, TV presenting, journalism and PR all under the banner of media.

I enjoy my career as a model, despite the prejudices and misconceptions. But if you want to be a commercial model and make a viable income, don't quit your day job . . .just have a flexible one.





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My Most Embarrassing Moment In Front Of 1000 People - A True (Hopefully Humorous) Pageant Story

My blog is way overdue since the post I've been working on for ages keeps getting sidelined because of last minute jobs (still working on it).  So in the meantime, I thought I'd 'confess' my most embarrassing moment that happened in a beauty pageant.  It's a short excerpt from the novel I wrote, 'Beauty Pageants to Brothels'.  It's true though I've changed names to (mostly) protect the innocent . . . or not so innocent.    Barbies on Parade, 17-years-old

In full late ‘80s form, my hair stood high and hair-sprayed.  It contained enough glue to hold a pencil in my fringe, which I fondly nicknamed ‘the claw’.  I wore a strapless, emerald green, sequin gown with a mammoth bow pinned to the back.  As the Master of Ceremonies announced my name, I felt elevated and confident, in my 2 ½ inch, thin heels, and began the deliberate and steady glide across the T-shaped stage.

Turn-smile-slide, turn-smile-slide, turn-smile-slide.  The seconds passed until I stood facing the long runway that jutted out into the audience.  I stopped in the practiced place, unaware of the impending disaster.barbiejeannie


Half a year earlier, another spectacle closed with photo shoots, dozens of roses, and instruction in the art of being a queen.  My teacher’s name was Marybeth Jolene, Miss North Texas 1988.

‘Katie-Beth, this is how you wave.’  The queen positioned her shiny red fingernails in the air.

‘First it’s arm, arm; wrist, wrist; fingers wave; then, blow a kiss.’  I followed her lead with my arm, wrist, fingers and then proudly finished with a pucker of my lips.

‘Walk slowly through a crowd because, remember, you are royalty now.  Smile, always smile, no matter how you feel.’  She exhorted me with a fascinating charm.  Like a thirsty sponge, I soaked up her advice.

‘Did someone coach you?’  she asked.

‘No, I kind of went through this whole thing blind.  I really didn’t know what it would be like except what I’d read in the brochures.’  I picked up my bouquet of roses, smelled them again, and put them back down on the table.  ‘It’s been stressful.  I honestly don’t know how I won.’

‘Well, you did great for the first time.  But you have the Miss Texas competition in a few months and there’s a lot more pressure there.’

‘I’m just trying to get used to wearing this crown,’ I said, adjusting the rhinestone tiara.  ‘It’s so heavy that it’s starting to bruise my head.’

‘I put a little piece of foam underneath mine.  It cushions it.’  Marybeth Jolene bent forward to show me it in the midst of her frosted blonde curls.

‘You’re the new “1989 Miss North Texas”. It’s the biggest region.  You beat 200 other girls.’  Marybeth Jolene paused for a moment, lifted her chin and lowered her voice.  ‘Miss North Texas has won the state competition the last three years.’

‘Including you, Marybeth Jolene,’ I said, and cleared my throat.  It felt odd saying her real name as all the contestants had addressed her as ‘Miss North Texas 1988’ before I won.  Now my name would be a title.

‘Yes.  You have a very good chance, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t win.’  One of the photographers knocked on the half-open door.  ‘It’s late.  There are more shots to take with the both of us, but we can chat at the queen’s breakfast tomorrow morning.’

That night, I could hardly sleep as I stroked the blue satin banner embroidered with ‘Miss North Texas 1989’, thought about the last 48 hours, and how they had brought a newfound confidence.

I enjoyed the benefits of being crowned the winner, which included appearances in the local community, and I even became the honorary guest at flea markets, the equivalent of British car boot sales.

‘Come meet the newly-crowned Miss North Texas,’ was the headline I read over and over, inflating my ego like a blow-up mattress.  I signed autographs on scrap pieces of paper and at least one oily t-shirt of a large bellied man, and the majority of my celebrity photos were snapped with adolescent boys and excited, non-English-speaking tourists.

A few months later, I entered the grand Westin Galleria ballroom in Houston with my swollen ego.  I am certain I carried an arrogant air because that is how I felt on the inside.  Of course I can win, I am Miss North Texas, Miss North Texas always wins.  And the message remained on repeat during the first two-thirds of the competition.

The affair lasted for three days.  The first day included an arrival luncheon, orientation, and rehearsals for patriotic dances that involved high heels and red, white and blue Lone Star State flags.

‘Miss North Texas, Kathryn Elizabeth Knight?  They call you Katie-Beth?  You stand right here,’ said the choreographer who wore neon pink and yellow spandex.

