I’ve been having an ongoing problem with my bank because they unlawfully took money from my account and lied about it and I posted about it this morning on Facebook. The first comment I received said “I figured since you were a model $1500 didn’t mean that much.” I just have to address this.
First of all, the amount of money was less than $1500 and I still have a right to fight this. Second of all, everyone has this misconception that models make tons of money. It just isn’t true. Unless you have a household name, you’re going to need to supplement your modeling income. I’ve waited tables with girls who literally would come in for their cocktail shift after walking the runway for famous designers. There was a girl I used to model with who was very successful at modeling and didn’t have a second job that I knew of. I asked her secret and found out the ugly truth-she made most of her money as a high-priced call girl. Her face was on billboards, in calendars and magazines, and men were paying to have sex with her.
Anyone new to the industry should know that the only ways to make money as a model are to model nude (either art or erotica), do promotional modeling, fit modeling, or walk the runway for a famous designer. According to www.bestsampleresume.com (I’m not affiliated with them and do not know their calculating methods but this information was the most cross-referenced I could find online), the average annual salary for an art model is $29,000. Fit models do a little better at $53,000. Not bad, but also not the piles of cash everyone pictures us jumping into. Promotional models have the best chance of making money-$81,000 per annum according to the site. Promotional modeling depends on a lot of things, however. If you are outside of a major market, you’re out of luck. Even in a major market, you’d have to do A LOT of work to get enough promotional work to make a living from it. I live in New York City, work with 3 promotional agencies, and still only get called in about once a month. Of those 12 potential events, there’s a good chance I will miss out on one or two because of scheduling or other conflicts. It just isn’t reliable money.
The final way to make money is to walk for famous designers. Note that I keep repeating “famous designers.” From my experience, those designers without household names aren’t expected to give their models anything. Even the famous ones will pay in trade if they can. Model Hailey Hasbrook famously gushed to Womens Wear Daily that after working with Marc Jacobs for three days straight (literally. These things often go late into the night) she “literally got a whole outfit.” Jacobs later tweeted “Models are paid in trade. If they don’t want to work w/us they don’t” have to.”
Things might be looking up though. Model Sara Ziff is attempting to become the Norma Rae of the modeling industry with her venture Model Alliance, which is aiming to improve working conditions for models. Their goals include minimum age requirements, backstage privacy, healthy eating, and of course compensation. Model Alliance is partnering with the Freelancers Union to push the proposed Freelancer Payment Protection Act, which would ensure that New York freelance models (and other freelancers) receive money they’re owed. It’s a great start.
I work hard. On top of modeling and acting full time (at least actors have unions) I have another full time job, and there are still months when I struggle to pay my bills. I’m not complaining. I just want people to realize that having a glamorous job doesn’t mean you’re wealthy.