Why Real Runway Shows Don’t Require Models to Sell Tickets

So you’re kicking ass and taking names; working on building your book and resume as an aspiring model. One day you’re checking your email or answering your cell phone and you get a call from an event coordinator. They’ve heard of your awesomeness and want you to break out your Naomi Campbell walk for an upcoming show. Hair, makeup, designer clothes, the works… there’s just ONE little catch:

You have to sell a certain number of tickets (usually 20 or so) either to cover production costs or to earn the right be a “featured” model who receives a variety of supposed “additional benefits”.

Anna Sui: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2012 Collection

Photographer: udor

These “benefits” include:

  • headshots of indeterminate quality, taken on site
  • a press kit
  • runway video footage uploaded to the internet
  • additional clothing change
  • your face on a flyer
  • the nebulous promise of future exposure

CFB: Champagne Fashion Brunch, small fashion show, models walk for experience and fun

Photographer: udor

Here’s a basic rule of thumb: Anything that requires you to sell tickets to walk runway is not a good look for a serious portfolio.

Here’s why:

1. These events have no standards, by and large, because they’re looking for anyone who will make them money, not for the most qualified models for the task at hand.

2. Any event that involved models directly selling tickets will (most likely) not attract the sort of people who make good connections or networking possibilities for future work. Why not? Because most, if not all, of the attending models are inexperienced, so actual working professionals—photographers, hair and makeup artists, wardrobe stylists, etc.—are not going to attend…Aside from, of course, whomever the event promoters hired to be there for the purpose of the show running at all.

Legitimate agencies and casting directors have a constant stream of new faces submitting to them daily from direct castings and open calls, and do not need to waste time crawling local nightclubs hoping to find the next superstar. Magazines have their choice of the full slate of models at all nearby agencies, with the agency being able to provide pre vetted and pre tested girls who meet whatever requirements the agency requested. Even if you’ve decided that you’d be better suited to freelancing, and don’t particularly care about being signed, you’ll still be wasting your time. You’ll have wasted several hundred dollars and several hours of your life walking runway for an audience that, for the most part, consists of the various models’ friends and family.

3. If the company/event will give you such great “exposure”, or contacts, why would they need models to hawk seats to cover their production costs? Why do you have to pay for the supposed benefits via ticket sales? The short answer is they are probably making empty promises about what they are able to do for you. They can’t even make their own events break even without using models as unpaid sales/promotional labor, let alone promote you effectively.

4. Let’s say you didn’t notice points 1, 2 and 3. You sell the tickets, walk the show, and list it as a credit on your resume, along with your new flyer/press kit/magical promotional unicorn.

It won’t matter to your next potential client, as you didn’t get there by being the best possible choice for the job. You bought and paid for your catwalk turn, which anyone with a spare 20 friends and some available cash could’ve done. Take the $200 you would’ve forced your loved ones to spend and/or paid out of pocket and put it toward things that will actually benefit you and your career.

Fashion “show” where models had to sell tickets

Photographer: udor

Instead, use the money you saved as a down payment for a test shoot or headshots with an established, high quality photographer that works in the genres/markets you are trying to sell yourself in. (A fashion model needs a very different headshot/port than a commercial model, and a combination model/actor would has different needs than the other 2 ladies).

Use it to pay for train tickets or a tank of gas to travel to agency open calls or castings/go sees.

If you have some quality photos already, go get some prints made for your paper/hard copy portfolio.

Use it for more comp cards/business cards, or to have a professional website built.

Don’t use it to pad the pockets of organizations that coordinate pay-to-play runway events.

Paige Morgan

Paige Morgan is a multi-genre traveling freelance model based in New York City, and measures a full 67 inches of awesome. She appreciates any and all kind words regarding this article, but would be most enthused if it ever resulted in fresh baked cookies. You can contact her at or at

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

29 Responses to “Why Real Runway Shows Don’t Require Models to Sell Tickets”

  1. September 02, 2017 at 12:28 am, Brandy “Nu Skool Sings Old Sch said:

    It’s up to a model. I don’t think everybody who encourages models to support the show by inviting family, friends and fans is a scam artists. If nobody invites anyone then you end up with an empty house. No celebrity, talent agent, fashion industry professional is interested in seeing a show with no audience. If I was a model, I would think I’m fabulous enough to pack a house all by myself. But that’s just me. I know Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks both said they helped sell tickets for some of their shows in the beginning and now tickets to their shows sell on their own. I would never chose a model based on how many tickets they could sell. I want the show to be high quality models. But then again, I’m looking for models that want to make a difference in the lives of the homeless kids that I serve. Some of these kids are so inspired by the models. But I know everyone is not into that.


