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Model Advice

The Virtues of Having an Online Presence As an Aspiring Model

Two times this year, the value of having an online presence for models became apparent to me: once when a video game producer reached out to me to cast models at E3 for THQ’s booth, and recently when I was casting for the first AGT video.

For tier-one projects, such as a Bloomingsdales catalog, it makes no difference whether you have 50,000 followers on Twitter or not. But for tier two projects – modeling for a trendy new clothier like or being a promo model for an upstart Facebook type website - having a significant online presence could be the difference between booking the job or not.

The reason is simple - on the internet everyone is fighting for visibility. If I’m looking for a promotional model for my new online business and one woman has a Facebook Fan Page with 200,000 “Likes” and the other has no online presence, all other things being equal, who do you think I’m going to hire?
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The model with the healthy online following brings value in the form of advertising and promotion. With the unknown model, the upstart company may be doing her more of a favor than she’s doing them.

There's a good article in the Wall Street Journal about this. A quote from the article: "When you walk into a brand and you say 'what about her, what about him?' they now ask 'how many followers do they have?' " said Ivan Bart, senior vice president and managing director of IMG Models.

Of course, the counterpoint to this is that models have to use their online presence judicially. Just as soon as having a positive social media outlet can help you, having a reckless one can hurt, as model Jourdan Dunn attests to in bashing Dior in the aforesaid WSJ article.

Bottom line: for aspiring models and actors, there is real value in cultivating an online following.

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Video Blogging for Urban Models

Recently I’ve been looking into a phenomenon on YouTube called “hauling.” These are videos about shopping for clothes and occasionally make-up done by young women who often constitute the very demographic the products they review are targeting, so there’s a certain authenticity to the videos. By and large, the more successful outings seem to be done by well educated, affluent, Caucasian women. But there are a few ethnically diverse entrants in the market, such as AndreasChoice, a dead ringer for a younger Rosario Dawson. Bottom line: there is definitely room for a clean cut, well spoken woman to deal with issues particular to the urban modeling and more curvy models.

The amazing thing about these videos is how sophisticated they are and how much money these women are making from advertising with YouTube (using Google Adsense). Also, they get a lot of free stuff through marketing tie-ins in the videos. These are highly
articulate women with a good sense of style and aesthetic. They use tripods to shoot these videos on HD DSLRs, post several videos per month and rack up literally millions of views in short time frames. The biggest mistake you could make is to underestimate this and think it’s easy.

What does it take to become a successful blogger on YouTube covering clothes, make up, hair products, etc? From what I can tell, you need to have the following characteristics:

1. You need to be beautiful or at least cute
2. You need to be articulate and charming… basically, likable and able to clearly and concisely convey your thoughts
3. You need a nice living space with good sunlight
4. You need a good DSLR camera (with HD video ability) and a tripod
5. You need a solid computer to edit your videos with
6. Internet access (obvious)

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Most of these women who now earn thousands of dollars per month on YouTube have been at it since ’09, so this doesn’t happen overnight. But what’s cool about this is the degree of autonomy you have over your work schedule and the fact that you are making money doing what you like to do. Often times these women have a website as well that is quite successful, in addition to Twitter and Tumblr sites. These are all synergistically tied together so each is bringing in money while helping to promote the other sites.

If you think you might want to do this, catering specifically to the concerns of curvier models and urban modeling, you should watch a few of the experts in action first. Good luck!

Haulers to check out
-- Juicystar07:
-- Macbarbie07:

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How Much Should You Charge For a Photo Shoot?

Every now and again I will post a tip for photographers in this section. This one concerns what to charge for your photo services. Newbie photographers often underestimate the amount of time that goes into a professional shoot, only to later resent the client and doing the project.

One of the key things I learned with pricing photography jobs is that a photo gig itself involves a lot more than taking the photos. When you hear about a noted photographer getting paid $10,000 a day for a shoot, it's because much more than a day’s work is involved...

1. Pre production - Scouting the location, selecting hair, make-up, model. Meeting the art director or producer of the project. Conceptualizing, story boarding, etc. obtaining permits for locations, insurance.

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2. The actual shoot - Generally, an all day affair. High stress and lots of work. You're "on" the entire time. Don't underestimate packing up everything. If you don't have a crew, unpacking, setting up, and re-packing is a job in itself.

3. Post production - Again, meeting with art director and going over the results of the shoot and most importantly, retouching the selected images for publication.

You know how many hours that is in total? Probably 40 easily, maybe more. And it's probably 1-2 weeks time you're on that project, from the first meeting to the last.

So when someone says "I'll pay you $500 to shoot my wedding,” be careful before you accept. Because you may wind up resenting it; shooting is a lot more than the day you go out and take the pictures.

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Must See Documentary for Aspiring Video Vixens

This one is a classic. A V H - 1 documentary on video vixens at the apex of the genre, from a few years ago, and the best I've seen. Just about every perspective is represented here, and represented well for the most part. Perhaps my only gripe is that Karrine Stephans is the center piece of this show.

Notwithstanding that, this one should be mandatory viewing for any woman considering doing this. The points made are all still valid considerations today.

This probably won't stay up long, but it's very difficult to find, so I'd suggest using something like Download Helper to save it to disc.

Documentary on Video Vixens by Putney-Swope

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Mastering Your Expressions as a Model

I've discussed this before on the blog, but I always found this clip of actress Mary Elizabeth WInstead instructive in this regard. This is a screen test of Winstead for the character of Ramona Flowers (Scott Pilgrim). In it, the directors asks her to go through an array of expressions for the camera. First, the camera says something cute to her, then thaws the ice, pisses her off, and finally she "over" the camera. Watch as Winstead goes through this full panoply of expressions without even breaking a sweat. Remember, practice makes perfect people, but as a model you should have your arsenal of expressions down.


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The Importance of a Website for Aspiring Models

One of the few things I know I did right with model Bria Myles was create a website for her early on to brand her image. From the beginning, we stayed away from FLASH and anything gimmicky and kept the website basic, clean, and easy to navigate. Interestingly, Bria didn’t like the site at first, but later she came to love it because of its simplicity, which has retained its appeal long after its debut.

Online Resume
A good site tells people you are serious and reachable in a professional manner. It separate you from the hoards of models playing cat-and-mouse games with Facebook pages that are privatized to anyone outside of the people they party with, pseudonymous Tumblr pages, or Twitter pages that may tell people a little too much. A well thought out website tells people just what you want them to know, provides attractive images of you, an easy way for people to contact you, and updates about your latest projects. In many ways, it’s like an online resume. One of Bria’s biggest jobs as an actress in 2K Games' Don King Presents: Prizefighter came through a producer reaching out to her through her website. In addition to Prizefighter, Bria got many other jobs through her website, including lucrative hosting opportunities.

The Financial Payoff
As you gain a following because of appearances in music videos and magazine covers, more and more people will visit your website. What that means is you can start making advertising money from it. In 2007, I added Google Adsense on Bria’s website, and it was one of the best moves we’ve made. At one time, Bria’s site used to have an Alexa traffic ranking of about 300,000, which is pretty high for a site not selling any galleries or memberships. Some days, her website would earn $50 in Adsense revs just sitting there. There were months we made $500+ on her website. The more popular you become, the more ad revenues you will make, without raising a finger. As an urban model, it’s important to maximize your streams of revenue, as you will not be hot forever. The ad revs from a website could pay for a new shoot (which will keep you hot) and other marketing tools.
Those are just a few reasons why creating a professional website to brand yourself is worthwhile.
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Some Thoughts on The Casting Couch in Urban Modeling

If you're thinking about becoming an urban model, you might as well get ready to deal with a steady stream of unwanted sexual advances from photographers, publishers, music video directors, etc. The increasingly risque content of the business only exacerbates this problem as more provocative photos are viewed as an open invitation by many for inappropriate conduct. This industry is run by men, many of whom got into it to meet women to begin with. There is no way around the sexual charged atmosphere of the business, so if that offends your sensibilities you’d better get out now.