I stood in the middle of the stage and held my silver cowboy hat in my hands.

‘OK, now in Neil Diamond’s song when we get the last, “And I’m proud to be an American . . .” I want you to raise your hats and then wave your flags.  Show your pride girls.  You should be full of pride to be up here representing the state of Texas!”

I turned in a circle and lifted my hat up, letting it sparkle in the spotlight while I forced a smile.  My cheeks were already aching and my teeth felt dry.  I decided when I got back to my room I would coat them again with Vaseline so my lips wouldn’t stick to them.

‘And one more time, kick those legs ladies and then jump.  Ya’ll be careful in those heels, Miss Lubbock over here twisted her ankle, and we ain’t having anymore of that today,’ he said.  ‘And end it with a good ole “YEE HAW!”’

Sweat began to form on my brow, which made my foundation run.  I hoped we’d finish soon as I needed to do a powder touch-up and add more mascara.  Five minutes later we all gave each other high fives, grabbed our personal folders containing 8” x 10” portraits, and took our places in line at a long table covered with dozens of glossy images.  Each contestant scanned the other girls, searching for their flaws in a not-so-subtle attempt to make themselves feel better. I submitted a professional picture for my Miss Photogenic entry, and casually surveyed the other entries.  I was certain I would grab that coveted rhinestone crown.

On the second day the real competition began. Later, as a judge, I discovered that though the pageant would last a further day, officials had made their decision on the second day, and it was this next 18 hours that really mattered. Interviews, more rehearsals and then stage presentations filled every minute with activity and changes of clothes.  We woke early and went to bed late.

We were Barbies on parade, with plastic façades and unnatural silhouettes.  Our game faces on, our teeth smeared with Vaseline, and our hair glued as we sauntered and turned for an eternal minute as the judges examined our stances and strides in the ‘Poise and Appearance’ portion of the pageant.barbiesonparade

That evening, 1,000 friends and families of the 200 contestants crammed into the ballroom.  Pageant sponsors sold tickets at a discounted rate the first night, but it churned into a money-making event for the actual public production the following evening.

The announcer called my name, and I felt the electric buzz of the crowd.  Turn-smile-slide, turn-smile-slide, turn-smile-slide. I performed the rehearsed moves of the game until the final rotation of the routine when I stood facing the long runway that jutted out into the audience.  I stopped in the practiced place.


In moments like these, it feels as if someone turns on the cinema slow-motion effect.  I turned to set off again to finish the performance.  But something was amiss.  All at once, 1,000 gasps filled the ballroom, and I realised that one of my emaciated heels had wedged itself into a crack in the stage.  I fell, caught in mid-air only by my hands that lunged forward as gravity grappled me to the ground.

My pride followed, falling . . . falling . . . falling.  Knees on the laminate floor, dress sideways and hair in one piece over my face, I realised that I had lost my poise, my appearance, and my chance of winning.  All eyes were on me, a fraught animal caught in the headlights.  I needed to recover but wanted to run away, so I yanked the heel out of the crack, shifted that stupid Mermaid-like dress back to its proper place, flipped my cement hair back into a suitable coif, and scurried off to find the dignity I had left out on the floor.

I don’t know how I managed to hold it together as I took the longest walk of my life to the auditorium exit.  I had tasted the pride that comes just before the fall, but didn’t know a fall could be so awful.

I cried myself to sleep that night, inconsolable. The much-needed purging commenced, as I shed my pretension and my tears.  At puffy-eyed dawn, I decided to not to think more highly of myself than I ought.  Though I have often, over the years, come to that crossroads again, no journey has felt as significant, or public, as that first one.

Certain I would not win, and slightly grieved that my arrogance had thwarted what few friendships I could have gained, I tried to enjoy the last day.  During the show’s finale, officials handed out multiple awards, and I acquired the consolation prize of Miss Photogenic.  Staring out onto the lonely Texas highways on the car ride home, I felt I had gained something more than a cheap metal trophy.  I had begun to learn that the world did not revolve around me.



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Creating Art To Relieve Stress And A Published Short Story

Recently a journalist contacted me about how I create art as a way to relieve stress.  She had known about me through a community art class I had taken several years ago, and we both agreed that art was definitely not limited to the canvas.  Art can be defined as anything you create that is beautiful or thought-provoking.

'Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.'