  2. June 06, 2012 at 12:24 pm, Rachel said:

    Twice…thats how many times I had to sell tickets. Organizations like this make me sick. It makes me feel bad to know that I was picked only as a ticket vendor but not as a model with talent. Anyway, I was fooled by Billy Foster aka BillyBadAxx of Urban Fashion Week. His ads clearly stated that his show was for the regular Fashion Week, not Urban Fashion Week and that we would be getting paid. After he made his model selections, he broke the news that we had to sell 10 tickets at $15.00 each and whoever didn’t sell, got an earful. One other group that does this is John Blassingame of Black Men’s Magazine. His Natural Beauty contest was a scam and he only chose stripper like models/dancers who were all siliconed-up with ridiculous clown weaves


  3. April 26, 2012 at 12:25 pm, SJ said:

    This is 100% true. I’m so sick of these scamming wack ppl out there. Models need to be smarter too and educate themselves on how to maneuver this industry but I’m glad MM is taking the step in provide a viable resource!


  4. April 18, 2012 at 9:34 am, Ohforheavenssake said:

    Wow, I can hardly believe what I just read.  I think it’s good advice to let models know what’s up, but the slamming of the models who are participating in the particular show you are referring to is completely uncalled for.  You have now discredited ALL the models who are participating in the Nunez show; even though not ALL of them paid money or pedaled any tickets.  Some were chosen based on their modeling abilities, but now the public will never know that.  And this being a small town, YOU are responsible for ruining said models for any future trade work.  What you are doing is petty and cruel; under the guise that you are trying to educate new models.  How very disheartening and entirely unprofessional of you. 


    • April 18, 2012 at 9:41 am, Ohforheavenssake said:

      My comment above is intended for AK Rhythm Magazine who posted your article on their Facebook site.  I apologize for my mistake, Model Mayem.


  5. March 31, 2012 at 5:40 am, KEEL MAGAZINE said:



  6. March 30, 2012 at 11:06 am, Kennyb4 said:

    This is a great point! I’ve had 2 runway shows do this to me…not cool! 


  7. March 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm, Klm429 said:

    I’ve never even heard of anything like this!Crazy…I am so glad I never ran into this ridiculousness!


  8. March 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm, Jeni said:

    You just described most beauty pageants :-)……


    • March 23, 2015 at 12:25 pm, AbiribaBoy said:

      Beauty pageants are entirely different. Even the most established ones that are televised requires the contestants to pay a steep application fee or something construed as that. Miss Universe, Miss USA, Miss America…all of them. However, most do not require ticket sales (the established ones) the rest of them…yup you’re are right on the money.


  9. March 29, 2012 at 9:40 am, Chris said:

    Where can I find one of these “magical promotional unicorns?” I would love to own one.


    • March 31, 2012 at 8:58 pm, Meetmisspaige said:

      Me too! It’s a shame they wouldn’t tell me where the promotional unicorn farm was because I refused to sell tickets LOL 😀


      • March 31, 2012 at 9:57 pm, Chris said:

         I think I would make a one-time exception to the refusing to sell tickets rule if they were giving away magical promotional unicorns. I mean, what couldn’t you do if you owned a unicorn?


        • April 02, 2012 at 2:09 pm, Meetmisspaige said:

           The one thing you couldn’t do if you owned a unicorn?……

          Be any more awesome! (Unless someone else gets a unicorn and a personal gang of ninjas lol)


  10. March 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm, Optix said:

     I totally agree with the last piece of advice regarding the agency route, but I would take it a bit further.  MOVE. That’s right, move to the market where you plan to work.  Say that you are in the process of moving, and if you are signed then MOVE to the city/town where you plan to work.

    I don’t disagree that some modeling shows are purely for entertainment purposes (most likely ZERO buyers in the VIP seating or any other section), and having people bring in friends is a much more efficient marketing plan than advertising dollars, but for some people that might actually be their only way to participate in a runway show.

    The moral of the story is: If you have realistic expectations of yourself as a model, and they point toward a modeling career, then exhaust the agency representation route, prior to getting pulled into the “fashion show” events.

    If friends have told you your “whole life” that you should be a model, but when you look in the mirror you see someone with a “healthy” weight, not-so-great a smile, so-so to bad skin, and 5’7″ or below, then the pay-for-play route is the way to go.

