10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Modeling

I started modeling 10 years ago and I’ve been doing it full-time for about 7 years now. It has been my dream ever since I was 12 but I never dared telling anyone about it.

Modeling and I had a love/hate relationship for many years. We only managed to make peace when I recognized it for what it was – a legit occupation and source income.

Over the years I learned, often the hard way, that if you want to do this job you need give it the respect it deserves and most importantly, respect yourself and your personal integrity.

Model: Magda Kulpinska; Photographer: Hector Perez

And here’s what I wish I knew when I started out!

1. I’m Not Old, Fat and In Need of a Nose-Job

These were the precise words I heard from my agent when I was 19. He was wrong.

2. You Can Survive Without an Agency

It’s great if you’re signed and you work well from day one, but if that’s not the case, don’t worry.

I’ve been a freelance model for most of my career and I know many other models that chose this path. I actually love being my own boss and knowing that I’m responsible for my success.

3. Don’t Just “Network,” Make True Friends

When you model you meet new people every day. Some of them you’ll work with more than once. It’s great to chat to your friends on the phone and all, but, put it down for a second. There are real people around you. Give them a chance to become more than just another follower. Also, you’re most likely going to look for another job after modeling and the more friends you have across the industry the easier it will be to reinvent yourself at some point.

4. “All Models Are Bitches!” Or Are They?

Models are people. There are some I don’t mind, others I adore and very few I can’t stand. But what I want to stress here is that working with people you consider your friends is fun. I’ve found myself in the most beautiful exotic places (with model friends) and it felt like being paid to go on holiday. Truly. And whenever I know of a client looking for models, well, guess whom I’m going to suggest and whom my friends are going to suggest? Yes, mutual back scratching works.

One more thing… you’re most likely going to see that your model friends are working and sharing their successes on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Rather than comparing yourself (the fastest and surest way to get depressed), be happy for them and keep your eyes on your career goals. No two careers are the same and there’s only so much you can control but you can control how you feel as far as this particular aspect of your career is concerned.

Model: Magda Kulpinska; Photographer: Nicolas Yger

5. “Exposure” Doesn’t Pay the Rent

So you’re being offered to do a shoot or a show that isn’t paid but has “great exposure.” If you have no experience whatsoever this might be a place to start. However, from what I’ve seen, is that those gigs mostly give you exposure… to more unpaid gigs. Modeling is one of those things you learn by doing. You don’t need a modeling school or countless “exposure” jobs. As a matter of fact, my first job as a model was paid. It was a lingerie show and even though I tried hard to convince myself I was cool about it, I was anything but cool about it. The best advice I was given was to always act like a pro, even if it’s just in your imagination. People like confidence and they admire competence, so give them what they want.

6. Always Read Contracts

Learn from my mistake. Not reading a contract could cost you a few thousand bucks.

Last year I was booked for a paid print editorial. Now you’re probably not going to pay your rent with editorials either but the idea is to get published and leave you with beautiful images that enhance your book.

Anyhow, my agency had sent me a contract previously which was just fine. I arrive on set and the client asks me to sign a piece of paper which I didn’t fully read. NEVER DO THAT!

If you don’t understand something, ask questions, get it clarified and if you’re still not sure, don’t sign it.

I wish I’d followed my own advice that day. The image that was taken on the shoot ended up making the brand’s international campaign. I was never paid a penny more because I had waived my rights when I signed that contract.

I resented it for a few minutes and then I moved on. And, learning to move on is an ability you definitely must acquire if you don’t want to be driven up a coconut tree in modeling.

7. Look, Don’t Listen 

I think most models will agree with me when I say that fashion tends to attract certain “peculiar” types. The GWC (guy with camera) can have many faces. He could be a GWA (guy with “agency”) or GFAP (guy from another planet). The common traits of these guys:

  • Tells you about all his VIP contacts in fashion
  • Tells you how famous you’re going to become thanks to him
  • Tells you about all the big bucks you’re going to make, also thanks to him.

These guys are often creepy, although not always, and they usually talk a lot.

But here’s the thing, look at what they actually do and research if what they say is true. Some of them are just a waste of time but some can be dangerous. Don’t fall for it.

Model: Magda Kulpinska

8. If You Don’t Like Modeling – Quit!

Imagine this…You arrive at a shoot, it’s a beautiful day and you’re happy to do what you’re about to do. Suddenly you hear another girl say, “Well, the food is gross.” “OMG, I hate the makeup.” “Am I seriously supposed to wear this?” “The pay is terrible!”

Take a deep breath; it’s just the beginning of a long day but remember that modeling is your choice. No one is forcing you to model. If you hate it, then please do something else.

There are ups and downs and some of the things that happened to me I wouldn’t want to experience ever again. I was close to quitting more than once. There are a ton of things that can lead to frustrations.

It’s essential to be honest and ask yourself, why do you really want to be a model?

9. Fame and Self-Esteem

Do you want to be famous, or love attention and need admiration? If so, don’t model.

I’m not ashamed to say that these were probably the initial reasons behind my wish to model. Here’s why they were all wrong:

  • If you have low self-esteem the chances are that with all the criticism and “unfairness” of casting director decisions you’ll end up feeling even worse.
  • 1 out of 100,000 models becomes famous. (Yes, I made that number up but who cares, realistically the chances are extremely slim).
  • There will be other models that will get more admiration, more gigs and more of of just about everything. There’s nothing worse than comparing yourself to them and that will inevitably happen if you model for the wrong reasons.

I model because I like my job and because I need to make a living. It’s a very non-emotional, no-place-for-ego approach to modeling. I like to think these are healthy reasons to choose a profession.

10. “Looks” Might Get You a Gig but Perseverance Will Get You a Career

I’ve seen it time and time again. A beautiful girl does a few jobs and leaves some time later and no one hears of her again. Then I see those that seem to have always been there, always seeking gigs, active on social media, sharing job opportunities with their model friends, etc. They’re part of the scene and even though they’re often over thirty they’re achieving success and a long way from throwing in the towel.

Perseverance is the key. When you have it there’s no mountain’s high enough to stop you and not a single path too windy to make you go back.

If I could give each new model one thing, it’s this quote from Benjamin Disraeli, “The secret of success is constancy to purpose.”

Know what you want and go for it!

Follow Magda on Instagram: @magdakulpinska

Magda Kulpinska

Magda Kulpinska is a professional model based in Paris, France. Magda is also a trained actress and operatic mezzo-soprano. Follow Magda on Instagram: @magdakulpinska

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3 Responses to “10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Modeling”

  1. September 28, 2016 at 5:32 pm, Courtney said:

    Thank you so much for this, you have become such an inspiration <3


  2. September 28, 2016 at 2:27 pm, Selenne Contreras said:

    Thank YOU so much for this!


  3. September 28, 2016 at 1:28 pm, Caleb Taylor said:

    This really helps, I’ve been doing Freelance modeling in montreal for about 2 years now. Things are good, not great but good. I was thinking about quitting and putting my time into something else. This article gives me hope, Thank you 🙂


Leave a Reply to Caleb Taylor