Finding a foot in the door in this industry is hard, networking takes time, energy and the ability to handle a lot of rejection. But one thing I have learned is you have to make your success your own and you can not ride anyone else’s coat tails. So if you want to become a model, you need to quickly learn the difference between good connections, bad connections and overstepping your bounds.
This is a ‘sticky wicket’ as they say. When I started the first photographers I found and connected with came via several friends whose photos impressed me, and that is what I told the photographers when I reached out via email or Facebook. I simply said, I have seen so&so’s pictures and I love your work, perhaps we could work together sometime. Sometimes I just loved their work and knew absolutely no one they worked with. I then invited them to become my friend on Facebook so they could see what I brought to the mutual table. Some said they would love to work with me, others gave me a price they would be willing to work with me for and some didn’t return my message.
In turn when people reach out to me seeking advice or want to work with me I try to be both kind and helpful. This isn’t a hobby for me it is a job. A great piece of advice I got early on is that you have to know where you fall on the scale. Are you a novice, inexperienced model or professional model who has appeared in several publications and done commercial or paid work? At this point I consider myself a professional working model, I expect to be paid for my time, however I am again a realist… I am not Lily Aldridge or Elsa Hosk. I also am not available all-day every-day, I do this on a part-time basis. I have a strong portfolio and a resume which includes national campaigns. I take that all into account when someone reaches out to me.
As far as helping aspiring models, well it is why I started this blog, I couldn’t keep up with the messages. I used to get a few messages a month, now I get several messages daily and they come from aspiring models all over the world, which I am both honored and overwhelmed by. I wish I knew more. I wish I could help everyone. But as I have shared a million times over there is no secret here, you have to put in the work and you have to make the connections no one can ‘help’ you, simply give advice, that is what I do.
I am more than happy to connect people when I personally know them and their work. I get asked by designers and photographers if I know any other good models and I will gladly spread the love. Or at the very least tell them to go check out someones website, Facebook or Instagram, the rest is up to them. One of my greatest experiences in this industry came from someone helping me in the opposite direction. Cali Rae, who is now a signed model met me at a fashion show and passed my name along to a photographer she worked with who was building his portfolio, I have now done several great shoots with him. Our friendship and connection is just the type of networking that helps get models to new levels. In turn when I am contacted by a photographer or designer looking, I am always willing to pass along the names of models they should contact. I have made direct connections between people and believe in helping others grow.
Here is where people often overstep their bounds and it is hard to swallow as someone who worked hard to build a career. Don’t call, DM or message a photographer, a client who has paid me to represent them or my agent and tell them you are ‘friends’ with Skylar Witte and ask for something, especially for free. I think every working model or actor would agree, this is one of those crazy things that happens often. Unless I made that connection directly you are likely to tick off several people in the chain. Great photographers cost money and sometimes they shoot for free but if they aren’t OK with TFP work using my name only looks bad for me and for you. My agent just put a very clear message to those represented stating if someone name drops by messaging, emailing or calling her personal cell phone she will not sign them, regardless of how talented they are, also I would risk being dropped because I gave out her personal information, and I really, really like my agent. This does not constitute as networking, as a matter of fact it will likely ruin your chances as a model or actor.
Relationships are built on honesty, trust and kindness. Starting off by saying you were sent by someone when you were not or asking for free work can and most likely will upset all parties involved. In turn, if I act as a reference or connection for you please do not destroy a relationship I helped you to build. This includes not responding to a message from someone you asked me to connect you with, not following their directions or call sheet information, rescheduling, cancelling on them or simply standing them up for a shoot. They probably won’t want to work with you again and I will not refer you again.
Although this is my first ‘professional’ life experience I would hope this goes the same for any career choice I should make. Much like everything in the world even in the entertainment and modeling industry it is a small circle. Photographers, agents, scouts, designers and other models will quickly identify friend and foe. Reputations can be built and destroyed easily. I am proud of the relationships I have with others in my market, it is a snowball that keeps connecting me and it is what keeps opportunities coming my way.
Also I am not shy at all about asking for help and advice myself. Before I signed with my acting agency I sent several of their signed actors a quick message asking about their experience. Some of us now follow each others budding careers even though we are thousands of miles apart. I have a whole network of amazing people whose hands I have yet to shake, but to me that is the best part of this industry. I also was contacted by a New York modeling agency recently and reached out to several girls in my network who were signed with them or I saw had a connection to them. These quick checks have been lifesavers to me, it’s also how I avoid creeps which will actually be my next post.
So read this blog, comment and ask me questions. If you are in my neighborhood and want to chat over coffee, let’s do it! I won’t tell you anything I won’t write about on this blog. There is no SECRET…seriously this is a job and like all jobs you have to build experience, network and grow day-by-day until you get to the next level. The unfortunate part of this job is it is based on your genetic make-up and subjectivity, so success is based on several things you can’t control. If you are gorgeous like Ms. Cali Rae then you are a lucky one. But taking advantage of your relationship with others will not bring you success, you will lose opportunities and more importantly lose friends.
Dream Big, Skylar