So how should women deal with this constant barrage of unsavory comments and often physical behavior? There is no easy answer to this. A woman will need to walk a fine line between catering to the egos of men and learning how to let say “no” with finesse and charm and using common sense so that they don’t wind up in a compromised situation to begin with. Now you’re probably thinking, “Why are you making it my problem as to how to deal with a lech!? I don’t need to learn how to say “no” politely, you guys need to learn how to control your urges!” You’re absolutely right about that, but that’s not the reality of this business or the entertainment business in general. None of this is gonna change anytime soon so you need to learn how to deal with it.


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When Model Dislikes Images After Photo Shoot, Does She Have The Right to Prevent Publication?

This is a question you see all over the web. Who has the superior right to the publication of images after a shoot, the photographer or the model? Can a model, dissatisfied with the results of a photo session, legally bar the photographer from publishing the images? This answer comes down to the model's right to privacy vs. the photographer's copyright. Let's start with the easy scenario: if the photographer has obtained written consent (e.g., a model release) from the model for the exploitation of her images, he has the unqualified right to publish them. Remember, he already owns the copyright to the photos. Combine that with a model release and it darn near equals absolute power with respect to publication.

But that's not usually what happens. In the real world, test shoots occur all the time without a model release being signed. And relationships that started off great in the planning stage can turn sour after the shoot and models will ask, or even demand, that the photographer refrain from posting their images. But does the model have this right, legally? In New York and states with privacy statutes similar to New York (e.g., Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wisconsin*) the answer is "yes," the model can legally prevent publication. If the model hasn't signed a written release, it doesn't matter whether her conduct indicates consent to publication or she orally agreed thereto - the photographer has no right to post those images.

But in California and Florida, consent to publication may be written or oral and may also be implied via conduct (e.g., emails back and forth about the shoot, showing up and sitting for hair and make up, etc.), so the photographer can post the images despite the model's insistence to the contrary. Mind you, we're talking about consent to merely have the photos published. Showing up at a shoot does not imply consent to have your image used to promote a product without getting paid, whether you're in California or not.

Conclusion: Photographer and model fight after a shoot and model demands that photographer "lose her photos" and never publish them anywhere. No release has been signed, but conduct and conversations show the model intended to shoot with the photographer and knew he would publish the images. In New York, the model will win this fight, but not in California or Florida.

*Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-40; Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 214, § 3A; R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-1-28; N.Y. Civ. Rights Law §§ 50 to 51; Wis. Stat. Ann. § 895.50.

Source Material for Article...


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Quality Images Cost Money...

One of the biggest misconceptions about getting good photos is that it just "happens." Models will often say: "Let's just go out and shoot - I'm sure they'll come out great!" While well meaning, the truth is that photography is just another form of production, and although it may not be a movie set, quality images often requires props, lighting equipment, clothes, hair, and make-up. The photo below gives you some idea of what I'm talking about, and it doesn't even include the expense of the rented Litepanel 1x1 Bicolor lighting source at $125/day, a location permit (the photo was taken in my kitchen), or professional retouching services. But as you can see, the price tag of this shoot is easily $500+.

Certain items can be returned if you're feeling bold, but there's still the value of your time running around. So... models, be prepared to bring something to the table other than your good looks. Are you willing to return the clothes? Do you have a wealthy "sponsor" with a swanky house that can double as a location? Don't just expect the photographer to pay you and make things happen. Conversely, photographers should know that if you don't plan properly for a shoot (booking hair and MUA at a minimum), the images will probably suffer. (Click image to enlarge) Carol-ShootCost

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When Is It Good for a Model to Gain Weight – Or At Least Not Lose Any

We’ve all seen it before. A popular urban model like Melyssa Ford, who gained her notoriety based on her outrageous voluptuousness, starts to slim down when Hollywood comes calling. But an interesting thing often happens. Thrust into a much more competitive group, this model who used to shine in the urban world, starts to fade into the background. Maybe she makes an appearance on a show like Entourage, or has a small feature in Maxim, and then nothing. What’s worse, because the model is no longer thick, she’s alienated her urban following as well and is stuck in limbo.

There’s no doubt that most smart women generally look at urban modeling as a launching pad to bigger and better things. For many models it’s a necessary evil. If you’re 5’4” and 145lbs., there aren’t too many commercial modeling or acting jobs you will be qualified for. So why not grab yourself a SHOW cover and maybe a couple music videos while you await greener pastures?

The question becomes, when is the right time to start shedding the pounds that made you a phenom in the urban industry for the bright lights of Hollywood. Obviously, there is no set answer to this, but women often do it too soon in my opinion.

These days, well maintained thickness is a serious asset. fn1. Just ask Amber Rose (fn2) or Kim Kardashian (fn3). They both made millions by standing out due to their curvy figures. And women are going to drastic measures to obtain curves by any means, getting butt implants and even riskier hydrogel injections. So if a woman naturally has a 25” waist and 40” hips, it might be a good thing to hold onto. Certainly, if a model known for her curves is starting to get smaller than Kim Kardashian due to dieting, it's probably cause for concern.

The thing is, for the most part, no one is going from the cover of SHOW magazine to the pages of Sport’s Illustrated right away, even under the best of circumstances. Even the most seasoned, well-represented models often wait years to get a chance at an SI feature. And I don’t know any urban model that has immediately transitioned to a commercial job of this caliber. In fact, the only urban models who have really made it big in the mainstream did so based on what made them famous in the urban world! For Kim Kardashian it was her larger than average backside; for Karrine Steffans it was trading on her tales of struggles in urban modeling; and for Amber Rose, again, it was based on her curvy, exotic looks.

Svelte Lauren London transferred to the big screen without using her urban appeal as a gimmick, but she was never really a well-known urban model to begin with. I think she had done one urban magazine and a couple music videos before she started doing movies. Vida Guerra successfully straddled the line between urban and commercial, alternating between BlackMen and FHM covers, but Vida started off in the white world with FHM being her first magazine.
The bottom line is, don’t be so quick to go out and lose weight at the first sniff of success, or you might wind up with no more urban fan base and Hollywood’s doors firmly shut on you as well.

fn.1 WHY CURVY GIRLS LIKE KIM ARE IN... AND SKINNY KATE'S OUT Scottish Star January 21, 2011
fn. 1 Rose landed a contract with top modeling agency Ford Models in the summer of '09 after posing nude with Kanye West to promote his new sneaker line with Louis Vuitton and Kanye West reportedly signed a multi-million dollar deal to ``silence'' Amber Rose When they separated,
fn. 3 The Hollywood Reporter estimated last month that the curvy Kardashians, who bypassed actual acting careers, earned a whopping $65 million in 2010 with their perfumes, reality TV shows and other products.

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Photography - The Conundrum of Shooting Outdoors

In 2011 and much of 2010, the biggest problem I've faced in setting up photo shoots is locking down suitable outdoor locations. Production in Los Angeles, or any other major metropolitan area, is not as simple as it may look. First, let's address guerilla shoots with no permits. I used to do them all the time and still do them on occasion. If you watch the behind-the-scenes on "The Social Network," you will hear the producers talking about how they hired a mime to distract people from their use of a location without permits. A major motion picture and they still had to cut corners to get the shots they wanted! That's because, when a guerilla shoot goes wrong, it can go really wrong. You can get fined, locked up, harassed - it can kill the mood for a shoot for the day. If you're shooting a model with a commercial look in a turtle neck sweater and jeans, most people won't bother you. But if you're shooting curvy models in skimpy clothes that can stop traffic, trust me it will not be long before you get stopped in a public place. So the guerilla shoot is really not practical for glamour photography.

For years, photographers have used hotel rooms to get around this. The problem is, hotel room look like...well, hotel rooms. Studio photography is a nice option, but studio photos tend to have a staid look and are overused right now in glamour photography.

So that leaves the legitimate route of shooting outdoors, which a lot of photographers are not even familiar with. Let's use a beach as an example. To secure a public beach for a shoot, first you have to have insurance. That's right - the city is not going to give you a permit to shoot a model on some rocks she could fall off of and drown without liability insurance. I currently have photography insurance through Thomas Pickard. It is $700 a year - as much as some people's car insurance. Next, you will need to get a permit to shoot. What you will find is that they will be very concerned about whether you are shooting stills or video (video permits are more expensive and may require a local officer at a fee of $65 per hour from the moment you set up). Also, how late are you shooting and where on the beach. Some areas are off limits. The permit will usually cost about $50 - $100, but the time in coordinating it is worth another $150 in sweat equity. Give yourself at least a week in advance to do it. The wheels of government agencies turn slowly. And don't be surprised if you run into a desk jockey who treats these beaches as their own private domain and are on considerable power trips.

