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How To Break Into Plus-Size Modeling

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Philomena Kwao

Every month we spotlight one model in our “Curvy Model of The Month” feature. This began as way, not only to promote models of color, but to celebrate beautiful women with curves of all sizes, not just what you see on the runway. Gary Dakin, co-founder of JAG Models has made this his mission. After a 15-year tenure spearheading FORD’s plus division he ventured out and started his own agency servicing models from sizes 6-20 and booking them for countless editorials and campaigns. Here, the plus-size pioneer lends his expertise on how you can get in on the action.

1. Confidence Is Key! The most important thing to have coming into this industry is confidence.  This is an industry that is full of rejection and you need to have a strong sense of self and a good support system, whether family or friends is important to help you through those tough times.  This never goes away because even if you make it big, that support system will help keep you grounded. 

2. Beware of scams or people posing as “scouts” or agencies when in fact they are neither. Any reputable agency will not ask you to give them money in advance. A true agency only makes money when you make money and will take a percentage of your fees. 

3. Do your homework! You have been hearing this since you were old enough to go to school that first day and it still holds true.  Know when going into an agency, who that agency’s top girls are as well as the top girls in the industry as a whole.  Also, know the names of prominent photographers and stylists as well as editors of the major publications you wish to someday work for.  An agent loves when they can reference a photographer or a model and a “wannabe” knows what the agent is talking about.  It shows a level of seriousness on the potential models part.

4. Do not spend money on professional photos or composite cards before being signed by an agency.  The agency will do that with you and wants to see a blank canvas.  You are that blank canvas and sending in shots without makeup, both smiling and not smiling as well as full length in something showing your shape, ideally a bathing suit is necessary.  We have the ability to see what you can become and have our own vision of what we want you to be as a model.  Sometimes that means a haircut or color, sometimes that means growing in your eyebrows (PLEASE stop making them so thin ladies, this is not the 60’s).
 
4. Seek out the right agency for you. Find out what agencies there are out there that represent your size and see whether they have an open call or not.  If they do not have open call, many, like JAG, have sections on their websites where you can submit via email.  DO NOT go into an agency that does not have an open call and expect to be the exception to this rule.  We at JAG do not have open calls because we get thousands of submissions online.  If we like a girl, we will set up an appointment for her to come in and meet the team.

5. Be realistic!  Yes, there are exceptions to any rule but the industry is ultimately ruled by the clients and their sample sizes.  In the current environment, you need to have the same attributes no matter what size you are whether it be a size 2 or an 18.  You need to keep your skin and hair healthy, drink plenty of water and be in shape.  I know many size 16 models that are in better shape than their counterparts that are a size 4.  Some sort of activity in your life is important for your health, mind body and soul.  The reason JAG was formed was to promote beauty in all sizes outside of the mainstream sizes of 0-4.  We represent women size 6-18/20 that are 5’8 and taller to show that you can work at many sizes and this also gives the women room to fluctuate as most women do without any repercussions.  Certain sizes are more popular with certain clients but as we are seeing with clients like Aerie using Amber Tolliver, the walls are coming down in the mid-range size girls.  We are working to eliminate the barrier between “straight size” girls and “plus girls.”  At the end of the day, a model is a model no matter her size.

PHOTO GALLERY: Curvy Model of The Month: Amber Tolliver

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