Fijian-Australian Dusk is a fashion photographer, writer and model based in Sydney. A recipient of the Visual Arts award at the 2016 NSW Pacific Awards, Dusk was also lead photographer & Publicist for Pacific Runway 2016, Australia’s most prestigious platform for Pacific Island designers. Along with photographing and writing about all the major runway shows, Dusk continues to model and shares the accumulated skills of her 30year modelling career via her modelling workshops, through the multicultural modelling agency she co-runs and now with NITV!
So You Think You Can Model?
You look great in clothes; never have a bad-selfie day and your Insta pics get hundreds of likes. Obviously you should be model. Right? Hmmmm…
Being a good model has very little to do with just being “pretty” and social media popularity (sigh, my old-school work ethic winces at this being a criterion but we move with the times) and everything to do with ‘the look of the moment’, how photogenic you are, your acting ability, genetics, timing, commitment, resilience and charisma.
Oh sure, “beauty’ is a prerequisite but beauty is subjective and in the fashion/modelling world, the ideal of beauty is an ever-changing trend. Yep. Even beauty goes in and out of fashion and what is considered beautiful in the real world is not necessarily considered beautiful in the fashion world… and vice versa. But I digress. I’ll save the outrage for another article.
Models are ambassadors for a designer’s vision. Models know when to use what mood to enhance the feel of a garment. A model elevates a garment from material to physical; a good model makes a sack look like a couture garment! But a great model becomes a role model…
"I still model in my late 40s, I co-run a modelling agency that represents multi-cultural talent and is dedicated to expanding the platform of representation."
Modelling is a skill, it IS an art form, it’s not as simple as looking pretty in a photograph, it’s about selling ‘The Dream’… essentially a model is a salesperson.
I have been modelling for over 30 years - I got discovered at 13, I did one photo-shoot and I thank goodness my parents shot that trajectory down! (I started modelling again at 18) 13 is far too inexperienced at life and although it is industry practise to start girls* that young to model AS WOMEN, and although it is intoxicating for a young girl to be asked and considered ‘good enough’ to model (again, outrage, next article), I recommend you actually wait until you are a young woman.
Enjoy your childhood and early teens. You have the rest of your life to be an adult.
*eg. Kaia Gerber, who is an anomaly, she is Cindy Crawford’s daughter and she is ‘protected’, and yes she is a good model and stunning with it but it makes me despair that a 14yo girl is held up as an epitome of beauty for grown women. Youth is not the goal of life, it is the beginning.
I still model in my late 40s, I co-run a modelling agency that represents multi-cultural talent and is dedicated to expanding the platform of representation, and I also conduct model workshops in Sydney and throughout the Pacific. It is my mission to help young people enhance their natural modelling skills and to help them understand what it takes and what it means to be a model of colour. You are a role model…and it is my pleasure to help you hone that swag.
First up, please understand that expanding the platform of modelling does not mean relaxing ‘standards’, although some ‘standards’ need to be turned upside down and rewritten, shattering barriers does not mean lowering the bar… which leads me to:
- It is a requirement. End of story. Mainstream –and by mainstream, I mean ‘white world’- agencies will not look at you if you are shorter than 5’8”. It is simply a job prerequisite based on preference. A jockey does not have to be short but… preference based on bias has become rule. Likewise a model does not have to be tall… but… preference. Bias. Rule.
- I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard “…but Kate Moss”! Kate Moss is another anomaly. She didn’t break the mould, the mould just softened to let her in because of TIMING, she was the antithesis of the Glamazon Supermodels of the 90s. Besides, Kate is the patron Saint of Cool White Girlness, worshipped at the altar of Coachella.
- According to Australian industry standards you must be 5’8” and over, and for runway they prefer even taller. Clothes ‘hang better’ on taller models. I will discuss in another article why I think this is a fallacy.
- Why is height necessary? Oh look, they can bang on and on about the visual perspective and how it is best for the designers to showcase their art, but really, it is all about perception. Our primitive brains compute height with ‘better’ and fashion is all about the ‘better’.
- Even non-mainstream and boutique agencies still require their diverse stable of models to be tall, although they are not as rigid because you know - diversity. However, GOOD non-mainstream agencies still want their models to work within the Australian fashion industry, not just around the periphery.
- Don’t despair if you are on the shorter side. Not all modelling is about fashion. There is the Commercial sector, faces for TV ads, brand campaigns and catalogues. There are still many reasons why you can model, chiefly because you are…
- You must be photogenic… WITHOUT make-up. Make-up is the icing on a delicious cake but your contouring skills will do you a disservice here.
- All good agencies first ask you to send images or visit on an open day. DO NOT wear make-up. The images must be ‘naked face’.