Finally, make sure you watch the weather carefully. If you're shooting at the beach, even if sunny, it could be very misty and humid. Humidity and hair do not mix well. So where are hair and make-up gonna set up where the wind is not blowing constantly and the elements are not undoing their hard work? You may need to rent a production RV. A friend of mine who produces these type of outdoor shoots told me that on average, done legitimately (e.g., by companies like Neutrogena, J Crew), they cost upward of $10,000 per day. See a photo below from one such set up.

Bottom line is that outdoor shoots done correctly are a major pain. Done guerilla style there is a considerable risk of things going wrong. There is no easy answer to this dilemma the photographer faces, but it helps to at least know the parameters.


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Top 5 Career Killers for Aspiring Eye Candy

I don't know how many women aspire to be video vixens anymore, but from the number of sexy photos I see hitting Twitter and Facebook, it appears to still be a career goal for many. Fair enough. You think you're hot stuff and are intent upon showing the world this by taking off your clothes for total strangers. Well, at least do it right - play to win. Don't just publish a bunch of borderline indecent photos of yourself that you (and your children) will regret later.

Rather than give a road map of what to do (which no one would follow anyway), I'll just list a few things I see women doing that are sure to prevent your meteoric rise to success.

1. Do Not Get a Tramp Stamp Above Your Ass: If anything ever screamed "I'm a no-good worthless harlot" it's the tramp stamp. I can't think of a single model/actress who has risen to fame with one of those (prove me wrong - name one in the comments section). Sure, Megan Fox has that weird tattoo on her back (and she’s trying to get that removed), but it's not the ubiquitous and totally unoriginal tramp stamp above the ass .

2. Stop Tweeting About Your Relationships: You're trying to build a fan base. The last thing guys want to hear about is how you can't wait to go home and fuck your boyfriend. The one exception to this rule would be if you are a nobody and your boyfriend is a somebody (see Kim Kardashian). At least then, it will serve the purpose of bringing you into the spotlight. Otherwise, it's just a fail.

3. Show Some Humility: Twitter and Facebook have made us privy to people's innermost thoughts, and some of them are pretty darn grizzly. If I see one more chick in a thong posing in the mirror with the caption "I'm the baddest bitches!" I think I'll terminate my internet connection. Some of you women don't even know how to pretend you have humility. It's highly unappealing. Showing some modesty; it will set you apart.

4. Stop Showing Everything From The Start: Consider this: J Lo became famous for her backside but she never showed her bare ass - in a thong or otherwise. Instead, she made folks sit through "Anaconda" hoping to catch a glimpse of her in something skimpy. (Alas, it never happened.) Even Kim Kardashian's sex tape doesn't show much of her infamous butt. It's very simple - if you give everything away in your first set of photos and/or video, you won't have anything left to follow that up with. Always keep them wanting more. Words to live by for aspiring vixens.

5. Brand Yourself (e.g., Stop Publishing Anonymous Photos) - It's a common scenario. Some beautiful woman publishes a pic of herself with no top, hands covering her bosom and it makes its way to Tumblr, where it gets over 1,000 comments! But no one knows who she is, so the photos just vanish into cyberspace. From the very beginning, we could connect Kim Kardashian's face (and butt) with her name. It only takes 5 minutes to open Photoshop and type a moniker onto an image. No one is saying you have to use your real name, but for heaven's sake brand yourself in some meaningful way, so that as the hype builds around you it doesn't go to waste. Also, if someone wanted to, say, hire you, it helps if you can be identified.

That's it. No one reads this section anyway Winking , but hopefully the few who do will take something away from it.

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How To Get Into Music Videos

One of the best ways to get on the map as a model is to be featured in a music video, and the bigger the artist the better. However, any music video that gets airplay on BET or MTV can jump start a model's career. In this article, I'm going to give you some basic starting points on how to get into a music video.


I get questions all the time from women in the Midwest asking about how to get into music videos. The harsh reality is that if you are not in Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, or New York it will be very difficult to get cast in a US-based music video because most of them are filmed in those cities, and especially Los Angeles. So if you are serious about being a video vixen and you don't live in one of those areas, a change in location may be in order.

Submit to Castings

Almost every major music video is sent out through the various casting services such as LA Casting (Talent Signup), Breakdowns Services (Actors Access), Back Stage East & West, Craig's List, etc. If you have an agent, they will submit you for castings and you don't have to worry about this, but presumably if you're reading this, you don't have an agent yet. Of course, there is always some other way to find out about a casting, ie., through the music video director, someone in the artist's entourage, or through a casting director that sees you somewhere. But all of those methods are unlikely. Of the casting sources mentioned above, the one I'd most highly recommend is LA Casting Network. There is a fee - $14.95 a month - but all of the major music videos, and other good jobs, go out over LA Castings. Once you sign up you will have to create a profile and submit a picture. Do not rush through the profile creation. The more accurate it is, the more information casting directors will have about you. Also, make sure your pictures are high quality and showcase your body nicely. That is very important for music video castings.

The Audition

You will have to audition to be in a music video. This will entail showing up at the casting, signing in, and waiting to be called in by the casting director. Be on time for your casting appointment! You are being judged every step of the way. In the audition you may be asked to read lines or dance seductively for the camera. Your competition will be at the casting, so be prepared to see other pretty faces. You should come to the casting dressed in something that showcases your body (in a tasteful way) and that you can move around in without embarrassing yourself. You also need to bring a high quality photo of yourself with your height, measurements and resume stapled to it. You should wear natural, light make up and look "fresh faced." Be prepared to wait some. Click the video clip to the left to view a brief segment from a VH1 documentary concerning video vixens and the casting process (it takes a few minutes to load).

Getting The Role

If you have "the look" you will eventually get cast in a music video. When I first met Bria, she had gone to a casting for a 50 Cent video, but she didn't get the part. Determined, she crashed the video with some friends who knew where it was. The moment 50 saw her, he told the director he wanted her in the video. Music video directors are always looking for super hot models, and especially new ones. So if you've got the "It Factor," and go to enough castings, you will soon be on your way

The Players

In Los Angeles, some of the key music video casting directors are Fred Johnson, Pablo Cornejo, David Kang, and Anissa Williams. Fred and Pablo have cast some of the hottest music videos by the biggest players. If you think you've got what it takes, it may be worth it to submit a headshot and resume to one of these casting directors, but don't be surprised if you don't hear anything. These guys have seen the most beautiful women in LA and their inboxes are flooded with submissions.

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How Models and Photographers Can Compromise on Photos After a Shoot

NOTE: This article has been edited as of 1/28/10.
There's a war brewing between models and photographers these days and it comes down to this: after a photo shoot, models want their photos and photographers often fail to deliver, at least to the extent promised. So what's the solution? I understand models needing quality images to keep themselves in circulation. Moreover, why should the model have to wait indefinitely and keep pestering a photographer to give them their own images? But I can also understand photographers not having the time to retouch photos for free!

The Problem

The biggest problem here is the lack of professionalism in how these photo shoots come about to begin with. Let's be honest; photographers often shoot models for reasons that go beyond building their portfolios. And models are frequently willing to hustle a shoot on the cheap. Thus, the TFP shoot was born. But many times, after the photo shoot is done and the fotog has gotten what he wants, he's "over it" and ready to move on to the next model. Sure, he may retouch one or two photos, but now that he's seen his favorite model in all her unretouched realism, stretch marks, cellulite and all, the fantasy is over and retouching the photos is just... well, work. The model on the other hand has only received a few photos for her efforts. Enter conflict. She starts demanding that the photographer give her all the photos. The photographer refuses, reminding her that she hasn't paid him a penny and is not in a position to be making demands.

