Making Your Way From Competitions to Modeling Success
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Jump-start your professional career with these tips from a seasoned model who knows all the right moves.

competitions_ali_landry_missusa After winning the 1996 Miss USA title, Ali Landry's modeling and acting career blossomed. Her highly acclaimed role as the "Doritos Girl" began when her first commercial appearance aired during the 1998 Super Bowl. That spot received such a positive response that Ali was asked to recreate the role in a Doritos commercial again during the 1999 Super Bowl. She then appeared as the host of UPN's America's Greatest Pets. competitions_ali_landry_collageA1i has had recurring roles on such shows as Pensacola: Wings of Gold, The Bold and the Beautiful, Sunset Beach, Clueless, and Significant Others. She was also named oneā€¢ of People magazine's "Most Beautiful People" in 1998.

If you are involved in beauty pageants and dream of expanding into fashion modeling and the entertainment industry like A1i Landry and many other pageant success stories, you are not alone. Many young women who start out in pageants use their experience as a springboard.

In fact, in some nations outside the U.S., pageant competitors are the primary source for models appearing on the covers of those countries' fashion magazines. For example, Betzaida Torres is a professional model originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. She started her career by competing in beauty pageants all over the world. After placing fourth in Miss Universe Puerto Rico and first runner-up in Miss Tourism, she won her next contest, "The Face of Imagen," which launched her current modeling career. Betzaida was chosen from among more than 1,000 girls to represent Puerto Rico's most prestigious fashion magazine and the cosmetics company L'Oreal. These accomplishments lead to her very first "cover shoot," and the many more that followed. She has continued a successful career by doing runway, fashion, beauty, and commercial print modeling, as well as TV commercial work. Her most recent spots include several for Sears department stores, Pearl Vision Center, and Keebler cookies, among others.

While modeling work in the United States is not so heavily dominated by pageant veterans, American women with competition experience still have an advantage when they decide to develop lucrative modeling and commercial acting careers. The question, though, is how to use that experience. Parlaying pageant success into a modeling and commercial acting career is easier than you think. miss puerto rico contestant betzaida torres Modeling and live commercial work require many of the same personal attributes as competing in pageants: poise, grace, persistence, and strong social skills. Competitions also teach you to take great care in your personal appearance and physical fitness - a model's mantra as well.

Who has "the look" and how do you determine if you have what it takes for a modeling career? As fashions and seasons change, so does the demand for a particular "look" in the modeling industry. We have gone from the classic beauty of Christie Brinkley to the "waiflook" of Kate Moss. Fashion later explored a "grunge look," which later changed in favor of the exotic beauties of Latin America. To say there is an exact "look" in the modeling industry that will consistently succeed would minimize the ever-changing fashion industry. Here are the minimum qualifications for entry: Professional models at the top agencies almost always have beautiful clear skin, high cheekbones, wide-set eyes, and a well-toned figure.

When you decide to forge ahead into the world of professional modeling, you need to determine which among the many divisions of modeling you are best suited to pursue. You should work within as many divisions as you are qualified, in order to work steadily in any market. The divisions are as follows:

cristina dehartREADY, SET... WATCH OUT!
Based on my personal experience, using a little common sense can help you avoid costly mistakes as you pursue a modeling career. Take these five precautions to avoid the common pitfalls a new model faces:

1 Compare fees and the quality of the work when looking for a photographer. Steer clear of companies that require that you use and pay for a specific photographer.

2 Look for a modeling agency that works with you without up-front charges and is paid based on a percentage of the booking fees. Avoid an agency or agent that requires an up-front fee.

3 Evaluate and choose an agency that can book your assignments in the divisions that are your strengths. Avoid referrals to agencies that may not be suited to your needs.

4 If you are considering signing a contract with an agent or agency, ask for a blank contract and review it with an attorney or someone whom you trust. Avoid high-pressure tactics that might prevent you from taking the time to consider and understand the agreement.

5 Check out the businesses, agencies, or individuals for whom you are considering working. Don't get swept away by grandiose promises. Not even the top agencies in NYC make promises, because there is no way for them to predict how their clients will respond to your "look."

High Fashion Runway Modeling
You need to be at least 5'9" to pursue fashion runway modeling in New York City and abroad. Occasionally, shorter women will get runway work. Also, shorter women can do shows of a smaller scale in their local markets.

Editorial Modeling
This is modeling for larger metropolitan newspapers and regional and national magazines, such as Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Pageantry/PromTime. They tend to have the same height requirements as the Fashion Runway division, but for models who provide an exotic, fresh look, the big publishers have been known to make exceptions to the height requirement.