    Sounds cruel, but if reality doesn’t set in, then eventually boredom or time will let you know that modeling is not the thing for you…


    • March 29, 2012 at 8:14 am, Meetmisspaige said:

       Even if you’re a freelancer, and don’t aspire to or meet the requirements of an agency…events like this are still a waste of time/money.


  11. March 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm, Keith Foster said:

    Well written and great advice.  It should be required reading for new models.


  12. March 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm, Jerry Hernandez said:

    Excellent write Paige, I have seen this type of scam in the night club scene, The ad reads “Marketing director/assistant director position open for upscale nightclub”  What they do is hire a kid with F.B. who is attending a local university or city college. Tell them all they have to do is fill the bar/lounge with their friends.  The kid is actually not hired as an employee but gets a cut of the door sales for the night.  When that gets old and their buddies start to trickle in the nightclub posts a new ad in the classifieds.  These people are practicing the bottom feeding method we only used to hear about with boiler room sales.  


  13. March 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm, Lovely Lady Kissa said:

    least I only had to sell 5 when I was sucked in. 20?! That is insane!


  14. March 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm, Jerry Bennett said:

    It’s called the “pay to play” scam and it started in the LA music scene first. Here’s a Wiki article about it:


  15. March 28, 2012 at 3:59 am, Renejalachapelle said:

    Great article. & you’re right, EVERYBODY once was sucked into this. I sure was. The whole time I knew something wasn’t right about this, but I I wasn’t sure so I stuck w/it. I ended up finding some people who really are serious about this career that I network with till this day as I also used those fashion shows for my port to get a legitamate gig. just turned the negative into a positive. it’s really easy to get caught up in scams when you’re starting off since they pump themselves up to be what you’re looking for, but it takes a professional to admit that you’ve been scammed & used what you learned about it to your advantage.
    All this I’m telling to any other new model that ask me about how to get started. You just gotta use what you learn to educate others instead of with holding useful information in order for me to reach my goal & keep others stagnant. Karma comes back on that.


  16. March 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm, Select Models said:

    What you’re looking at here is a scam artist and sleezbag promotor who’s attempting to bury is slimey fingers into every piece of the promotion pie… ripping off everybody from the talent… to the location… to the sponsors… to even potential advertizers.  If you spot such an underhanded dirtbag as this individual… you should alert ALL parties involved ASAP to put an end to lame shit like this. 


    • March 29, 2012 at 9:25 am, udor said:

       The problem is that many models simply don’t know the difference… you find mostly the new models, who try to get “that exposure” getting sucked into this.

      The third photo (last one, model in red) was from such an event. A model friend of mine asked me if I could shoot her at that event and that she could win a cruise… which was the prize for winning that “competition”.

      It was all unprofessionally done, lighting was bad (I still got my shots tho…) one or two guys, somehow affiliated with the promoter were kinda rambling drunk on the runway, in-between performances of local musicians…

      I found out later that they had to sell a bunch of tickets, that’s how the prize got financed (that is understandable). The person who “won”… was really not that good looking… especially compared to my model friend… or just the girl in red in that photo above (who was great looking) was… [b]the promoter’s [u]cousin![/b][/u]

      Rumor went around that the whole event was fixed to enable the promoters’ cousin to go on a Caribbean cruise… and I agree…

      Considering that there are a bunch of girls are willing to pay mommy’s cash for the Barbie-Zone, et. al., no matter how they are being warned… I think that many models, unless they are reading Paige’s article, will try to get their friends and family to pay.


  17. March 27, 2012 at 8:55 pm, davefashionaz said:

    I’ve been approached by these people multiple times. From what I’ve heard, even if you invite 20 people and they all show up at the door and give your name, those tickets don’t “count” for some reason – so you still owe the event coordinators $200.

    What a bunch of sleazebags, scamming artists with false promises.


    • March 28, 2012 at 3:16 am, Meetmisspaige said:

      Indeed. After all, it is to the event’s advantage to undercount in situations like this. Their entire business model is based on it.


  18. March 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm, Sexykellyna said:

    want to do modelx


  19. March 27, 2012 at 4:31 pm, Donna Walcott said:



  20. March 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm, Stanley Scott said:

    I gotten sucked into this myself, should’ve known better! THIS article is GREAT ADVICE!


    • March 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm, Meetmisspaige said:

       Everyone was new once 🙂 Glad you found it helpful 🙂


Leave a Reply