The Business of Plus Fashion:  So You Want to Be a Plus Model Agent?

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The Business of Plus Fashion:
So You Want to Be a Plus Model Agent?
by Monica Rasso,
Regular Contributor at (September 24, 2007) Plus-Size Designer Clothing Shopping Directory >> Plus-Size Dresses Shopping Directory >>
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How to Get Started

Since the plus division was new at my agency, I really got the chance to build it from the beginning. In the simplest terms, a modeling agent is someone who books jobs for models. But there is much that goes on before booking a job! Some agents, in conjunction with the agency owner, also get to select the models for their division. I held open calls at my agency and did all the advertising to find models. Models are the “product” of the agency that we sell to our customers. The “customers” include companies that need our models for advertising, fitting, or marketing purposes.

A great agent must have terrific business and management abilities along with strong morals. I had to earn the trust of my models by being consistent, honest, and hard working. To earn the trust of the companies (our customers) I had to be business savvy to make deals and also provide them with reliable, well-trained models. Both the models and the companies have to be convinced that you know the industry and how to do your job. So how do you learn to be a modeling agent?

As a new agent, I had to find models and find jobs for them. I searched modeling websites, advertised open calls in local publications and online, and took walk-in appointments. When I signed a model, they had to commit to getting the minimum amount of photos that I needed to advertise for them. This usually involves having a clear headshot, full body, and some other photo such as something outdoors or in a location like an office….just something unique! The only expenses a beginning model should have to pay for is good photos and composite cards, which can run as high as a couple of thousand dollars depending on the photographer chosen. An agency will typically refer photographers to use and some agencies even have their own in-house photographers. A model usually has to pay for these services upfront herself, although some agencies will allow the model to sign a contract and have the cost of the photos and composite cards deducted from their first paycheck. Without good photos, the model may not be selected for a job. Without a composite card, the agency has no way to show the model to their customers!

So, what did I look for in a model?

In selecting models, I mainly did not want two that had similar looks represented by my agency. When judging looks, I wanted a variety of ethnic backgrounds and, of course, very beautiful women with great skin, hair, and smiles! I needed a variety of sizes from 12 to 26. The most common size that customers wanted was a 14 to16. Now the popular size for plus jobs is more often size 16 to18. Height is also important. I selected taller models in the range of 5’8” to 6’. There are exceptions to this height requirement for fit models, especially if a company needs a size 22 petite to fit! The agency will develop models that the customers need. The most demand is for women with evenly balanced proportions, or in other words, the classic hour glass shape. But, there are a variety of shapes and sizes of women that a modeling agency may need to have available, depending upon the demands of their clientele.

If you are an aspiring plus model reading this, remember, agencies are a business. If they reject you IT DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE NOT A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN. It simply means the agent does not believe they will be able to find work matching your particular look, or that the agency already represents someone with a similar look. Great self-esteem that can take hearing “no” more often than “yes” is a requirement for success in this industry.

Networking and Locating Work for Models

After I had a book of just six models, I began to work on my relationship with customers. I called companies in the area that use plus models for their advertising and fitting needs. I told them about my company, our goals, morals, and opened a discussion on their needs and how we could satisfy them. I used any source that I could find in order to find jobs for the models. These sources included newspapers, online websites, and word of mouth recommendations.

Once I had models and a few customers interested, I had to make sure our contracts were in order and that the models would be protected when going to a job. I would never want to place a model in a situation where she could be in danger! We checked the background of our customers and made sure contracts were properly signed so that we would get paid. So how much do we get paid?

Payscale and Hours

Modeling agents are typically paid a percentage of the fee charged to customers. So, if I am not booking jobs for my models, I am not getting paid. There are laws that regulate how much of a models payment the agency can keep. My agency took 20% and I received 15% of that. I received a higher amount than some agents because I worked for free until I had my book of models and clients established. There are other ways to make money in the agency besides just commissions. I was paid a portion of the in-house photo shoots that I supervised and served as a “mini stylist” to get the shots that I know will be marketable to our customers.

The hours that an agent works are varied. I was able to work during business hours usually from 10am to 6pm, but I always made my own schedule. Again, if I’m not booking jobs, I’m not getting paid, so it was in my best interest to be at the office searching for models and booking jobs! Sometimes I would come in on a Saturday or Sunday to host an open call. And occasionally I would show up at a photo shoot to ensure that the photographer knows how to shoot plus-size women to their best advantage. But I could write a whole article just on shooting plus-size models!

In Conclusion

Working as a modeling agent can be a stressful job, but overall it is very satisfying if done well. In an industry where morals are sometimes compromised, you have to commit to yourself to never cheat a customer, model, or your agency. The money is there to be made depending on how smart you work. You don’t have to work hard, you have to work “smart” by concentrating on the activities that will get you paid. Those activities involve keeping your models, customers, and boss happy. An agency is only as good as the reputation of its owner, agents, and models.

If you are willing to work hard, sometimes for free until your book of models and customers is built, go talk to a local modeling agency. You can call the owner or manager and set up an appointment for an interview. If they see that you have the drive, determination, some industry and business sense, you might just land a rewarding job as a modeling agent! In any job, remember to commit to being the person that you want to be and never forget who that person is! The modeling industry is competitive, and getting the jobs for your models will be competitive too. If at the end of the day you can say that you did your best, then you’ve done enough. Good luck!

About the Author

For seven years Monica Rasso worked as a plus model in Florida. Then she had the opportunity to move to the modeling mecca of New York City. Within two weeks of signing with her agency, the agent in charge of the plus-size division decided to leave the company and start her own agency. Monica began to ask questions of the owner of her agency about how one becomes an agent. They ended up in a discussion about the position, requirements, and everything else that one would do in a typical job interview. She hired Monica on a trial basis until she saw the results of her dedication, business skills, and industry knowledge.   Monica is now a wife and mother, retired from the modeling profession and living in Florida.




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Key words: fashion careers, plus models, model agent, modeling