- Roy Adzak

Whether it's for others, for my family or just for myself,  I often create art to relieve the stress in my life.  So for me art is writing, painting, jewelry making, dried floral arrangements, other crafts, along with some of my photographic work.
I do have stress at certain times in being a support to very vulnerable women who are trying to have a normal life. But funny enough, modelling and acting can also be stressful because they full of last-minute projects, travel, constant waiting and schedule changes, 'rejection', or the feeling that everything is based on your appearance or talent.  I even have 'good stress' with family responsibilities and various career opportunities.  So having artistic outlets helps keep me sane and hopefully a more well-rounded person.

How does creating art relieve stress?

1) If I have emotional stressors in my life such as a financial crisis or tragedy, when I take time to create, I feel more 'settled'.  There is pent-up energy that needs to be released somehow, and when I'm in a negative situation, producing something that gives me 'life' helps ease the tension and calm the soul.  I think the distraction of a project helps take what's momentarily negative and give it a positive focus.  Creating art can shift moods almost instantaneously.
In a previous blog entry I wrote about a challenging time in our family's life and how I used art:
'My daughter and I wanted to make something as a gift for my husband for his return, but more than that, we wanted to both have a time to create.  For two hours we scribbled and scratched and rubbed in pastels and charcoals while we listened to music.  My soul settled, and my daughter’s mood improved after being rather grumpy.  Because I found that when I create something, it’s healing.'
2) As an introvert, I find having a solitary project refuels my soul.  When I write, paint, or make a piece of jewellery, I am usually alone.  Granted, the kids may be outside playing or I might be sitting in my favourite coffee shop, but I get into a 'zone' when I create.  Sometimes I get a bit bored and have to take breaks, but often I will go for several hours and not talk to anyone.  Introverts get energy from being alone, which enables us to then be around others.  For my sanity's sake, a project is a great and valid excuse to get the alone time that I need.

One my favourite places to write in town is Cocoa in Sheffield.

3) I create to have a voice and feel empowered.  I've decided I cannot afford to stay in a victim mentality.  Maybe because I've had a few traumatic events in my life, and I've worked with those who have had very painful journeys - I think that we can move out of that victim mentality and one of the ways is to use our voice. That voice doesn't need to be verbal or even direct.  I use my voice by writing short stories, creating an emotional piece of art or even writing blog posts.
A great example is the recent posts on classic modelling.  I've gotten a tremendous amount of support as I've re-entered the industry in my 40s after years of being a stay-at-home mum.  But I've had a few, and really just a few, who have not understood.  So I used my 'voice' to try to dispel misconceptions about what I do and what it is like.  Of course, if people continue to have their own ideas, that is their choice but I felt I had the opportunity to communicate in a creative way what that life is really like.
4) Another way creating art relieves stress is it helps me grapple with complicated issues I encounter with other people.  It is a way I can express the things that are inexpressible with normal words.  When I was first exposed to a book on trafficking it contained graphic stories about girls as young as five forced into the sex trade.  One of my first responses (besides wanting to throw up or cry) was to write a poem.  It was gritty but appropriate.  I'm not including it here as I'm actually submitting it as part of a story to a publication, but something in voicing my own pain as I read their stories brought healing and then later moved me to action.
art and healing
5) Along the same lines as number 4, creating art has helped my own personal journey of past hurts or current pain.  It gives me the ability to tap into emotions, feel and then release them.
In another blog post I explained this in more depth:
 'For my personal journey, writing about numbing or painful events has brought about shame resilience to a greater degree.  It gives me a voice, when all the tapes inside my head scream that I have no voice.  It exposes the secrets that keep me in a web of shame, and  it is freeing.
I also write about things, especially in the form of poetry, that are too difficult to explain.'  
When I am writing a character in a short story, tapping into pent-up emotion is incredibly cathartic.  A great example is when I wrote a short story last summer.  The story itself had nothing to do with the current situation but the it helped me tackle the emotion of two friends dying tragically in a car accident.  Tapping into that emotion I believe created something powerful in this story.
Here is the revised (shortened) version of the story I wrote:
At this point I don't create art in any capacity as a paid job, but I find it is essential for a well-balanced life and stress relief.

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Becoming a Classic Model . . . What's It Like? Part 2

I've had a great amount of support since my last post which is encouraging because there are many misconceptions about this industry.  I'm hoping to address these and provide a little more insight in the next few months about the mysterious land of modelling, TV presenting, voice-overs and acting. But for now, here are five more things I'm learning about becoming a classic model: 1) You are your own self-employed business and 'full-time' is not normal 'full-time'.  As a model/actress/voice over artist, you are self-employed.  I have signed ‘terms and conditions’ with agents, but I'm contracted by the agent to the client for each individual job and the agent negotiates, taking a percentage of my pay.   'Full-time' for a model is not five days a week at 37/40 hours.  It's more like 1-2 days a week in addition to a casting.  This is how I can balance family life, writing, charity case work, cleaning the toilet, etc.  The challenges are not knowing ahead of time what days you will be working, as the industry functions on a day-to-day basis, and then figuring out how to plan each week accordingly.  Nowadays when I set up a meeting with friends, the disclaimer is always that I may have to rearrange at the last minute because of my job's spontaneity.  

