Young models hit the books, while building them
May 17, 2016
As they finish up high school and approach college, a trio of teen models begin to consider whether or not they are ready to commit to a career in the fashion industry.
Junior Hailey Long was approached by a modeling agent while shopping with her mom when she was 13-years-old — she signed soon after.
“I had never thought about it before,” Long said. “I didn’t even really know what it was, or how you did it.”
Long now participates in monthly professional photo-shoots organized by her agency, Look Model.
Junior Chloe Yu became more immersed in the business after beginning her modeling career in the fourth grade.
“I always liked ‘America’s Next Top Model,’” Yu said. “I really liked what they did, and I thought it would be fun to try it.”
Yu appreciates the work as it allows for her to have a flexible schedule that includes school and club volleyball.
“I am able to customize my schedule a bit because it’s not a full time job,” Yu said. “I had a few gigs last month, but sometimes there will be a dry period where I don’t hear anything.”
Photo-shoots, however, can require a full day of work and time off school — generally taking place between 9 to 5 and mainly being scheduled on weekdays, according to SHHS senior Jackson Rhodes, who began modeling 11 months ago.
“I used to say no to photo-shoots a lot, but, as senior year progressed and I had less to do, I’ve been taking more shoots,” Rhodes said. “Thus, more people can see me so I have a portfolio — I’m also building a book.”
“Building a book,” creating an industry portfolio, is important for models for advancing their careers, leading to more jobs.
Maintaining a portfolio and continually building a book is crucial, as it allows clients to see a model’s development over time, according to Yu.
“It started out slow but now I’m doing [a major clothing line] shoot in July and freaking killing the game,” Rhodes said. “I’m thoroughly excited for that.”
Teenagers work in fashion modeling more often, with the average female fashion model beginning work two years earlier, at age 16, than the average male fashion model, according to The Art Career Project.
Child models begin in more commercial business shoots for clients like Target and Pottery Barn, according to Yu, who started as a child model.
I don’t think there should be a minimum age for models because there’s always going to be a market for anyone, little kids too,” Yu said. “When you’re little, they don’t go that hard on you, so I think that any age is a good one to begin modeling.”
Child modeling is a relaxed market which changes once young models become aware themselves and their surroundings, comparing themselves to others, according to Yu.
“I’ve experienced modeling as both a self-esteem building hobby, and a tough one,” Yu said. “There are so many models that meet the industry standards. I’ve learned I can’t get discouraged when a client decides to book a different model.”
Both Long and Yu say they have experienced discrimination due to industry height standards.
“The only instance where one of the stereotypes rang true in my experience was a long time ago and it was with height,” Long said. “The shoot required me to be 5’9” or above and I thought that was unfair because I was 5’8” ½.”
Maintaining their looks and meeting industry standards could inhibit both Rhodes and Yu’s modeling careers.
Rhodes has leg scars from biking and skating which can distract from a “picture perfect” body.
On one occasion, he went to a job with a bad case of poison oak.
“I had it almost everywhere except my face and they wanted me to put on these pants that were kind of flowy,” Rhodes said. “Everyone at the shoot gasped. As a model, I’m supposed to be pristine. The scars aren’t a part of my ‘look.’”
With a standard modeling height of 5’10, Yu says her 5’7” height can prevent her from getting runway jobs, which has prepared her to seek other career plans. She credits her exposure to the modeling industry in helping her decide on a future in marketing.
“When I see all of the production that goes into shoots, it seems really cool and fun — and that’s definitely something I would want to do in addition to modeling,” Yu said. “I’d love to work on the other side.”
Despite stereotypes, Rhodes says rude or self-centered people in the modeling industry do not affect his work ethic.
“I’m the job of a moving mannequin,” Rhodes said. “I just do my job and chill. If other people have a bad personality, I just won’t work with them again.”
Yu warns that some stereotypes are unavoidable — cautioning that individuals who decide to pursue modeling should be aware of the pressures to conform and meet unrealistic body standards.
“It’s more important to be healthy than to alter yourself for something,” Yu said. “It’s not worth succumbing to the pressure that exists in the modeling world. If you can stay healthy, exercise and still do modeling, then I say go for it.”
Although she has weighed her options in the past, Yu says she prioritizes school over modeling.
“I would want to take a year off school for modeling, but I don’t know if I could,” Yu said. “School is important and modeling won’t last forever..”
Rhodes began exploring other options for his future when a modeling representation suggested he take a gap year.
“I didn’t really think of pursuing modeling because I didn’t think I could do that,” Rhodes said. “I thought that this was going to remain more of a hobby, but it could turn into a career. That would be pretty sweet.”