The Solution

Models, pay for your photo shoots and have a contract in place stating what you are entitled to receive in clear terms. I really don't think it's too much to ask that the model receive all the photos the day of the shoot on a USB drive. However, the contract should state that the model can't post any photos until and unless the photographer breaches the agreement - i.e., a reasonable time (21 days) passes without the photographer delivering the agreed upon number of post processed images. In the event of breach by the photographer, the model should be allowed to have the photos retouched by a mutually agreed upon Photoshop wizard at her own expense, and subject to the photographer's approval (not to be unreasonably withheld and to be timely given, e.g., within 48 hours). This allows the model to move on with what she needs to do post photo shoot.

Oh, and if the model breaches - i.e., posts photos before the safe harbor period expires and without the photographer's consent - there should be a penalty granting the photographer a set amount of damages per image disseminated without his permission (e.g., $500 per image).


A simple contract to this effect should prevent problems after a TFP shoot. With the model in possession of all the pics, the photographer is unlikely to fail to deliver the post processed images promised in a timely manner. Likewise, with a liquidated damages clause rewarding the photographer $500 per image distributed without his permission, impatient models have a real disincentive not to upload those unretouched photos on Twitpic.

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Party Hosting Opportunities

One area that remains a Pandora’s Box for models starting out in the business is how to deal with their first request to host or emcee at a club or party. I’ve dealt with this many times working with Bria Myles. This is largely a contractual matter, and I’ve included a Sample Appearance Contract with this article for convenience.


One question a lot of models ask is how much they should get paid to host a party. If you’ve garnered enough attention that someone has asked you to host a party, you’ve probably been on the cover of at least one major magazine or been prominently featured in a popular music video. That being said, I think starting price for this sort of thing should be at least $500 (if this was 5 years ago, I would say higher). If you’ve been in the game awhile and been on multiple magazine covers and in several big music videos, I don’t think you should get paid anything less than $1,500.


For some reason, hosting requests are one area where people tend to be very flakey. I can’t tell you how many times Bria has had someone put in a request for her to host an event, only to back out later. (I think guys use event hosting as a ploy to interact with models they like.) Often, by the time the promoter backs out, significant time and energy has already been expended. For this reason and to weed out the flakes, always request at least half of your fee 2-3 weeks prior to the proposed engagement date. The money should be wired to your or your manager’s account. Until that money hits your account, keep contact to a minimum with the promoter. If possible, models should have an agent or manager act on their behalf until the last possible minute in these negotiations, for the reason I mentioned above.

The balance must be paid to you before you step foot in the venue. All of this should be spelled out in the contract.

Pre-Hosting Formalities

Sometimes a promoter will ask you to make radio appearances the day you arrive in town to promote the event. Make sure you find this out beforehand, so you can determine if you want to charge extra for this service. Also, make sure you find out if you are going to be hosting with any other models, and be sure to demand top billing. Promoters are notorious for adding other “talent” at the last minute. Next thing you know, you’re receiving equal billing with a B or C-list urban model on the fliers. For this reason, you should also reserve the right to pre-approve any and all promotional materials before they are printed or posted on the web. Again, this should all be covered in your contract.


Hosting is limited to two hours floor time. During this two hours your duties as model could entail emceeing, greeting and mingling with fans, and signing autographs (you should bring something people can get signed if you have the chance - e.g., print out 50 nice 8x10s). There is nothing wrong with interacting with fans, but remember you are there to host, not to party.

You can make additional money working with the event photographer who takes photos. Let's say the event photographer is charging $10 for someone to take a photo with you and have it printed and signed. You can ask the photographer to go 50/50 on that.

Transportation & Hotel

If you are hosting out of town, the promoter should provide professional transportation services (limo) or pay additional fees for your taxi service around town. Under no circumstances should you be forced to ride around with the club promoter or anyone else associated with the event after you get to the airport. This is yet another hustle guys use to meet models. Bria actually cancelled an appearance after she found out she would have to take a two-hour ride with some club promoter to her hotel once she arrived in town. Fortunately, she had already been paid half her fee.

Likewise, while the promoter should pay for your hotel or lodging, you should actually book the room and get reimbursed. What you want to avoid is a situation where, because the promoter booked your hotel, they have a keycard with access to your room.

Finally, what of being able to bring a friend along? Well, if you're Melyssa Ford you can demand that the promoter pay for a friend to come along and a hotel room for two. For less prominent models, this can be a sticking point. Demanding that the promoter pay for air fare and lodging of an additional person can increase the fee by $500 easily, which is enough for many promoters to walk away. You may have to pay for this yourself, or split the fee with the promoter.

One of the classier fliers I've seen for a party Bria hosted with Drake...

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Liability for Misappropriating Model's Image for Commercial Purpose

NOTE: This article has been significantly edited as of January 24, 2010.

Just a little comment about the recent Judge Judy case where it was ruled that a club promoter who used an urban model’s picture on promotional fliers was liable for $5,000 in damages to the model.

First of all, it’s important to note Judge Judy is sitting in small claims court/arbitration, so that case has no real precedential value (e.g., no other courts will rely on that ruling as the basis for future rulings).

However, the general premise of that case is true – you can’t use someone’s image for a commercial purpose, which means to make money, without his or her written consent. That’s why 50 Cent is suing World Star Hip Hop. They used his image on their website in such a way that it looked like he was affiliated with their site without his written consent. This gave them greater traffic and more ad revenues, which is a commercial purpose.

So what does this mean for your average club promoter, graphic designer, blogger, etc? It means you should get permission from the copyright holder of an image and/or the model before putting it on a flier or otherwise using it to make money. This recent Judge Judy episode will likely inspire more models to act on this type of misappropriation more often.

• What are the damages?

In the Judge Judy case she slapped the club promoter with the maximum allowable damages in small claims - $5000. In reality, damages could be difficult to prove and might have been less.

In California, for example, “The injured party may recover (1) the greater of $ 750 or actual damages, and (2) any profits attributable to the unauthorized use and not accounted for in computing damages. In establishing profits, the burden is on the injured party to prove the gross revenue, and on the violator to prove deductible expenses. The injured party may also recover punitive damages, and the prevailing party is entitled to attorneys' fees and costs.” (C.C. § 3344(a).) That's a lot to digest, but the reality is that it would be difficult for a model prove what revenues a club made due to using her image on a flier without hiring a forensic accountant. Also, since there are no attorneys allowed in small claims court, there would be no legal fees recoverable, although some filing fees might be allowed. So that might mean just $750 in damages for the club promoter (in California).

• Exception for Newsworthy Matters or Matters of Public Interest

One important exception to the invasion of privacy/right of publicity claim is for newsworthy matters. You can use a model or celebrities image on your website if it is associated with a newsworthy matter or a matter of public interest. That is how and Media Take Out get away with using those pics of Beyonce, Melyssa Ford, Ahsanti, etc. to drive traffic to their site without being sued. That’s also one reason why informational blurbs almost always accompany my model postings, as opposed to it just being straight photos.

However, even when the matter is not newsworthy, there’s some evidence the right to privacy might be slightly reduced on the internet. Enter United States v. Gines-Perez, 214 F. Supp. 2d 205, 225 (D. Puerto Rico 2002). In that case the court held: "[P]lacing information on the information superhighway necessarily makes said matter accessible to the public, no matter how many protectionist measures may be taken, or even when a web page is 'under construction.'" "[I]t strikes the Court as obvious that a claim to privacy is unavailable to someone who places information on an indisputably, public medium, such as the Internet, without taking any measures to protect the information."

In terms of copyright (the photographer's cause of action for unauthorized use), which is different from invasion of privacy (the model's cause of action for unauthorized use) the Fair Use Doctrine may permit news related use without permission as well. "The Fair Use Doctrine is codified at 17 U.S.C. § 107 and states that “the fair use of a copyrighted work..for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. Fortunately for bloggers, most of what they do is, at the very least, criticism or comment.” (See, Miller, Bloggers, Is Your Content Safe Under The “Fair Use” Doctrine?, BlackWeb 2.0,)

The bottom line is that using images of models on fliers or the internet for a commercial purpose and without their written consent is a bad business practice in general and can expose you to liability. The key trigger is whether the use is commercial in nature; that is, are you using it to make money or promote a product or service. If so, then chances are, whether it is the internet or just a flyer, you will be liable to the model for damages should s/he decide to sue.