2) Learn to get over yourself.  One of the (many) reasons I like entering into this industry after getting a BA, having various other types of jobs, giving birth to two kids, losing and gaining weight because of children, being married, etc.,  is that I have learned for the most part to get over myself.  What do I mean by that?  Having gone through various seasons of life, I've experienced ugly parts and have seen that external beauty is fleeting - it is also subjective.  Even in the last few months, I have met some REALLY attractive people, especially girls whose biggest aspiration is to be on a Vogue cover.  These girls have been under the age of 25.  And though I hope they achieve that, I also know there is so much more to life than looking pretty for a camera.

Photo Credit:

I love meeting other classic models or older actors as they too have had their trials and know that we all have flaws. The key is just learning how to deal with them.  I want to fully embrace who I am, flaws and all, and be content because it's not worth wasting emotional energy on worrying, comparison or insecurity because it only harms and taints you.

In the past few weeks at different castings, I have made new acquaintances competing with me for the same role.  Two women I connected got the jobs I had auditioned for (they were big roles) - and I can say I am genuinely happy for them.  Both women 'fit' the part and both are women I want to get to know.  I've learned to 'get over myself' and celebrate when someone else succeeds (though I do have my moments and then have to make a choice of whether or not I entertain fruitless comparison and insecurity thoughts).  And it is crucial to realise a 'no' is not a personal rejection. It's not that potential clients don't like you as a person, it's just that you aren't the right fit for the job.

3)    A full-time model has more than one agent (usually one per region) unless they sign an exclusivity contract.  But it’s not wise to sign one (in modelling) unless they are a huge agency that can guarantee you lots of work.  One agent put in their contract that 'there is no guarantee for consistent work.  Some models will have a job every week, some once a year.' There is no rhyme or reason for it.  But an agent's job, like I mentioned in the last post, is to get you experience and good work.  I also do freelance work, but it's limited at the moment while I'm figuring my rates which vary so much from job to job.

Jeanie Run cropped

4) Figure out your brand and be secure with your 'look'.  As I work with various photographers, and chat with my agents about what my strengths are, I'm learning what my brand is for 'Jeannie - the commercial model'.  I'm not 20, so I steer clear of things a 20-year-old would do like the sexy glamorous stuff.  But I do look very young for my age (down to good genes and sun cream).  This is actually a challenge sometimes because I can't always go for roles older than 40.

As I work with photographers and get some acting coaching, I'm learning my brand in addition to what type of acting roles I could go for in the future.  Classy, warm, sometimes mumsy (I get cast for a lot of mom roles), corporate, and elegant and of course, American accent, are some of the descriptions that create my brand.  I also am discovering that I do well with vintage looks,  and am I looking forward to more of this.  I want to do things outside my brand just to stretch myself, but I look most natural in my brand.

5) Learn to deal with the waiting.  In my last post I talked about the various ways of getting a job - direct booking, being put forward and casting.  The last two have an element of waiting that can be challenging.  I joked with a model friend the other day who was waiting to hear about a large photographic job that we should have an instant messaging system of 'NO;  Short-list; or YES.'

If we got a 'no' right away it would be a lot simpler as usually they don't tell you if you didn't get it.  And you have to keep the recall, and shooting dates mentally set aside in your diary after a casting just in case.  Sometimes clients take a while to decide, sometimes they inform your agent the next day.  But that's only if you get a recall, and then of course, if you land the job.  You never know if you have a quick client or one that needs some time.  Regardless, its challenging.

I did a job with a 'model' family (aka fake mom/dad/kids) and the male model has been doing this line of work for 15 years.  I'm always getting tips from more experienced models when I work with them, and his biggest advice was, 'If you are free for a job, say "yes", be put forward or do the casting, and then forget about it. It will only cause you unnecessary stress if you don't put it out of your mind.'

Last week I got a recall for a fantastic job.  When I got there, only a handful of us were being seen by producers, and I saw that it was going to boil down to the 'look' they wanted for the job, as each short-listed candidate had a unique appearance.  I felt I did well in the audition but made the choice to give up any hope that I got the job by the weekend.  I'm learning how to manage my emotions because going on an emotional roller coaster of high hopes and then disappointment every time I cast/get a recall for a large job just leads to misery.


So to end  . . . .

