1. A modeling agency may have a clause in your contract requiring you to pay back all or a portion of their initial outlay from the money you earn.
This is not common but it is also not unheard of. It is a more common practice in small market agencies than in large market agencies. Small market agencies are usually local without an affiliation with a major agency and the work they get for you will likely be limited to your home town. Since the potential for work in one city is small these agencies will seek to recoupe some or all of their initial expenses in signing a model. A legitimate modeling agency will never ask you to pay for your own start up costs but they may try to get their money back once they start getting work for you.
2. Another seemingly crazy thing a legitimate modeling agency may ask of you is that you do some work for free
It may seem strange that they ask you to volunteer your time and talents but there is a method to the madness. A legitimate modeling agency may ask you to work for free in order to build your portfolio and gain exposure. This is a cost effective way for modeling agencies to build a models portfolio as well as establish contacts within the industry. New photographers, stylists and designers will often ask an agency for volunteer models to use when building their own working portfolios. It is a win-win situation for all parties; new models get pictures and experience while the photographers, stylists and designers get free labor. Also, agencies get to establish a good working relationship with people who may some day be powerful influences in the industry. A legitimate modeling agency wont ask you to volunteer for long, just enough to build a portfolio and have a bit of runway experience under your belt.
3. When a modeling agency is interested in developing you as a model they will not ask you to pay to build your portfolio or to take classes but this doesnt mean theyll break the bank to get you ready for the fashion world.
When building a portfolio it is normal for an agency to send you on a test shoot and only pay for the photographer, this means you will have to bring your own clothes and do your own hair and make up. Asking you to style your test shoots yourself is a very common practice. Just remember that make up for film and make up for every day life are very different. Photographic make up should be bold and heavy handed. Dont be afraid to ask the photographer for pointers as they will have an understanding of how the make up will look under the lighting they are setting up. Also, before the shoot talk to the photographer or your agent about clothing and color choices as like make up clothing that looks good in real life may not look as good on film. Bottom line, if you are asked to do your own styling its normal but dont be afraid to ask for help from the experts.
4. It is totally reasonable for a modeling agency to want you to change your looks to meet their needs.
Youve seen it on Americas Next Top Model and its not just for dramatic effect on TV, the makeover. Models have to have a look and if yours is rather generic or dated an agent may ask you to under go a makeover. The makeover may be subtle or dramatic, it may be targeted toward your landing a specific job or it may just be a change. The agency may have enough blondes on the roster and want to make you a brunette or vice versa. They may be looking for edgy models or androgynous models and want to make you over to fit that mold. Regardless of what an agency wants to do to your looks asking you to get a makeover is not unusual. Remember, what makes a model stunning in photographs are things like bone structure, facial symmetry, and posing angles. What makes a girl pretty in the real world may not translate to pretty in print or on the runway. Agents are experts at recognizing raw talents but may make you over to fit with the look of the moment. A good model must have a versatile look and that means that they should still look good even when their looks are changed.
5. Along the same lines as the makeover it is also common for a legitimate modeling agency to ask you to lose or gain weight or to tone up your body with exercise.
It is a touchy reality that mainstream models need to be thin, after all models are human clothes hangers, so the fact that a modeling agency may ask you to lose weight or tone up is probably not surprising but what may seem surprising is that an agency could ask you to gain weight. Super-waif models as they have been called may be trendy but even the fashion world has acknowledged that things may have gone too far. In 2006 the fashion industry bureaucrats in Milan, Italy addressed the issue or emaciated models by setting a standard that all runway models must have a body mass index (BMI) of no less than 18 which is half a point lower than the 18.5 considered the healthy minimum. Even though a BMI of 18 is slightly below healthy setting this standard is an important step in the right direction for the fashion industry. If you are very thin or not very toned an agency may push you to get healthy before signing you.
6. If you get signed to a modeling agency you should expect to travel, and some of the destinations may be exotic and far, far away.
Not only is travel a normal part of being a model it is essential. The most successful models travel, it is just a part of the job and if youre not prepared to travel then you wont have much of a modeling career. It is common practice for legitimate modeling agencies to send green models overseas, most often to Asia or Europe, in order to build a portfolio and gain practical experience. If a modeling agency wants to send you away it is a good sign not a bad one. Things a legitimate modeling agency would never ask of you when you travel; to turn over your passport, to go away without parental consent, to pay for your trip OR agree to pay them back for the trip or expenses, or to do hostess work or any work that is not traditional spokesperson, print or runway modeling.