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What Do Urban Models Really Get Paid?

Tonight I got a really good question from “clacey9” who writes: “Hi, I was recently reading Buffie the Body's autobiography and she said that she didn’t get paid when she was first in KING magazine and magazines don’t pay models when they are in their magazine. I was wondering if this is true and if not how much does an urban model generally get paid? And also what are some good rates for me to begin my career: Hosting, videos, magazines and etc?”

There’s definitely truth to what Buffie said. In general, urban magazines don’t pay much, if at all. But this is not unusual in the modeling world in general. The editorial rate of most magazines is pretty low ($100 to $200) because being featured in the magazine alone is like a huge advertisement for the model and leads to bigger paydays. What’s interesting in the world of urban modeling however - and some would argue it’s not unique to this genre - is that the urban mags often try to skip out on paying the model altogether. Bria and I have had to chase down payments from just about every magazine she was in. This can get pretty unpleasant and a lot girls just give up, for fear of antagonizing the magazine’s staff and killing their chance of ever appearing in it again. This is where having an agent or manager can help, because they can track down a model’s money relentlessly without the model ever getting her hands dirty.

What Urban Models Really Make Might Surprise You


First, it’s important to realize that the Golden Age of Urban Modeling is over. It happened about five years ago and a number of factors coincided to end it. In 2005, a top urban model might make $5,000 to host a party, $5,000 a month on her website, and $1,500 to be the lead in a music video. Nowadays a model is lucky if she gets $1,000 to host a party, brings in $1,000 a month on her membership-based website, or makes $500 to be a lead in a music video. Even at its peak, urban modeling was never really intended to be the sole source of a woman’s income, but more so to supplement it. That’s because the work is too sporadic to count on for consistent income.

So on paper, urban modeling looks like a pretty bad proposition from a financial perspective. But there are a number of “fringe benefits” that can’t be monetarily quantified and make it more palatable. (That’s the subject for a different blog post.) Also, once you become well known, sometimes you’ll get a little bonus. A job that comes along and seemingly makes it all worthwhile. In 2008, Bria was in an Xbox game entitled “Don King Presents: Prizefighter.” Bria played herself as a reward to players that boxed their way to a certain level. I personally attended the recording session at Smashbox Studios here in Los Angeles when Bria taped this. She made $1,700 and earned enough credit to join SAG for four hours of work, which consisted of her reading a few lines of dialogue and taking some photos so that a CGI version of her could be created. (There are actresses out there struggling who don’t have enough credits to enter SAG.) That was one of those “cherry on top” jobs that happens every so often for urban models who are consistent performers.

Listed below are some general ranges of what a fairly successful urban model like Bria Myles can make from certain endeavors:

Party Hosting:
$0 - $1000
(A lot of models host parties for free to get exposure. Few make more than a $1,000 for an appearance)

Music Video:
Lead ($300 - $500); Featured ($150 - $300)

Magazine Feature:
$100 - $200 (the BlackMen SSX issues are rumored to pay up to $4,000, but those are far and few between these days)

Membership Based Website:
$500 - $1,000 per month

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The Art of Posing

Last month I had a model write in asking about posing. She writes: "I was wondering when you have time, do you think you could create a post on what type of poses a model is required to have to enhance the chances of getting bookings?" This is a good question, but a tricky one because as a photographer, I'm not doing the posing. Still, I’m looking at it and often directing it, and I know a good pose from a stinker. Posing is also a challenging question to address because, on some level, it’s instinctive and unique to every individual. It's hard to come up with a set of rules that everyone should abide by to get good results. With that said, I'm going to take a shot at it anyway. I think the factors listed below should be taken into account by any model who's taking this seriously as a craft.

Try This At Home Kids! Really!

Before you go out and shoot, if you have new ideas for poses in your head (especially sexy ones), you should try them out at home in front of the mirror or a video camera first. Don't wait until you get on set to try some avante garde new pose you came up with for the first time. You'll be wasting the photographer's time with your practice. Check out the pose in the mirror or on video to help you assess whether it looks goofy or works before you go out there. Which leads to our next topic...

Practice Makes Perfect

To be a good model, you have to be a master of expressions. You need to know just how to raise an eyebrow or pout the lips to get the desired results. Your body and face are your tools of trade, and you need to have complete control over them. Vogue-ing in the mirror may seem vain, but it's your job! And the more you do it, the more you'll be able to call up the desired pose or expression on command, which will result in better shots and greater efficiency. There's nothing worse than a model who is constantly asking to check the LED monitor to see if what she did worked. She should know this. If you need to get another opinion about a pose while practicing at home, make sure it's someone who's objective and not some guy who'll just be happy you're making sexy poses for him. Winking

Assess Your Target Audience

This one's pretty obvious, but the poses that will work for BlackMen magazine probably wouldn't work in Allure magazine. If you're hired for a job, you need to figure out what is expected from you on the day of the shoot so you know what to do on set.

Learn to Pose For Your Body

Everybody has a weak spot - some area they'd just as soon not get caught on film. It's your job as a model to learn how to work around your weak spot while still providing a wide range of posing choices to the photographer. It's not enough to say, like Johnny Drama on a hilarious episode of "Entourage," that the photographer just can't shoot your right side. You need to learn how to work that weak spot to your advantage.
This is especially salient in the urban genre where women may have larger backsides, cellulite, etc. I have been on several shoots with models with large backsides that weren’t sure how to pose from the back or what to do with all their “assets.” You can’t go to an urban model shoot and be shy about being thick; it just doesn’t work. So learn how to bring out that inner Sasha Fierce no matter how curvy you are.

There's Nothing Wrong With Imitation - Watch the Greats

Sad to say, not everyone has an innate sense of grace and fluidity of movement and expression, just like not everyone can naturally dance. For some, it takes more practice and training than others. If you want to be a model, you need to watch the former greats like Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell to see what they did. You're not looking to imitate exactly here, but more so adopt a style that may work for you. I'd recommend watching some of those old Sports Illustrated Swimsuit making-of DVDs. I particularly liked the ones from the late 90s.
In terms of urban models, Melyssa Ford is my favorite because she mastered the art of being titillating without being vulgar, which is a very fine line to walk. Melyssa did a lot with her face, and practically patented her rapturous, slightly parted lips expression.


Those are my tips on posing. I hope they help.

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A Little More on the Model Release

I recently had a model ask me a very good question via email on this site, which was “When is it okay to sign a model release for a TFP shoot?” She also had some questions about provisions in the release.

Recall that a model release gives the photographer the right to commercially exploit your images. In a TFP shoot, the premise is that no one is getting paid -- everyone is doing the job in exchange for the final product. The prints or images. By getting you to sign a model release, the photographer is kind of cheating on this deal, because it allows him to make money from your photos. (There are countless websites that will pay money for a set of photos of an attractive model in lingerie or swimwear. These days, most photo shoots involve at least one look in swimwear. You get the picture.)

But the real question is whether there’s anything ethically questionable about the photographer asking for the release on a TFP shoot. The short answer is, “no.” Whether or not you should sign it depends on your relative bargaining power compared to the photographer. If you’re an unknown model and the photographer is well known and very good, it might be worth it for you to sign the release to get a chance to work with them. Just be sure to ask them what they intend to use the photos for. You may even want to demand that your photos not be used in association with anything that you would consider offensive or defamatory, including ads related to alcohol, tobacco, infectious disease, medications and drug use, sex and sexual orientation.

On the other hand, if you’re pretty much in the same place as the photographer careerwise and neither of you is doing the other a favor by working together, why should the photographer gain the unfair advantage of having the right to sell your photos? At the very least, it’s open to negotiation.

Without getting into the specifics of her other questions, suffice it to say, model releases often contain confusing language and legal jargon (i.e., “for the use of your image for all time and in any medium now known or hereinafter devised…” ) , but a lot of it is standard fare and should not cause undue concern. For instance, the following phrases should not cause alarm if you see them:


These are standard terms in any model release worthy of being signed. To see a standard model release Click Here

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Keep Your Photos Clean & Naturalistic

Stylized photos may look good at the time, but they also date faster. Urban modeling magazines lean toward heavily styled shoots - lots of bracelets and accessories, trendy shoes and clothing. In my opinion, a lot of urban model shoots are overly stylized. If you want to stand out from the crowd and get pictures that will look great years after you've retired, go for clean, naturalistic photos.