I have been researching Audrey Hepburn looks for a themed beauty shoot I'm doing this week - Pintrest is fantastic for my job!  Anyhow, I stumbled across this look of hers, and it reminded me of how I really want to be in this industry and my own personal life . . . may this be a 'look' we all emulate.


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Becoming a Classic Model . . . What's It Like? Part 1

I'm a full-time classic model.  It's a new career addition along with voice-overs, TV Presenting and acting.  I've not been very public about it the last six months for various reasons, but now I realise this is a large part of my life and will probably only increase.  It's also a re-emergence as I did some of this over 20 years ago, but the industry has changed and so have I. It's a world that's never dull and gives me fuel to write, though finding time to do so has proven difficult.  I've only been on this path since October in a serious capacity, though I was ‘scouted’ in the summer. But it's an incredible shift after spending the last 15 years supporting my husband through a PhD, being a stay-at-home mum and doing volunteer and charity work when I could - I have no regrets about any of that.

But I would have laughed at you when I started my blog last January if you had told me that within a year I would be meeting LA producers, adding model friends to Facebook, visiting Soho (London) almost twice a week, juggling agents/photographers, invited on talk shows, and then deferring my MA in Writing because of my new career (and for financial reasons). Yeah, I would have laughed at you and thought you had gone quite mad.

I want to write about it because: 1) I’m a writer, and that’s what writers do, 2) to dispel misconceptions because there are a lot of them and, 3) to share those random things you may not know about the industry unless you’re in it. This is the first of many posts on the subject.  It's a huge learning curve, but I want to say that I'm really enjoying it, especially all the people I'm encountering.

So, why the career choice?  Great question.  I tasted a bit of this industry back as a teenager with acting classes, beauty pageant titles (erm – there’s a lot of acting in that folks), modelling with a department store for a year, doing news updates on the radio and a few small commercials for a hospital.  Since the mid 90s, it’s not been a serious pursuit.

It's really different, between the ages of 16-25.  I love re-entering as a classic model (models over 30), as it is a whole different world when you are older (I'll do a future blog post on why).

Here I am, two kids later with stretch marks, sun spots and valuable life experience, and I’ve been given an opportunity.  And if you have a good smile, and a warm disposition, there is longevity and major potential in commercial modelling.

Here are a few things I’ve learned already:

1) I do various types of modelling but I'm primarily a classic commercial model.  A commercial model can be defined as:

Modelling for any non-fashion item. Billboards for a soft drink, mobile phone, kitchen products, toys, cereal,cough medicine, etc. are all examples of commercial modelling.  This can be in the form of web advertisements, print media, and TV.

I also do lifestyle fashion, hair modelling, catwalk (though at 5'7" I'm too short to do that consistently) as well as some editorial/high fashion.

Gettin' that moody look for high fashion :).

2) Plan to be spontaneous. The entire industry feels last minute, though I know there are reasons they do it this way.  Two weeks ago I was in London for voice coaching.  I got an urgent email asking if I was available for a shoot in a city two hours away at 8:30 am the next morning.

Last Wednesday night I got a request for a casting (audition) the following morning at 10 am in London for a two-week trip to Mexico for photographic work.  I turned down the casting for several reasons.

Some days are filled with urgent requests, others are quiet.  You never know what a week will hold. This is my 'normal' life now, very foreign for a structured person who likes to organise months in advance.  What has helped me the most is to PLAN to be spontaneous.  I need a spontaneous and flexible mindset to be able to function well in this career path.  And I'm grateful to have a husband who has the capability to support me in this (most of the time).

Here is a better example of what I model normally.  My primary roles are usually mum, corporate, etc.

3) Hold everything lightly.  Models have three ways of getting a job through an agent.  *Side note on agents - if you want to do this professionally, you really need one and they are there to get you the best jobs. They know the industry, what is right for your look and how to negotiate.  Everyone benefits when you have a good agent.

The easiest form is called direct booking, where a client sees your picture, hears your demo or show reel and then contacts the agent to book you for a job.  Easy peasy and everyone's favourite way of getting a job.

The second way is that a client sends an agent a request for a certain job and the agent, who asks your availability first, puts you forward, often along with several others, for it.  You may or may not get it, but the agent is working on your behalf.

The third way is the same as the second but instead of getting a job, you get a casting request.  These are usually for higher paid jobs and casting directors/clients need to see you in person to make a decision. Often there is a short list, and you may have a recall after a casting. Hence, my London trips.  Most casting directors are in London though a few are in Manchester.  You don't have to take all the castings, but it increases your chances on larger jobs.

