Model Life: Location is Everything

Preview-47Among the many pieces of advice I’ve shared recently with aspiring models:

Find and know your market.

My 18 years of life so far have been spent in two relatively small towns located right in the center of Wisconsin. One on the western side of the state, the other smack dab in the middle. The relevance is that I have learned that to be a ‘working’ model you need to:

1) find your closest realistic market and 2) be willing to either relocate or travel there often.

A realistic market is a city or area large enough with enough industry related business to actually make paid modeling opportunities available to you. On the western side of Wisconsin my market would have been Minneapolis, in central Wisconsin,unfortunately I was not close enough to a large market to find much success.My career did not take off until I moved within driving distance of Milwaukee and Chicago. Many of my friends in the south have found their success in markets like Atlanta, Dallas and Miami. 

This is one of those harsh realities and it is hard to explain and sometimes comes off a little devastating and trite,  but modeling for senior photographers, the mall fashion show or repping a local beauty salon are really great starts but they won’t make you any money.  Promotional modeling is one of the few areas that can be done almost anywhere, and I have a lot of friends who enjoy traveling with companies and representing their brands, but again that is a whole different post. If you want to do this, really do this you have to find and know your market. If you want to be ‘famous’ you will not be able to get there unless you are willing to move to a market that can make you famous….NY, LA, Paris.  My end goal is not to become a famous model.(that said if you are an agent from New York, read this blog, look at my portfolio and fall in love, call please call, I can be convinced! 😉 

My goal (and I am closer every single day) is to be a working model and actress in the Midwest for as long as I can before I am either washed up, large enough and professional enough to get a break that makes a move worthwhile or simply choose to stop doing it. In the end it will likely be the latter. I want to earn a law degree at some point, settle down and have a family. That is my personal dream, probably doesn’t appear as exciting as the constant go-go-go of my current life. My hope is that when someone is looking for a model in the Midwest, the name Skylar Witte comes up and is shared with enthusiasm and wonderful experiences.

By working I mean I get paid every time someone puts a camera in front of me. Right now I am about 70 percent there, I love to shoot and still do portfolio building. I have worked hard to network with the right people in order to do TFP work (Trade For Print or Time for Pics-an equal trade of time for portfolio building between a model and photographer)  I have a few consistent clients and recently started working with a designer who will hopefully make my TFP jobs no longer necessary. I have a pretty extensive portfolio and I am proud of it, in my market I have made wonderful connections with the right kind of people.  Hopefully enough to keep me working which right now is just about enough to off set the costs of books, food and incidentals in college. Next stop paying off student loans.

Dream Big, Skylar

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Model Life: 1 Inch

I mentioned in my first post that my only actual agency interview involved a measuring tape, and OK I’ll admit it, some tears. After submitting my headshot and first campaign photos to every decent agency in the Midwest my senior year of high school I got what I thought would be the call of my life.

An agency in a very large city that has a reputation for being very up-and-coming in the industry reached out to me. And it wasn’t a staff member, it was the owner. I was elated. Especially because the voice on the other end of the phone told me I was just unique enough and my facial features made me very marketable. Looking back I’m not sure if ‘unique’ is a compliment, but in this life it is the hook you need. She asked how tall I was, honestly I had never really measured, hahaha my mother claims she is 5’8″ I am just a little taller so I’ve always assumed I was also 5’8″. So when asked I legitimately answered “about 5’8″” Turns out my mother is a liar.

Truth told I am just 5’7″  The fact was unfortunately discovered when I walked into that agency  and the owner immediately pulled out a tape measure. The conversation that followed was very brief and very deflating. I was told that all fashion, runway and most print models were at a very bare minimum 5’8″ but in reality more like 5’10”-6′ I guess this wasn’t shocking or news to me, but the next piece was. I was told simply “Miss Skylar Witte, you should not pursue modeling.”  I would never find work at 5’7″. Now I am not usually a vengeful person, but I literally walked out of that building two minutes later with an I’ll-Show-Them attitude.

What I discovered since, is in many respects she was partially right, big designers and fashion week shows, Victoria’s Secret and Vogue they want tall, tall, tall girls. But there is a market for me, and a solid one at that. I fit in most retail clothes directly off the rack,  throw me in any Target or Boston Store and I can wear most juniors and most womens clothing. I fit in dresses and gowns without any alterations. It is how I landed my deal with Mac Duggal. I was told I am the perfect measurements for their sample gowns.  I am not too skinny where the clothes hang off me and I am the perfect height to be a fit/commercial model.