- Not all beautiful people are photogenic and not all photogenic people are necessarily ‘traditionally’ beautiful. Model agents know what they are looking for and what they are looking for first of all, is bone structure and facial proportions and sometimes, weird features. What you consider a ‘flaw’ may be a signature quirk. Each agency has a different ‘look’; each year has a different ‘look’.
- You must know your angles. Which side is your best side? Your mirror is your friend and coach. Practise! Know your face. Know what your toes are doing even if they are not in the shot. Model with all your body! Convey with every part of you. I use Darth Vader as an example of this, even inside a casing and never seeing his face, he instils terror. I don’t want you to do or be that - but you get the point right? Convey a feeling with every part of you. Even with your back to the camera, convey and incite.
- Other elements that will guide you along the way are that you must know where the light shines on your face, what it highlights, what it fills in. You must know what happens to your face when you smile. You must know how to smile with your eyes. Learn to relax your jawline and soften your eyes without ‘flopping’ your face all while hearing the clicks and watching the flash of those big shiny cameras go off.
- There are many models who work independently and/or represent themselves. This is particularly prevalent within the Spectrum communities. Opportunities have not existed so people have made opportunities for themselves and I applaud this. However, clients don’t want to work directly with the talent. That is not the only reason why agencies are the better option of representation. It is also about protecting you and your rights and ensuring the proper channels are followed financially, as well as for career paths. Good agents actively promote their talent.
- Also, a model who is attached to an agency is seen as ‘credible’. Unless you’re a celebrity but I assure you, even Naomi Campbell is represented by a modelling agency in every city.
- As an Indigenous/Spectrum potential model, I will warn you… the path isn’t easy. You will need to fit the criteria 100%, which does mean you need to be thin, unless you are 'plus-sized'. That term… oh don’t start me, no wait, do start me - but not now. You should know that even 'plus-sized' has strict criteria, including height requirements.
- In general, Australian mainstream agencies prefer their female models size 6-8. The respected multicultural agencies like Ethnic Model Management take up to size 10 as they also cater to the Pacific market, where the models enjoy the luxury of being ‘'bigger’ - Size 8-10.
- Beware the agencies that ask for a 'joining fee'. The smaller agencies may ask for portfolio fees because they do not have the budgets of the bigger agencies who can assimilate the cost of getting model portfolios done, just also be aware that none of this is free. The cost of all of this comes out of the models first pay packets. A model is an agency’s investment.
- Do your research, learn about the agencies in your city, read their criteria and options and heed the instructions… if they want you to send in photos FIRST, then please do that first.
EXTRA TIPS TO MAKE IT TO THE TOP:
- No way around it, you need to be fit. You need to be healthy because you need good skin. Do not rely on make-up nor photoshop. Rely on yourself, value yourself.
- 'Plus-size' models need to exercise too. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s okay for you not to, because our size is what is relevant. You are still required to be firm, whether you are a size 2 size 20.
- Generally, runway and editorial models need lean muscle, not bulk. You need to be flexible. Body and mind.
- Learn about fashion. Read its history. Understand what it is. Understand the details of garments. Understand WHY you want to be a part of this world. WHY do you want to be a model? Examine your motives. Is it because you want adulation and validation? Or do you want to break new ground? If you believe you have a skill and ability then DO something about it.
- For runway modeling, you need to know how to walk in heels! Practice! Learn how to walk in different 'moods'. How you walk in an evening gown is different to how you walk in a street look. Oh, when you have hands in your pockets, always keep your thumbs out.
"Rejection is part and parcel of this industry and yet you cannot take it personally. It is not about you. Move on. Learn to love yourself without ego but with confidence. Your ego will get hurt but your confidence will protect you."
- Keep moving! Small movements. Give your photographer variation. Practice this too! Don't ever hear yourself say "I don't how to pose" have an arsenal of killer poses, bang bang bang!
- Confidence is key. Not for the good times but for the down times. You think I’m blunt? This industry is not kind but they don’t mean to be cruel, they will tell you are not what they are “looking for”, you will get told you are “fat” (even if you are a size 6).
- Modeling is glamourous and exciting but at other times it can be boring. Lots of time spent waiting around and hanging on sets. but that's only if you get accepted in to the industry. Regardless of how certain you are that modeling is what you want to do - always have a back-up plan.
- As a person of colour, as a model you are a role model, whether or not you want to be. One day at Australian Fashion Week, I hope to see your faces - Indigenous, Pacific, Asian, Indian, the full Spectrum- as the norm. Your beautiful multi-coloured faces representing beautiful multi-cultural Australia. Go get 'em.
Family Rules airs tonight on NITV Ch.34 @ 7:30pm
You can check out all the episodes at SBS On Demand