4) Have an extensive wardrobe. This is listed in several agency contracts.  I had no idea that most clothes you see in commercial photos (ie., the mom at the grocery story, the woman in the office) are the model's own clothes.

For example, I had two jobs a few weeks ago.  One was a photographic job as a mum and the other was being filmed in a green screen studio for an infomercial.  The photographic brief (job description) sent to me said:  'Outdoor patio furniture shoot with various sets.  Bring lots of bright coloured summer outfits, no patterns or logos.  No dark colours or white.'  I had to bring lots of outfit combinations, and I wore four different ones for the day.

The second one was in a green screen studio (where they superimposed the background). This job brief said this: 'No dark colours or white. No stripes, logos or patterns.  Only solid colours in colours close to pastels if possible.  And NO GREEN.'  I brought six tops - fortunately they loved one of them.  The 'no green' part refers to the fact that in green screen, you blend into the background wearing green.

I'll write another post someday about revamping my wardrobe full of 'mom jeans' and becoming the charity shop and dress agency queen.

My wedding dress from 1999.  Got a bit teary when my 10-yr-old tried it on the night before.

Unless you are representing a brand, you provide your own clothes, though there are exceptions.  Higher paid commercials and speciality shoots such as bridal or vintage shoots may provide a wardrobe.  I just did a shoot and used my own wedding dress from 1999 - that was a blast from the past.

5) The first few months are mostly about making an investment. I read a blog post that said that most models take about six months after they sign with an agent before they are getting consistent work.  It's a matter of building up your CV (resume) with small jobs, creating a portfolio, and acquiring a business reputation, so you can land bigger jobs. No one knows you or if you are reliable.  You can't just be a pretty face.  One production company told me of a model who was gorgeous but kept everyone waiting and had a poor attitude.  They said they would never use her again. Who really wants a diva?

I learned a long time ago that I needed to be faithful in the little things so I can have a return later. This means keeping up with all the admin, being early to jobs, being overly prepared, and most of all, being kind and professional to everyone, no matter who they are.

Hair and make-up on a shoot by the talented Abbie.

Investments also include new make-up suitable for photographs and TV as you get make-up artists and hair stylists for some jobs, and you do your own for others.

When you first start working, you need a portfolio because it can take 3-6 months to begin to collect 'working shots' or 'show reel material'. For example, I just did a shoot for a Spring collection.  They won't release the photos to my agent to put in my portfolio until it goes 'live' in April.  I also did various filming projects last November and December.  All of them are still in the editing process, and I won't be able to create a show reel with them until at least March 2014. Portfolios are on-going and often a collaborative effort.  I'm working with various photographers, models, hairstylists, and make-up artists to add diverse shots such as bridal, vintage, lifestyle,beauty, on location, etc. to both my portfolio as well as theirs.

Another investment is also all the petrol driving to agents.  A full-time model has several different agents across the UK in different regions.  A voice over artist has specific voice agents, and actors also have specific acting agents. This also includes coaching (voice overs, acting/casting) and expenses such as a website and business cards.

I want to have excellence in everything I do, which requires time, energy, research and financial investments as I get started.

I have many more thoughts but will share them in future posts.  And just FYI -  I'm still writing as well as a case worker for rescued victims of human trafficking, and I'm loving that as well.

To be continued . . .

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The Online Work Portfolio

It has been a few weeks since I last posted and really it's because I've been working hard on the other parts of my portfolio career (the kind of career where you wear multiple hats).  Here is the new site for my modelling (UK spelling folks), voice-overs, TV presenting and acting. Besides the new site, I have signed with numerous agencies across the UK, and I have put more miles on my little car visiting agents, going to castings and working (mostly filming and photo shoots) over the last six weeks.  For example, I have two castings on Monday which may lead to two jobs on Wednesday and Friday  - all of them in London which is a good three-hour trek from here if you don't hit any traffic - right.  It's realistically four and half hours - bleh.  Good thing I'm an introvert and really like long car rides alone.

It's not dull, in fact, every day is an adventure as this whole industry seems to be spontaneous and a bit last-minute. It's quite an adjustment for the 'plan ahead not super spontaneous' gal that I am.  Oh well.

So if you are interested, here is the new site though it is a work in progress:

**And a special thanks to my friend Kris who designed my logo and got my site started.

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MA Writing Course Acceptance. . .Now What??

A few weeks ago I received an unconditional offer to start January 2014 a Master's in Writing at a local university.  I can't express enough how thrilled I am just to be accepted.  It's been months of hard work of gathering references, tracking down GPA's and old professors (BA Journalism in 1995), and perfecting my writing portfolio. There are three things that drew me to the course in the first place:  1) It assumes you are already a writer, and you want to be published; 2) It's meant for people who already have a career/job so it's only one afternoon/evening a week, and 3)The second year is devoted to your work (ie. novel, screenplay, short story collection, etc.) that you want to publish.