Cute Model


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Reader Question: How to Get Ahead in This Business Without Degrading Yourself

I recently got the following question from an aspiring model (let’s call her Joyce) via email. She writes:

“With the oversaturation of the market I don’t see many people getting discovered these days. So how does a determined lady go about taking her career from the amateur level to actually working without pulling a Cubana Lust if you know what I mean.”

I think what Joyce is actually asking is, “how do I become a working model in the industry without resorting to booty shaking videos or doing something I might regret later?”

That’s a difficult question, because supply greatly exceeds demand right now in the urban market, which means that even qualified models have to work harder and resort to more drastic measures to get noticed.

The first step is to be really honest with yourself about where you stand compared to the competition. I don’t think a top notch beauty will ever have to turn to booty shaking videos to get noticed. It may take longer, but quality always rises to the surface. Of course, not every girl can be Melyssa Ford. So where does that leave the moderately attractive model with a nice figure who still wants to retain her modesty and excel in the industry?

Well, there are other ways to stand out besides doing booty shaking videos. Model/actress Claudia Jordan is doing quite well right now because she has a gift for gab and has made a name for herself in radio. Rosa Acosta is using her ballet training to produce videos that mix eroticism with classical dance. Today’s urban model has got to be inventive if she wants to set herself apart.

As just one example, some aspiring models are gaining a fan base by making Youtube videos talking about controversial subjects (often times quite passionately). The pretext is the speech, but what viewers are really interested in is how beautiful the girl is. For instance, check out terra904’s speech about the backhanded compliments women of darker complexion often get. Notice the low cut top she has on and the overall aesthetically pleasing quality of the video? Not a mistake. Today’s vixen will have to be clever in ways like this to get noticed.


Another way to set yourself apart from the crowd is through your photos. If everybody else is shooting glam in the studio, take natural light shots at the beach. If everybody else is oiled down in a thong, wear a one piece. Your styling also plays a part in this. Amber Rose stood out because she had a blonde buzz cut. Now she’s Kanye’s girlfriend.

Finally, you’ve got to buck up and get ready for the long haul. It simply isn’t going to happen overnight for most girls these days, and especially the ones who want to maintain their integrity. But if you understand that going in, you won’t be discouraged. Just remember, before there was urban modeling, women of color who wanted to model simply got an agent and went out on castings for things like TJ Maxx catalogs and McDonalds commercials and continued to improve themselves through strict diet, exercise, speech and acting classes, etc. -- none of which are degrading -- until something hit. That's the traditional way to break into the market, and it still works. Winking

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Dena Cali - Paradigm

Dena Cali is what you would consider a commercial model. She's not a high fashion, Milan runway type and she's not an urban model, although you may recognize her from Diddy's "Last Night" music video. But you've probably seen her in plenty of television commercials, on billboards and in magazines and never even knew it. She makes really good money doing this, almost certainly more than someone like Melyssa Ford. Did you know that a national TV ad for something like Snickers candy bar or Coca Cola can pay upward of $80,000 with residuals (provided it's not a buy out)? Yes, commercial models make the big bucks, even though they don't usually get name recognition. Dena is also an entrepreneur and produces a popular line of wigs. Check out Dena's blog here. This is one model who sets a good example...

Dena Cali Collage


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How to Become The Next Big Urban Model in Three Easy Steps

The steps are fairly simple, but a few of them require more discretion and sophistication than a lot of girls can muster.

Step 1: Get Quality Photos - Striking, quality photographs are the building blocks of any successful career in modeling. We're not talking iPhone pics taken in your backyard, but professional pics that cast you in the best light possible. Also, it’s important to stand out of from the crowd, so forgot about doing back shots oiled down in a thong. Everyone is doing those type of pics now. Be sexy without giving everything away. This is where discretion comes into play - do you have what it takes?


Step 2: Get yourself noticed. This means putting yourself out there on sites like Model Mayhem and submitting to castings for magazines and music videos. It’s easier to get a break in a music video than a magazine. The music video circuit is not as “political,” for lack of a better word, as the magazine circuit. If a casting director like Anissa Williams sees a hot model for a music video, she's not going to condition submission on whether the model gets “friendly” with her. Her main goal is to get the hottest, freshest talent to the artist for the best price. So if you can't catch a break with the magazines, start submitting for music video castings. Dollicia Bryan got her break in Joe's music video long before getting magazine exposure.

These days, with social media being hugely important, just having a Twitter or Facebook page with good images and respectable postings can be enough to build a fan base and interest. If you can muster over 5,000 followers on Twitter someone will eventually take notice. Sean Malcolm of KING and the other major mag editors are all on Twitter, so be careful how you present yourself. People are watching.

Step 3: Be professional. Be humble. Professionalism is really lacking in urban modeling, on all sides of the equation. But you can only worry about yours. Basic things like saying "please" and "thank you," being on time, promptly returning emails/phone calls, and showing humility will go a long way in your favor because so few urban models exhibit these qualities today. The number one reason urban models lose their footing in the industry is that they become divas after even the slightest success and get labeled “difficult to work with.” Even if you book a magazine cover or a Kanye West video, it does not entitle you to romp around like you’re Megan Fox. Being late for a shoot, showing up with bags under your eyes from partying the night before, being overly demanding on set, etc. - these are all things that are considered diva-like behaviour.

Again, this is an area where discretion and sophistication come into play.

That’s it for now. I'll expand upon this article as thoughts come to me.

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Managers in Urban Modeling - Part I

I've gotten several emails regarding model representation and how to find a manager. In this article I'm going to discuss: 1) What managers do (or should do) to assist you in the urban market; 2) How to find a manager; 3) How to make the most of having a manager (aka how to work with your manager); and 4) Why you might need a manager.

What a Manager Does

There is a lot of misinformation where it concerns model management. For instance, many people believe it is a manager's responsibility to book work for their client. That's incorrect. In fact, in California it is illegal for a manager to procure employment for his or her clients under the Talent Agency Act. So then, "what does a manager do?" you're probably asking. A manager's role is to advise and counsel his client to facilitate their advancement in the entertainment industry. It's a very unique role that requires a lot of personal attention. A manager can advise a client on anything that impacts their career, from maintaining the ideal body weight to curbing a drinking problem to taking diction classes.

Ideally, your manager should be fairly well plugged into the entertainment industry. They should have direct lines of communication to the key decision makers in the urban modeling industry: magazine editors, casting directors, photographers, other models, acting coaches, producers, music video directors, etc. I say "ideally" because it is entirely possible for a manager not to have these connections and still serve your interests well. When I met Bria, she knew more people in the urban modeling world than me. (Note: it is the model's responsibility to make sure their connections are re-trained to go their their manager once that relationship begins).

A manager may also be helpful because of his or her particular skill set. At the very least, your manager should be able to write well, communicate effectively, and move fluidly through the world of business. Remember, a manager is a facilitator - they should never get in the way of something good happening for their client. If they do, there's a problem.

Sometimes photographers will take on the role of being a model's manager because they develop a personal relationship with the model. Models should be wary of this. If the photographer does not have the business skills to assist the model, they may wind up being more of a handicap than a help. When I started working with Bria and Koi, I had been practicing law for several years, so I felt perfectly capable of handling any business matter that came their way.

