How to Become a Senior Model
BY KITT WALSH
Women have probably always longed to age like fine wine—becoming richer and more valued with each passing year. It seems that their wishes have come true—at least in the area of advertising. It is the Age of the Senior Model.
One designer sent three over-70-year-old models down the runway. Dove soap ran a now-famous campaign only featuring senior women and other sponsors are hiring silver-haired women to sell everything from wrinkle cream to fitness clubs. The influx of more mature models should come as no surprise. Those of us born between 1946 and 1964 make up 26% of the population and we wield $2 trillion in spending.
According to Ginni Conquest co-director of the Sophisticated Women’s Division at Wilhelmina Models in New York, “The market for older models has exploded,” she said in a recent interview, “It’s our fastest-growing area, and it’s a first for the industry.”
What is a senior model?
Any model over the age of 35 (don’t wince) is considered a senior model (other types of models can pretty much wrap their career up at age 28.) Senior models are most often used as commercial print models (think of all the ads selling pharmaceuticals) but may also be seen on company brochures, product literature and all types of ads—basically anything not involving fashion. (as we’ve seen from that Spanish designer, being chosen as a fashion model is possible—but still extremely rare). For commercial print, all body types, heights, sizes, and hair colors are considered.
How do you become a senior model?
Get professional photos taken. This portfolio may cost several hundred dollars but, if you are serious, are well worth the investment. Pick the best fashion photographer you can afford (research and ask to see their work). They will know the types of photos you will need –usually full front, closeup, profile, swimsuit, smiling, unsmiling. They may take both color and black and white shots. Don’t spend your life savings on these photos until you know if some agency is interested. Yes, you may send some clear shots taken by your sister, Liz (the one whose hobby is photography), but you may do better with a professional’s lighting and studio setting.
It helps to live in New York City or some urban area. Research all the professional modeling agencies in the area. Some in NYC that are known to represent older models are Ford, Cunningham, Escott, Slevin and Doherty and Wilhelmina. In other areas, ask if the agency represents the niche Senior or Mature market.
Ask if any of the agencies offer open auditions or “calls”. Go to as many as you can, dressed simply, clean hair and nails, medium heels. No agency is looking for you to play dress-up.
Send a note to all the agencies saying you are looking for representation. Give all your contact information, your height, clothes and shoe size. Include a smiling closeup and a full body shot in a swimsuit. Write your contact info on the back of each photo. Send a SASE if you need the photos back.
Follow up with a phone call and email to make sure the agency got the package and asking for the next step. Be ready for rejection—it is part of a model’s life.
If you are called in to meet someone from the agency, wear your hair simply styled, go easy on the makeup (they want to see your clear skin and shiny eyes) and dress your age. You are not competing with teenage models.
Be prepared to take direction and be willing (and able) to move at a photographer’s direction. (Being fit helps here.) Relax in front of the camera. Photographers have limited time to get the shots they need. Time is money in the modeling business.
Realize that modeling schools are usually a waste of money. You shouldn’t have too much trouble making contact with a legitimate agency.
Check out sites like Model Scouts (www.modelscouts.com/mature_models.html)
What about men? Except for commercial print work, they need to be taller than 5”11, not too muscular, have a proportional body, clear skin and good teeth and their modeling career (I’m sorry to report), usually last longer than a woman’s…but stay tuned, the times they are a-changing’.
Kitt Walsh owns a web content company, Behind Blogs (www.behindblogs.com ), is a regular contributor to CNN Money, a public speaker on Social Media, a book editor and ghostwriter, and freelances as a feature writer, editor and marketing consultant for magazines, newspapers and private clients around the world.