The course is also known for being one of the better ones in the country, and it's conveniently located only 15 minutes away from me.  BUT even though I've lived here a little less than nine years in the UK, I'm still considered an international student.  This means tuition is double (but still comparable to an MA in the States) for me.

I've applied for the one scholarship I'm eligible for as an 'international student' and won't find out until mid-December if I get it or not.  It's based solely on two short stories I've written. So now what??

Well - I'm grateful for flexibility.  If I get the scholarship, I will start in January.  It's a no-brainer because the funds are available.

Sitting and waiting.

If I don't, that's OK.  I can defer to September and work on building my new (weird and wonderful) career as a commercial model, voice over artist, actress (filming some short films these next few weeks) and TV presenter.

So stay tuned . . . I will find out mid-December.

And just so you know what I am planning for my next few posts, I'm going to write about what it's like having a massive career shift and becoming a model in my 40s- the good, the bad and the ugly along with debunking the misconceptions that go along with this profession.

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Learning Curves and A Humorous Short Story on Motherhood

I'm on a huge learning curve as I re-enter the model/voice over/TV presenter world (in the UK) as a 41-year-old.  I'm really excited to write about all that I'm learning but at this point I'm experiencing a lot of 'firsts' of signing with agencies, casting calls and auditions, lifestyle photo shoots (versus the stereotypical glamour shoots), as well as putting myself out there to try different things. So far in the past week I have recorded voice overs for a short film, an ad for a university, and auditioned for a video game character (*fingers crossed*) on top of a portfolio shoot and being cast for a car infomercial.  I also just found out I'm filming an interview about parenting and to 'audition' I sent them the following story.

I thought I would share this story in the blog world - it's actually part of a chapter in my novel.  Please enjoy the joy and pain of the motherhood journey of being in a different culture other than your own with me, and then drink a glass of wine . . . or a bottle.

PS - I did change my kids' names but it is a true story.


Timeless Torture, 36-years-old

There is a form of torture more gruelling than bamboo up the fingernails, whips laden with glass, the scratching of chalk boards or watching a bad Kung Fu movie.  It is timeless and ancient, existing since prehistoric times.  It is the ‘dragging-one-sibling-to–another-sibling’s-birthday-party-where-you-know-no-one’ torture.  And it is excruciating.

My son had his first invitation to an indoor play land birthday party.  My daughter was not her typical, cheery self as she had just got over a nasty cold.  During the ten-minute drive Caitlyn, two years older, whined and moaned.

‘Mommy, why couldn’t I stay home?  I won’t know anyone.  None of my friends will be there, and all of Dylan’s friends are boiyeezzss.’

‘Sweetheart, Daddy has to work.  I can’t leave you at home.  You’ll have fun.  Mommy doesn’t know anyone either.’

‘Mommy, please.  I don’t wanna go.’  My daughter’s attitude, adding a bit more volume to her whinge, was producing dread in me.  It was going to be a long two hours.

‘Caitlyn.  I brought you a book if you want.  But I am paying for you to play.  You’ll like this place.’

We pulled up and noticed cars crammed into the tiny lot.  I found a spot about a five minute’s walk away.  All of Sheffield, under the age of six, was in the pirate-decorated building.  Not my first choice of where I wanted to spend a wintery Saturday afternoon.

‘His name is Alphie.  I think that’s party number three on your list?’  I said to the woman with the large notepad.

‘Right.  Dylan, do you want a chocolate sandwich for your dinner?’ she asked my son.

‘Uh, do you have any protein?  Cheese?’   I hoped Dylan hadn’t heard the word ‘chocolate’.  What kid would turn that down?  I wondered if I could find anything healthy on the menu.

‘Mommy, I want chocolate.  I don’t want cheese or tuna,’ Dylan said.  He was eager to run off as my daughter clung to my trousers.

‘Right.  Alphie’s party is in the shark cave over there.’  Children and parents crowded their way through the small entrance into the chaotic kid zone.

The dim shark cave with net walls was bursting with fatigued infants and Yorkshire accented parents.  I headed over, dragging my surly daughter and running after my son, so I could at least figure out who Alphie’s parents were.

‘Ayup.  I’m Alphie’s mum.  Me name’s Rahoegoahoeanbkdna.’

‘Sorry, what’s your name again?  I can’t hear anything.’