So what should the manager do to assist the urban model, in specific. While certainly not exhaustive, this list is illustrative of some of the tasks a manager can undertake to earn his 15%:

1. Coordinate photo shoots with quality photographers who will help the model stand out from her competition;

2. Send out comp cards with introduction letters to magazine editors, casting directors, etc. regarding his client, as well as creating posts on the relevant message boards about the model;

3. Assist in the development of an online presence, including development of a website, Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter account. This includes recruiting graphic artists and website designers to brand the model;

4. Assist in the maintenance of the model's appearance, including assisting in finding a personal trainer and good hair and make-up artists;

5. Help find a talent agent to book work for the client;

6. Counsel and give input on how to improve the client's career;

7. Help develop new and unique opportunities and venues for client exposure. For example, an urban manager might reach out to the comic book community to see if his client could make a cameo in an issue and thereby introducing her to the comic book audience;

8. Provide transportation (where practical) and moral support at major casting calls and photo shoots, etc.

How to Find a Manager

I cannot tell a lie: it is not easy to find a good manager these days for an urban model. The main reason for this is that the money making opportunities for urban models are scarce and becoming even scarcer by the day as supply far exceeds demand. This is the result of the deluge of aspiring models that appeared on the scene because of Facebook, Myspace, and digital photography. Managers only make a fraction of what their client makes (usually between 10 and 20 percent), and if a model is only making peanuts its obvious the manager won't make much. To make matters worse, many of the "fringe benefits" for urban modeling do not translate to managers. For example, if a celebrity or pro athlete contacts a model and invites her to spend a luxurious weekend in the Bahamas (this happens often for top urban models, believe it or not), how can the manager realize 15% of this??? It's an intangible. Often the benefits of urban modeling fall into this intangible category: gifts (Bria has received several iPods from fans), invitations to the best parties and red carpet events; magazine features, television appearances, etc. These are all things that are great for the model, but don't pay any money and will not benefit the manager (although he may very well be stuck assisting with the coordination of these things).

With that said, good managers, like good business, are where you find them. If a capable individual expresses interest in steering your career, interview them and see if they are worth trying out. Have they managed other models/actresses successfully? Are they intelligent, knowledgeable about the business, well spoken, etc.? If so, you might want to give them a month trial period with no contract to see how things work out.

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Getting Quality Photos - Part II

In the first part of this article I dealt with the obstacles that seem to prevent models from getting good shoots. In this Part I’m going to address the nuts and bolts of the shoot.

1. Communication and Planning with The Photographer.

A legitimate photo shoot (the type that produces good results) takes planning and preparation. Talk to the photographer before your session and find out what ideas he has in mind for you and convey the things you’d like to try. Agreeing on concepts could get tricky, but it’s important to know what you’re doing before arriving at a shoot. When I first shot with Bria Myles we met once just to test the concept before the shoot actually happened. This was probably overkill, but I hadn’t shot in a while and I wanted make sure the lighting and colors were what I wanted. This made the day of our actual shoot that much easier because we had already squelched any awkwardness on our test run.

I recommend you meet with the photographer at least once before your shoot, just to see what your energy is like together. Photo shoots are partially about chemistry between the photographer and the model, and if you don’t feel comfortable with the photographer it might show in the photos.

A Note Regarding Escorts: Personally, I’m not a fan of escorts – especially boyfriends – on photo shoots. Still, I understand the occasional necessity for them. Again, meeting with/speaking to the photographer beforehand will go a long way toward telling you whether an escort will be necessary. You should also check the photographer's references. If you meet with the fotog and still determine you need an escort, you probably shouldn’t be shooting with them. Also, keep in mind that if you’re partaking in a professional photo session, there will also be a hair person, a make-up artist, and possibly even a stylist present on the shoot with you. With that said, model comfort and safety are paramount on a photo shoot. If having a friend with you will help, the photographer shouldn’t have a problem with it as long as it does not interfere with the model-photographer dynamic.

2. Working Out The Arrangement to Get Your Photos and Determining Photo Usage. This rule is simple: you should demand that all of your photos be delivered on a CD the day of the shoot, especially if you’re paying for the photos. This is the number one problem with photo shoots for models -- they trust the photographer to deliver the pictures and for one reason or another, it doesn’t happen. If a photographer balks at the idea of giving you photos the day of the shoot, it’s probably because he doesn’t want his work out there without his post-processing editing on them. That leads us to the next issue: photo usage.

I see a lot of models demanding photo releases on shoots. This is not the solution to your problem (see my blog entry on model releases), as the standard release gives the photographer more rights than they would have had without one! What you should be more concerned with is how your photos will be used and what control you have over that. This doesn’t require a lawyer. All you need to do is send the photographer an email (that he confirms receiving) making your concerns clear. For instance

“Dear John Fotog,

I look forward to our shoot this weekend. I just want to be clear that we are using these pictures solely for our portfolios and to promote our work. Neither of us will sell the photos or distribute these pictures publicly without the consent of the other. This means that we both have to give the other our consent (not to be unreasonably withheld) before posting photos from our session on the internet or in any other medium.”

This should not be a problem if you paid for your photos. In fact, you should ask the photographer to assign his copyright in the photos to you if you've paid for the session. If the photo shoot is TFP, the photographer may not like having you dictate which photos they can post. However, if the photographer asked you to shoot you should be able to set the terms of your arrangement. If you approached them, you may have to forgo this right. Again, this comes down to working with a photographer you trust and that has good references.

3. Make Sure You Take Versatile Pictures. You can’t book a Target catalog or a McDonald's commercial if you’re oiled down in a thong in every shot. These days, swimsuit and lingerie photos are all the rage, but you’ll need headshots and some lifestyle/editorial shots if you want to get work in something other than a music video and urban magazine. Ask the photographer if he’s willing to at least take some headshots before you get into the more risqué stuff.

4. Avoid Taking Pictures You’ll Regret Later. It’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of a shoot and maybe go further than you intended. Photo shoots may look like a carefree romp, but a serious model is always clear headed about what she’s giving the camera. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shot with models only to have them later say they hate the photos and don’t want me to use them. This can be avoided by simply looking at the photographer’s results during the shoot and taking a moment to evaluate the direction the shoot is going in. This may not always be easy, but it’s a lot better than ruining your goodwill with a photographer and getting a reputation for being difficult.

5. Make Sure You Have Good Hair & Make Up. This may be the last point on this list, but it is probably the most important. Really good pictures are always a collaborative effort, and a big part of that collaboration is hair and make up. For some reason, a lot of models think they can just go out with a photographer and get results that look like the stuff in Allure magazine with no hair and make up on set. For the most part, it doesn't work that way. Finding a quality hair stylist and make up person for your shoot is just as important, if not more, than getting a good photographer. If a photographer has no plans to even have hair and make up present on the shoot, you may want to reconsider. When evaluating hair and make up it is critical to find out whether they have worked on models with attributes similar to you with success.



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Getting Quality Photos - Part I

One of the biggest mistakes I see with urban models is their failure to consistently produce quality photos, which is usually a result of their inability (or lack of willingness) to effectively organize photo shoots. This leads to long sabbaticals from the game resulting in decreased interest and opportunities. I believe this happens for three reasons:

1. A lack of motivation. Many urban models simply expect top photographers to come to them to shoot. For the most part, it doesn't work that way. An up-and-coming model has to essentially produce her own shoots until she generates enough interest to turn the tables. Urban model pics carry little value to a working commercial photographer.

2. Failure to set aside money for photo shoots. A lot of urban models expect quality photos for free, which only leads to problems (see below);

3. Lack of resourcefulness
and an overemphasis on shooting with trendy photographers that other hot models have shot with.

Quality photos are the fuel of celebrity. It's those great pictures on the cover of Cosmo and Allure that keeps people in awe of Halle and Eva Mendes. Without quality photos, interest in a model will definitely wane. It's easy to get pics when the magazines are all asking to shoot with you, because they organize and finance the shoots for you. But what do you do when this doesn't happen (and most times it doesn't)? You have to be prepared to make it happen without magazine-produced shoots.

This means seeking out quality photographers and being prepared to pay them something to get good shots. I know, I know - you're cute and sexy as hell. They ought to be paying to shoot with you! And it's that expectation that leads to all those ugly situations we read about in the Model Mayhem forums where photographers don't give models the CD of images, or expect sexual favors in return, etc. If you want professionalism, you have to be a professional. Don't expect to get quality pictures for free.

Model Brittany Daily - BlackMen Mag Produced Photo


The other thing I see a lot is models who will only shoot with a photographer another hot model has shot with. There's nothing wrong with working through the referral system, but don't turn away a good photographer that wants to shoot with you just because he hasn't just shot with Melyssa Ford. Use common sense about this. If the unknown photographer is talented and dying to shoot with you, chances are he will go the extra mile to make things work out because he's looking to attract interest in his work through shooting with you. The flavor-of-the-month photographer, on the other hand, is more likely to put you on hold and take forever. Remember, long lulls between photo shoots will cause people to lose interest in you, and often it never returns to the level it was before you disappeared from the scene.