Commercial Print Modeling
This division is also known as the "Real People" division. There is no age, height, or size requirement in this division. Want to know what a commercial print model looks like? Browse the advertisements in newspapers, magazines, and television; you will see that all ages, ethnicities, and sizes of people are represented by models that are well-paid for looking like, well, just plain folks!

Beauty Modeling
This is modeling for cosmetics, beauty supplies, and the like. You should have beautiful clear skin and a great face! Great for shorter women, because there are no height requirements for this division. The larger agencies in New York City have separate beauty divisions; smaller agencies may not.

Petite Modeling
This modeling work is for women under 5'7" in height. At present, most agencies don't handle petites as a separate division; instead, most agencies place petite models into their commercial print or beauty divisions.

Plus-size Modeling
This division has gotten extremely popular over the years as more designers and fashion magazines cater to full-figured women. Many of the top agencies have divisions for plus-size models, including the Ford, Elite, and Wilhelmina agencies.

Teen Modeling
With the emergence of more and more films targeted at teens, advertisers are jumping on the trend, creating demand for more teen -age models for their advertisements. Teens are strongly represented in the acting and commercial print divisions of agencies that represent clientele with products targeted at the teen market.

Body-parts Modeling
Here, the agencies are looking for great hands, legs, feet, eyes, etc. If you have above-average parts, this division may interest you.

Catalog Modeling
Are you a perfect size 8 and 5'9" tall? Those are the height and size requirements in this division. The reason for this is because the clothing used during catalog shooting often is delivered from samples that only come in a standard size 8. Such outfits can be pinned if they are a little too large, but they will lose their original shape if adjusted too much. Thus, clients prefer to choose models that best fit the clothing at the casting. No fuss, no muss.

Showroom Modeling
There is a height requirement of 5'8" for this division, which serves clothing manufacturers, designers, and marketers during meetings at wholesale markets with department store buyers. Showroom models also may be used to present the new season's lines during a manufacturer's in house sales meetings.

Fit Modeling
In fit modeling you are basically the mold to which clothing is made. You must be a perfect size. For example: an exact size 8 or, for a man, a perfect 34-inch waist. You also cannot fluctuate in your size while the clothing is being fitted to your body, as it usually takes up to two months for the "samples" to be created.

Promotional (Trade Show) Modeling
Promotional modeling can be found most everywhere. This type of modeling promotes products and services. It is the least competitive and can be found quite easily. If you have a convention hall in your area, it could provide a steady flow of promotional work. Promotional modeling is also an excellent way to build confidence and strengthen your social skills with clients.

Television, Film, On-Camera Commercials, and Videos
This type of work is either union or non-union and is widely known for being most plentiful in New York City or Los Angeles. However, in recent years it has migrated to other areas, including Orlando, Miami, Dallas, North Carolina, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, to name the more prominent regions. Please note that the criteria listed above are never set in stone. There are always variables that exceed the norm, based on every agency, market, and client.

Once you determine the division(s) within the industry that best suits you, you should locate the metropolitan market area where that work is heavily produced. For example, New York City is known for its fashion modeling, the Washington/Baltimore area is recognized for its industrial and training films, and Miami has become a center for a mixture of fashion and commercial print work. (This is not to imply that these markets do not produce other work as well.)

In recent years, more high-quality modeling work is being accomplished outside of major markets such as New York City and Los Angeles. Instead, photography and video work is being shifted to smaller markets, such as Wilmington, NC, Austin, TX, and Orlando, FL, or to Canada, where companies can achieve lower costs. I strongly recommend to models starting out that, before heading to large markets where competition is fierce, they begin modeling in smaller population centers in order to increase their chances of getting hired and obtaining experience. Regional markets not only serve as great training grounds, they also provide good opportunities to "test the waters" and see if modeling truly is a profession you wish to pursue.

Once you have determined the types of modeling you will seek, secure legitimate representation of a modeling agency. To do so, locate the agencies in your local area or in the largest city closet to you. You can find an agency directory free of charge listed by state on the Internet at Call to inquire if they hold "Open Calls" and ask for the dates.

In the event that the agency only accepts photo submissions, send two snapshots of yourself. One shot should be a close-up similar to a headshot. Wear minimal makeup for a natural look. The other shot should be full-length, to show your figure. If you already have professional photos, you can include those in addition to the snapshots. Once the agency receives your photos, a representative will call you for an appointment if they are interested in your "look."

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