‘It’s Rahfohewwhonbakghao.  Alphie!  Stop hitting your sister.’  Her voice was husky with the scent of cigarettes.  The mother scurried off as I tried to interpret her name.  I marvelled at how she could be speaking the same language as me.  Other parents seemed engaged in gossip or looked uninterested in conversing.  My daughter appeared claustrophobic in the net cave.

‘Caitlyn, go play.  I’m sure out of the 100 kids here you can make a friend.’  My daughter’s mood was growing more glum.

‘Everyone is sooooooo much younger.  I wanna go home now.’

‘No.  We’re not leaving.  Go have fun,’ I said.  I forced a smile as extraterrestrial parents observed our conversation.

We left the cage and Caitlyn, with a sulk and scowl, went to find her brother and came back five minutes later not wanting to go to the toilet alone.

‘Ew Mommy, there’s a puddle of wee,’ said Caitlyn.  Every time I had come to pirate indoor play area there was always a small pool next to the child’s training potty, and the room constantly reeked of urine.  I urged her to hurry and then we headed back to the party area.

The bait dangled in front of the children as they sat around tables with yellow and blue plastic plates.  Overcooked chips dripping with grease were passed to each child and placed next to the wrinkled pizza slices.  Withered, unidentifiable cold sausages were in bowls next to radiation orange puffballs of air.  One untouched plate of cucumbers and tomatoes was offered with pleading looks by each parent.  I noted the difference of food that we would have at an American birthday party.  I think pizza was the only similarity.  It always struck me as odd that we never ate the birthday cake here, just lit the candles and sang the universal song, and then pieces were wrapped in a napkin and taken home to have as a mushier dessert later.

I tried once more to make conversation for a few minutes while my daughter sat outside the party room door.  She wouldn’t come in, and I kept checking my watch.  Alphie sat on a wooden throne, wearing a paper crown, and commanded everyone to be quiet.  The shattered worker yelled again:

‘Kids, in five minutes we are going to do the “pen – natta”!’

I muttered under my breath: It’s pronounced pin – ya – ta.  And its not fa-gi-ta’s or gel-la-pe-noz either . . . it’s Spanish, people.  I hoped no one heard me as it sounded snobbish; my thin patience wasn’t going to last much longer.

‘Let’s sing “Happy Birthday” this time as a scream.  Ready, kids!’  I made my exit, plugging my ears.  My daughter started crying and begged again.

‘Caitlyn, we can make it 10 more minutes.  After Dylan eats the ice cream, we can leave. I promise.  Here, let me go buy you a special treat.’

We rushed back to the party room, and Caitlyn hoarded her new stock of sweeties that I was certain would give her dentures by the age of nine.

A few kids bashed a tissue-made ship full of candy.  One kid got hit on the head, and the parents warily hugged the walls while a blind-folded three-year-old swung the lethal bat again.

And I decided I needed a hot bath and a glass of wine, or a bottle, after this party.

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New Post: Waking Up From Hibernation and Job Transitions

My poor, poor blog has been in hibernation this summer.  There are numerous reasons including job transitions, travel and personal grieving after losing two friends in a car accident. I also put most of my 'writing energy' into my MA portfolio which I submitted about a month ago - I hope to find out in the next few weeks if I will be starting a two-year MA in Writing this January *fingers crossed*.

I think the other new thing that has been time-consuming is that I'm now represented by an agency for commercial/lifestyle modeling (think the-mom-on-the-front-of-the-grocery-store magazine NOT Victoria's Secret modeling); voice overs (American of course) and TV presenting.

Sound glamorous?  Not really - especially as I am just getting started.  I have done a few jobs in the last couple of months but mainly I'm  building my portfolio in the three different areas.  And there is so much about these businesses to understand because they can blend together or be very separate.  I hope to blog about these things in the future so I can dispel myths as I am learning. For example, unless I am representing a 'brand', the model has to supply their own wardrobe.

Who knew?  I had no idea I had to have 'an extensive wardrobe' as a model - guess I gotta get rid of those 'mom jeans'.


I do have some experience in modeling through working a year for a department store as a teenager (low-key catwalk, freeze modeling, etc.) and through beauty pageants, but that was more than TWENTY years ago. I had blonde hair and a teenage figure (oh what having babies can do to you).  I've also done amateur bits and bobs since then but getting an agent (or several which I'm finding out is the norm) puts it more into the 'professional' category.  But I am looking forward to this career shift (I'm still a case worker for women rescued from trafficking) despite all the unknowns.

So it's time to wake up the blog and get crackin' with a few new posts over the coming weeks.  And just a FYI - modeling is spelled with one 'l' in the US but with two 'll's [modelling] in the rest of the English-speaking world.

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