Articles - 19th April 2019

How to Navigate the Modelling Industry

Words by Mani Steele
Illustration by Jon McCormack

Countless unique experiences, ongoing uncertainty, freelance freedom, immense pressure, a lot of fun, a hell of a lot of rejection, diverse personalities, thousands of steps to thousands of castings, exploring new cities, intense short-lived friendships, eating disorders, self-discovery and many life lessons.

That’s more or less how I’d sum up the last eight years I’ve predominantly spent as a model.

It’s a fast track into the world of work when you’re young. It has taught me how to confidently meet new people daily, how to be professional and how to deal with rejection yet still know my worth.

Times Have Changed

Back when I was 15, the world of fashion and being a model was a completely different ball game. You turned up, worked your angles, had deep chats with the hair and makeup artist and went on your way.

Nowadays, we live in a social media frenzy of constantly sharing and there’s an evident pressure to remain relevant which, honestly, I think can result in a lack of originality.

We’re subconsciously taking in so much of other people’s lives, art, interests, it’s harder to navigate a path of true authenticity. With the necessity to share so much of our lives, the era of mystery is definitely over.

Yet, could this always be a bad thing? Maybe not. I think if you allow it, it can inspire you to find other passions to coincide with your modelling career. It’s not just about having a pretty face in the world of fashion; I think if you dedicate more time to finding out who you are, what you believe and what you want to change about the world, the more you have to give others and the more purpose and fulfilment you can create for yourself.

Is this a good caption?

I think we all know it’s hard to navigate our way in the world of social media (predominantly Instagram) – dealing with the algorithms, engagement, relevant content, good enough filters, angles, lighting. Did you even go to the beach, if you don’t have a perfectly edited image to show for it?

My best advice would be: be as honest and authentic as possible and don’t spend your days worrying about ‘getting content’.

In some ways, I regrettably built a following based on posting the best photos of myself, the more skin the more likes. How did that even happen? Is it instagram’s fault or is it ours? Who knows. But one thing I’ve come to realise is – it doesn’t really matter.

Share what feels authentic to you, the more I started to share topics of interest to me and matters I’d like to change in the world, the more I attracted like-minded people, and I’ve now met and worked with so many beautiful fellow instagrammers through social media.

Logistically? Put aside time to curate the content, post it and then leave it alone. Don’t get wrapped up in the need for gratification from strangers, it’s a tool to show aspects of yourself, not a way to feel validated or relevant. It ain’t real life, remember.

Empower Yourself

… because no one else will. It’s a fickle industry and although times are slowly changing, due to the number of models out there now, there’s endless competition, countless beautiful and interesting girls with the same aim and the same dreams.

Don’t allow your career to determine your self-worth. The rejection is constant, so don’t hold onto the castings you went to yesterday or the job that didn’t confirm; it’s just how the world works.

Remind yourself that whatever happens, whatever the client is looking for, it shouldn’t change how you view yourself. Also, take note – keep on top of the jobs you do and when you should be paid, be smart and professional about the details.


The rumours are true, it’s a tough world to be in but I also think it’s what you choose to take from the whole experience. When you’re constantly being judged on how you look or how big your hip measurement is, it may seem disheartening but, if you let it, it can also propel you onto a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement.

Use your career to really work on yourself, mentally, emotionally, physically. There’s no denying it’s a challenging lifestyle – we know this! It takes a level of dedication and self-belief – the more you work on yourself for no one but yourself, the more you’ll give off the right energy and your career will manifest into something worthwhile.

Self-Employment and Side Hustling

One thing I love is being self-employed, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s uncertain at times and you have to stay on the ball but being your own boss will always triumph!

Find and keep your side hustle strong and put just as much attention in to that as you do with modelling. A huge lesson I learned was to not make it my only focus, I think that rings true for so much in life. When you have those blinkers on, you neglect other parts of yourself that need stimulation.

Modelling can be lonely and based entirely on ‘self’ drive. Not only that but you’re depending on your looks to keep you working can be precarious. Almost all the models I know, including myself, have struggled with acne and weight fluctuations – so you may need something else to pay those bills.

When you have hobbies, interests, another form of income, a hunger to learn and study, the more you stay grounded in who you are, igniting the parts of your brain that help you improve and perhaps create something else in your world of work.

Remain Light Hearted and Keep Aiming High

It’s a beautiful and life-changing path, an amazing way to see the world and meet all kinds of people, so take it as it comes with an open mind and solid feet on the ground. Keep your honest friends around you, find humour in all the madness and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Being a model can be a wonderful and challenging experience, but one thing I’ve learned along the way is that, as a young woman, you should aim for something more in life. Use it as an exciting stepping stone to realising other dreams and ambitions. Your looks will eventually fade and you won’t be what the industry wants anymore, and that’s totally okay – keep an open mind and heart for other dreams and callings.

We champion the freelancers and every entrepreneur who took a leap of faith with their idea.

If this sounds like you, head over to our Virtual Office and send us your best work via an UnderPinned Portfolio. We want to hear from you!

Make your UP portfolio

Related Articles

Seven questions to ask yourself before sending a portfolio

There are many things that make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful portfolio, and there are some factors that are out of your ...

Read more
How freelancers can detach from billable time

It’s Saturday morning. After kicking back on Friday night, I thought I had signalled ‘weekend mode’ to my mind. Sadly, and I’m not proud to admit i...

Read more
A checklist for the January 31st tax deadline

It’s boring, but if you’ve saved money specifically for this purpose, it shouldn’t be painful. Here’s what you must do to get through your self-ass...

Read more