I recently read an article in The Economist titled, “Model Economics: The beauty business” and couldn’t help but hang on every word. It was fascinating to read about an industry that so few people know much about and fewer are actually a part of.
I’d like to make two points based on the limited personal experience I’ve had as a model. Firstly, the article cited the average salary of a model at $27,000 per year, even less if they worked part-time or were male. Who can say what the average actually is, but it’s fair to say it isn’t a glamorous figure. In order to complete the picture however you need to factor in the type of lifestyle a typical model lives.
Once you are traveling, and assuming you’ve been signed by a reputable agency, most of your costs are incurred by others. Your accommodation and flight is usually fronted by your agency, as are supplementary expenses such as daily transportation, “compcards” and a weekly allowance. Say your contract in a market is for three months. Once you’ve finished your term, the agency will tally your earnings, expenses, their cut, your mother agency’s cut and what is left belongs to you. You’re handed an envelope of cash and you move on to your next contract.
As I write this post, I’m waiting to go out for dinner at a restaurant that will cover the entire meal as well as all of our drinks. We can usually experience this treatment at least half of the week (more in certain markets) should we choose to take advantage of it. The reason I mention this point is because if a model (say a guy) works fairly well in a market, and pockets $10,000 US Dollars (in three months), that’s money that goes straight into their pocket. If they can do roughly the same thing every three months, by the end of the year they’ve saved $30,000 – $50,000. How much would you need to earn in order to save that much where you live? Therein lies the attraction of modelling to many individuals, especially those with limited prospects (If educated models are gaining in popularity, I wonder if this will place upward pressure on rates across the industry).
The final point I’d like to make is that modelling is like a select few other industries where you can make it overnight. The reality for most is different however, everybody knows that. Everyone who starts modelling (myself included) thinks/hopes maybe they’ll get that big break, but more times than not, you have to put your time in and slog it out. You need to travel, gather tear sheets, work editorials, and have faith that things will work out.
The experienced models I’ve met all tell me that there are really good months, and months that are far from it. The thing is, you need to be committed to the lifestyle. If you aren’t all in, don’t bother. Its like the actors who toil away in Hollywood waiting for their big break. They love being actors and are willing to sacrifice everything for just one shot at a part. Modelling isn’t any different and that’s probably why I’m rethinking my future in this business.