Monday, 13 June 2016

10 things they don't tell you when you become a male model



Working as a model for nine years for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Diet Coke and Bacardi and being able to travel the world has been a dream come true.

In 2007, I was spotted by a top european agency and have never looked back. OK thats not entirely true. I have threatened to quit numerous times, but I am still here fighting the fight. 

My first job was shooting a TV commercial for Esprit, which involved travelling the world for four weeks, from Munich to Hong Kong, New Zealand, Fiji oh and finishing up in Vegas!
I was getting familiar with airport’s, shooting catalogues in Athens, Majorca, working in Tokyo for two months and filming commercials in Portugal and Paris. 

Two years was spent in Los Angeles signed to Wilhelmina Models, one of the most recognised names in the industry before returning to London and continually working from catwalk shows to catalogues, commercials to underwear shoots. You name it, I’ve probably done it, but I have stayed humble and extremely grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way.

When I started in this industry I expected showbiz, girls, money and that glamorous lifestyle that is often portrayed all over the media. What I was to encounter was something completely different.
  1. You’re usually not modelling, you’re waiting

If you can’t get used to waiting, then you will never get used to modelling. Once, I waited over four hours to be seen by a casting director for under five minutes! Imagine being in an airport, sat at your gate with no amenities, flight delayed, but no one giving you any information when your flight will start boarding. The frustration building amongst passengers, no seats left so people crammed on the floor. Now picture that gate with a hundred models and their egos. Painful.

If you’re not stuck in a room waiting for a casting director or a client, you’re glued to your phone 24 hours a day waiting for a phone call about a job. It’s like being in the worst relationship ever, not knowing if she's going to accept you or dump you. Sometimes that call never even comes and you find out you’ve not booked the job by simply not getting a call. 
You have to wait for calls for castings, jobs, options and do not get me started on waiting for buses.

2. Your life is totally unstable and you can't plan for anything

Have you ever seen a bank manager rolling around on the floor in hysterics? Walk into a bank and say you’re a model and that you’re looking for a mortgage and you will soon find out. The inconsistency to my wages makes it almost impossible to get a mortgage.
Taking a holiday is like going to the casino, a real gamble. I have cancelled two holidays because of jobs coming up and came home early on three separate occasions for the same reason. 
It’s not just holidays though, it’s nights out with friends, stag do’s, birthdays and family occasions that are often affected.
One minute work is constantly flowing in, the next you’re out of favour and have to wait weeks, even months for your next job. Two and a half months I have waited for a job to come in before and even then it may have only paid £200.

3. You’re lied to A LOT

How many times “the world” is offered to you and it never comes to fruition. Clients promising campaigns and plenty of future work and you never hear from them again. Being told you are on option for a £10k job and then never hearing anything back at all.
Countless times I have spent hours traipsing round London to castings only to be turned away as I wasn’t actually requested.
If an agency knows a job is worth little money, they will often hide that information just so you go to the casting. Once I confirmed a job for half a days work, but the day before was told it was shooting in Leeds, a two hour plus each way trip, which clearly meant it was a full day of my time.

4. You become a liar yourself

If you ask most male models they will pretty much describe themselves as superman. “Can you fly?” yes. “Can you time travel?” yes. When you are asked if you can do something by a casting director or client you just say yes, and worry about it later. It’s like an unwritten rule that all male models abide by, but all go through that awkward moment when you are asked to prove it.
Many times I have told my agency I’m ill because I do not want to go to an audition or because I have booked a job direct with a client. Quite a few years ago I told an agency I was away on holiday in Spain, when in fact I was working in Denmark for a client (sometimes you just have to do these things).

5. You’re humiliated on a regular basis

I have no shame, no dignity, and no problem with that if it gets me a job. I have sung, danced to no music, mimed to a Spice Girls track, barked like a dog and would do it again if I had too. Model, Matthew Carter, even had to spit into a cup and he said: “It comes to a point when you don't question what you’re asked to do, however humiliating, you just do it.”
Sometimes I wonder if casting directors just ask us to do this stuff because they are bored just seeing a new face appear in the room every five minutes. They know you will always say yes to anything.

6. You’ll earn good money, but it will take forever for you to get paid, if at all…

Sometimes the money you can earn for a days “work” (usually consisting of standing looking left and right and straight ahead) is ridiculous. The most for one days shoot I have earned has been £6,000. However, when you may not work for a couple of months that money soon deteriorates in worth. Not only that, when you have to wait sometimes six months plus to be paid its quite tough. A contact lens online commercial I shot six years ago was never paid, which was worth £2,000. I gave up chasing it in the end.

7. You become as competitive as the female models

We all play nice when we arrive to a casting, with friendly questions - how are you etc, when really we’re sizing each other up, both figuratively and literally. You will see a guy who’s been in a big fragrance campaign and quite frankly think you won’t get the job. Or when it is for an underwear job and some guys have 6 pac’s showing through their jumper, and you’re sat there regretting the pizza the night before. This all culminates in asking the one important question that we only care about - have you been busy?
When I was in a Nivea commercial, which went across Europe and on TV at prime times, another model took great pleasure in calling me afterwards to tell me why he would have been better in the job. He even asked me for the casting directors details so he could find out why he was not called in.

8. Your vanity is a necessity

Working out regularly is a must and that does not mean sitting on a machine in the gym checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and goodness knows what else. It means hard work day after day. Constantly planning meals and eating clean, which as you can imagine can become extremely boring after a while.
Planning hair cuts to look right for certain jobs, designer stubble, teeth whitening, it all needs to be kept on top of and becomes a regime. And do not get me started on the waxing process…

9. You develop the skin of a rhino

Dealing with rejection on a regular basis is not fun and even less so when it is about how you look. On average the common consensus is that you book one job in ten castings, so thats nine rejections. After every rejection you have to keep picking yourself up and go again, but it is tough and I really struggled to deal with the rejection in the first couple of years of modelling.
Imagine standing in a room full of male models, having your body openly analysed and compared to others in front of you. Once in a casting in front of six models I was told by the casting director that I couldn't dance. You just get used to all the critiques.


10. Your failure is everywhere

You always see other people in ad campaigns that you cast for, which reminds you every single time of your own failures to not book the job. A £40k Diet Coke commercial, which I was optioned for, but missed out on, went global and was constantly on TV in front of my eyes.


Models use social media and in particular now Instagram to show-off their work and to show other models how busy they are. Every time this happens it’s a reminder that you are not too busy yourself.  If you do not have self belief then this can be crushing to take.

2 comments:

  1. Most interesting james, I can never buy a diet coke without thinking of who it SHOULD have been .... tho the flirting with Ruth in your pants was a tad blatant..:-)

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  2. Very interesting James.Carry on with the blog. It makes me appreciate you being at our wedding. I'm pleased you have retrained as even your very handsome looks won't last forever! Jane K x ��

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