Model Summer Walker is a good example of both the negative and positive examples I'm referring to. When Summer first hit the market in 2004, about 5-6 sets of photos were produced of her. She also shot with XXL and Smooth. But for a long time after her initial heat wave, no new photos of Summer hit the net. Then she shot with Zigga Zagga Productions. Those are some the best independently produced photos of an urban model I've ever seen. But it may have been too little too late. I'm convinced the lack of a consistent stream of photos of Summer significantly reduced her popularity, because the interest was there.

Model Summer Walker - Independently Produced Photo


I'm not saying it's easy to produce your own shoots, but it can be done because I've seen other models do it successfully. The days of just being pretty and getting ahead in this market are over. Today's urban model has to be as equal parts business savvy and attractive.

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Terms of the Trade - The Voucher

One of the documents any working model is bound to encounter is the Voucher. A hybrid between a time card, an invoice, and a model release, this document is understandably confusing. In this excerpt from attorney Louis Tertocha's article, "From Contract Clauses to the Rigors of The Runway," in The Entertainment and Sports Law Journal, he gives us a concise definition of a voucher:

The majority of assignments made for clients of an agency (a client is the party that requires the model) are negotiated with the agency's booker. Depending upon agency policy, an "advance" against the payment for services rendered is often issued to the model, contingent upon the model's successful performance of the assignment and tendering of necessary paper-work (the ubiquitous "voucher") to the agency.The voucher is a document executed by the client upon completion of the assignment that confirms the model's performance. The model is responsible for delivering the voucher to the agency, usually within 24 hours; the agency uses this to invoice the client. Advances against earnings, if any, paid to the model by the agency require strict compliance with voucher procedures and may be recouped before models are paid commissions. Significantly, the voucher may also serve to assign all of the model's interest in or rights to the photographic images to the client or, alternatively, may contain other restrictions on use.

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Aspiring Urban Models & Managing Expectations

I was talking to a friend today who is considering hanging it up from urban modeling. Her reasons? There's no money in it; the market is saturated - no one can shine; 90% of the "offers" she gets on Myspace and through her website are bogus, etc. Which led me to this conclusion: today's urban model has to view this as a hobby, like an aerobics class on the weekend, and nothing more. With the closing of KING magazine, a recession that is darn near a depression, and hip hop in a slump, gone are the days of models getting $5,000 or more to host or back-to-back SSX issues (how many of those have you seen this year?). Sure, a few of the top tier girls like Melyssa still probably make decent money to host, but by and large the money isn't there in hosting. Also gone are the days of the lead model in a music video making $1,500. It just doesn't happen anymore. Lead models are lucky to get $500 for the day.

Which narrows the money making opportunities for video vixens down to pay websites, modeling in a magazine, and dancing professionally (aka stripping). And fewer models are making big money off websites these days. In other words, the industry has reverted back to what it was pre-2002 (except there was still money to be made on the internet). Back in 2000, if a girl made it into the Swimsuit Edition of BlackMen magazine or Jet magazine -- remember, there was no Smooth, KING, or SHOW back in 2000 -- she got her little check and maybe did a music video or a calendar and that was it. But girls still did it, because it will always be cool to pick up a magazine on a newsstand and see yourself in it.


And that's pretty much where we are today. With the proliferation of prospective urban models on Facebook and Myspace, the best a girl can hope for is a magazine spread or a decent music video. Chances are it won't go much beyond that. Back in 2000 it didn't go beyond that because the career trajectory for urban modeling hadn't yet been formulated. Now it won't go beyond that because supply exceeds demand, discretionary incomes are shrinking, and print magazine are becoming a thing of the past as the internet takes over.

So my advice to the really hot wannabe models out there is that if want to do this, do it. But manage your expectations. Be realistic about where this can take you. You probably won't be the next Buffie because there may never be another Buffie or Melyssa Ford. Those times are over. But there will always be a reigning eye candy model. And it may just be you.

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The Model Release

As some of you already know, I’m a lawyer. In addition to managing Bria Myles for a while, I have extensive experience with contracts and litigation and ran a calendar publishing business when I graduated from UCLA Law School. That calendar featured models and actresses like Melissa De Sousa, Traci Bingham, Jossie Harris, Mari Morrow, and Amy Hunter, among others. It was featured on Entertainment Tonight, The Jenny Jones Show, Tavis Smiley’s show, and was written about in the Los Angeles Times. In short, I’ve been around the modeling business for a while and encountered most of the situations today’s models have dealt with.

I welcome emails from aspiring models about the business on any and every topic. Each week, I’ll take on one of those questions and publish it here, in the “Model Advice” section.

The first of these entries is devoted to a subject that is often misunderstood: the dreaded model release and what your rights are after a photo shoot with or without one.

THE MODEL RELEASE – From the Model’s Perspective

What It Is; What Happens in the Absence of One

A model release is a document signed by the model that allows the photographer to use your pictures for commercial purposes. One of the biggest misconceptions about a model release is that it primarily benefits the model, but as the name implies, it is the model who is releasing rights. And generally the right being released is to have one's image or likeness commercially exploited. By the way, a commercial exploitation is anything concerning the use of your image in advertisements, promotional materials or product packaging, as well as the sale of products. Essentially, anytime your image is used to make money, it is a commercial use.

It's also important to understand that a photographer does not need a model release to display your photo to the public for noncommercial purposes, because he owns the copyright to any picture he takes of you. (Subject to the model's right of privacy. In California, the aforesaid is pretty much true, but in New York, where a written release is necessary to display anyone's photo for just about any reason, the photographer would still need the release.)

Photographer Owns the Copyright

Consider a common scenario: You ask a photographer friend to take some pictures of you. He photographs you in a swimsuit at the beach, but no release is signed and although he gives you a few image files, he keeps the CD. A few years later you hit it big and start to wonder what happened to those pictures you took way back when. Could they have made their way onto the internet? Been sold on eBay? Displayed in a newspaper or magazine?

Here's the deal: As the author of those images, your photographer friend is the holder of the copyright to them, which means he has the right to distribute them to the public, create derivative works from them, publish them for any newsworthy purpose, etc. It also means he can post them on the internet or anywhere else we wants, so long as it is not associated with a commercial use. (Which means he cannot sell your images on eBay, by the way, because that is a commercial use.)

If you want to prevent this, you have to enter into a contract with the photographer that provides that neither of you will display the images to the public without the other's consent.
What to Look For in Urban Magazine Model Releases

For magazines like BlackMen, KING, and Smooth a model release will almost always be required. You probably won't have the opportunity to contest any of the provisions of the release at the photo sessions without causing a fuss. The releases are often presented at the conclusion of the photo shoot and the model will feel pressured to just sign it and move on. It's pretty tough to tell an editor that just showered you with compliments and a great photo session that you won't sign the release because you don't like how it's worded.

For that reason, if possible, try to get a copy of the release you'll be asked to sign well in advance of the day you shoot. This way you can review it and raise any issues before your photo shoot.

The main "gotchas" that come up in these releases are exclusivity provisions and releases for video footage in addition to the still photos. An exclusivity provision will state that after you shoot with the magazine you are prohibited from shooting with any similar magazines for a certain period of time, sometimes up to a year. Generally, these are bad news. Urban models have a very short shelf life and even a 90-day exclusivity period can significantly chill a model's career. A year could kill it. Further, exclusivity provisions usually require additional consideration (money) to be enforceable under the law, and most magazine editors will not pay you extra to forego other opportunities.

As for the video footage releases, this language that is often packed into the release and overlooked by models. Let's say Smooth Magazine shoots you and while the still photography is taking place, you are also being video taped. Technically, you should get paid extra for the video footage if it is going to used for a commercial purpose, such as to sell a behind-the-scenes type DVD. But some of the editors will try to slip this in with the photo session release, so the amount you are paid for the use of your still images in the magazine also extinguishes your right to ask for any further money once a video comes out. Again, not at all favorable to the model.

Okay, that's a basic overview. Post any questions you have in comments, and I'll try to answer them.


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