My consistent job is with a large online boutique  www.bluechicboutique.com The owner likes working with me because I fit into every size small in her inventory. As a matter of fact, she shares my measurements (which lately have been decreasing) with her customers. She once told me she tried a tall model but all the clothes looked awkward and unnatural on her, whoo hoo, score one for the average girls!

Someone once said, you are so close you should just lie…but after my unintentional lie, back when I actually thought I was 5’8″ I could never do that again. In the modeling industry measurements are everything. I would hate to show up for a call thinking I had a chance and knowing that my waist was an inch too big or too small. It is wasting my time and the clients!

Now I don’t want to give all the short girls out there false hope, there is a market for petite models but it is a sliver of an already small pie.  I have found the difference between my 5’7″ and another’s 5’6″ is huge. In this business an inch can get you the job or lose you the job and once you start getting into the realm of not fitting sample sizes it gets pretty hard for fit and commercial models.

When people ask me my end goal, as fun as it would be to walk in the VS fashion show, I am a realist. I am perfectly content and fortunate to get any paid modeling jobs. I am living my dream, there is no secret end point. I’m just happy that all 5 foot, 7 inches of me can find work at all 🙂

Dream Big, Skylar

Photography: Amo Studios, Dance Series

 

Model Life: Bloggin and Loggin

I’m not a blogger, but recently I have gotten so many questions about how I am doing what I am doing and what it is exactly that I do week in and week out I thought what better way to connect with people than to start to use my site to share a little more.  It’s also a good avenue to answer questions to the best of my ability about the life of a model/college student…notice the slash that will become very important as I share this journey. So check back often for insights and as I log my Skylar Witte modeling adventures for you all to see.

The number one question I get asked and asked often,  I’m interesting in becoming a model, how did you do it?  The answer I give is probably not what people hope to hear but it is the truth and my journey will be different than every other person both successful and unsuccessful in this particular endeavor. But since it comes up often it was a reasonable first post.

My recipe for success is a simple mix, 25% pure luck, 25% building a solid network and 50% non-stop hard work.

I didn’t wake up one day and decide to be a model, but I did wake up and decide to send my senior picture into a dress designer who was looking for models. The connection came my way via a dress shop owners Facebook post and it was a very abrupt,not at all a thought out, decision. I just emailed him my photo, beginning and end of story.

Two amazing national ad campaigns later, a few appearance on Seventeen.com and pictures to build an amazing portfolio my modeling career began, Jimmy at Vienna Prom liked my smile, I fit in his amazing gowns, he enjoyed working with me once and asked me back to model another collection and yep I was a model. 25% pure luck.

I could have been done, as a matter of fact I tried to get an agent after that and was told at my first and only interview that because I was 1 inch shorter than the minimum requirements to do print and runway (which is 5’8″) I should just enjoy the experience and move on (see my next post) but I didn’t want to be done so I started phase two and took my portfolio and started to network. 25% of what I do every day is build relationships.

Finally,  non-stop hard work.  My calendar is booked through July and when I get a call from someone who wants to work with me, I rarely if ever say no. I miss class when I have to so I can travel and sometimes drop everything to be in Chicago on a days notice. Every week I shoot with a boutique that pays me to display all of their inventory, I am the stores only model. We fit the shoots in between college classes. It pays for most of my college incidentals.   Everyday I make a conscious choice to eat clean and workout so I can continue to represent the brands that pay me to fit into and look good in their merchandise.  This is my job and I take it extremely seriously. Many girls who attempt a go at this business are content to find an agency and sit by the phone waiting for the chance to go to a casting call. I choose to work all the time, some jobs pay hourly, some pay daily and some do not pay at all.   All of my jobs are booked as a freelance model, I handle all my own arrangements and travel and when I do get paid it is my money to keep. I find most of my opportunities through my network or by constantly searching.  It is hard and my cell phone is attached to my hip so I can field inquiries. I am fortunate to be represented by a film and television agency but the modeling is all me. Work, work and work!

My friend circle has become rather small, I am a social butterfly but the people that are closest to me these days are those who understand I have big dreams and I have to work to get there, which means a lot less fun and sacrificing time with people I love. If I had any advice for anyone in any industry it is surround yourself with people who support your dreams and are willing to sacrifice along side of you.

Much like losing weight or getting A’s in school, there isn’t a secret. So if you want to become a model it just take a lot of dedication and hard work… but that other part, the other 50% you can’t make that happen, people either like your look or they don’t, they are either willing to network and be part of your journey or they aren’t.  There isn’t a way to make those things happen. I’m sorry it isn’t easy, but all the really big dreams come at a cost.

 

Dream Big, Skylar

 

 

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