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An Introduction to Modeling Abroad

After being chosen as an international Playboy Centerfold three times (Croatia 2010, Singapore 2011 and South Africa 2013), I have found that I often get pigeonholed into a certain genre of modeling. People want to think that glamour modeling is my only area of experience, however, the reality is that I am agency-signed and represented around the world (London, Singapore, Indonesia, South Africa, Malaysia, Australia and America). I have walked runways, been in magazine editorials and catalog shoots from London to Singapore and, at just over 5’9” tall and a size 2, I have been lucky enough to do both fashion and glamour modeling. With extensive experience in both I am able to help aspiring models.

I would like to impart some of my knowledge and personal experience to new models who are thinking of modeling overseas to help them avoid potential mistakes and weigh the pros and cons of modeling away from home.


Model: Maria Eriksson

Research the market

Different markets around the world cater to different types of models and favor some “looks” over others. Before deciding you want to model overseas it would be beneficial to research or seek agency advice on which country suits your look.

For example, most Asian countries favor young, tall, thin, pale Western, as well as Asian and Pan or Euro-Asian, models. You have to have a certain minimum height (usually 5’8”) as well as be certain measurements (usually 34-24-34) to have the “favored look” that does well commercially. That is not to say you cannot work in that country if you are not those measurements or height, but you may not be the most popular working model. I lived in Asia in 2011 and did well despite my agent telling me to stop tanning (I didn’t), or being an average of seven, eight (or sometimes 10) years older than most of the other models. I was tall enough and had the measurements required to still book jobs, which I did frequently. However, it was my breasts that gave me the most issues (a natural E cup is unheard of in most of Asia) so even when my agent had been requested to send “busty” models for castings I was still too busty for a lot of work. Then there are the countries that favor curves and bigger breasts. Busty brunettes with light colored eyes do very well in India. It is like the difference in markets between NYC and Miami – the androgynous look against swimwear bodies.

Do not expect to work in the wrong market. It is not a reflection on you; it is like attempting to get a job in science after earning a diploma in English literature or French. Do not take it personally. The modeling world is full of setbacks.


Model: Maria Eriksson; Photographer TH Taylor

Moving abroad

The next thing to think about is how you are going to get overseas. Is your mother agency sending you to another agent? Or are you willing to get there yourself, risk not being able to work and therefore bear the financial burden upfront? Both are feasible depending upon your personal situation.

If you are successfully signed by an agency that often sends models abroad to sister agencies, then great! It can make life so much easier as there will be someone to guide you, house you with others from your agency, and pay the airfare. However, there are also disadvantages to having your agency send you abroad, so be aware—your mother and hosting agency will most likely take a cut from any jobs you obtain. This could mean losing up to 30% of your wage in fees.  Other disadvantages could also include sharing a room with someone, not getting paid until you return home, and paying back airfare and food costs. This can lull you into a false sense of security and the overall effect of feeling like you earned a lot more than you actually did. (On the plus side, most agency models working overseas get paid to go to nightclubs with free drinks and line jumps.)

If you don’t have an agent, think long and hard about if it is wise to financially risk moving abroad. You will have to pay for your own flight, a place to stay, and food while you hope to find an agent who will give you work and access to work permits. If you have the funds to support yourself, however, modeling abroad can have advantages. You are not beholden to the agent quite in the same way as if your mother agency had sent you over (due to different contractual agreements). Going alone and signing once there with an agent can potentially provide you with more freedom to deny castings or jobs. Signing with an agent once you arrive can also free you of strict contractual obligations if you feel you made a mistake and want to return home. Please note many agents will still drop you for falling out of line, turning down too many castings, putting on weight, etc., so beware. Always read contracts carefully.


Model: Maria Eriksson; Photographer: Fotosbykevin

Visas

I do not recommend going to foreign countries to model without a valid work permit. The difficulty of obtaining a work visa varies by country. Some countries, like Indonesia, only issue work visas for short periods of time (three months roughly), whereas United States-based modeling work permits last longer (two, three, or six years and renewable or permanent).

The costs of visas should be paid by your agency. They may also take that cost out of your future wages too, so be aware that after working for several months you may still owe money to your agent. Other agents may expect you to pay visa costs upfront. If you do, make certain you will recoup the financial loss.

A sponsorship by an agent will most likely be the only successful route to gain employment in a foreign country (and is my only recommended way). Over recent years I have learned through agents in the industry that some Asian countries are making it more difficult to obtain work permits. The United Kingdom and the United States are also notorious for being difficult to obtain work papers.  I know of many models who were deported from the States, United Kingdom and Asia for modeling without the correct paperwork.

My advice is to seek advice from agencies and lawyers as to the situation in each country and how to apply for work permits so you are protected and law abiding. Do not rely on hearsay.


Model: Maria Eriksson

Country diversities

When ready to go overseas, be aware of language barriers, housing issues, cultural differences such as clothing, religions, holidays and celebrations, and of misunderstandings on these topics and laws. One must remember that though these differences can be exciting and stimulating, they can also be scary and frustrating. Be respectful of your host country.

Religion can cause differences with dress codes and day-to-day living that will most likely be different to what you are used to. Things differ from country to country, so read up on where you are going. Be respectful of where you are – especially with religious buildings and holidays.

Cultural differences, even in countries similar to your own, can also take some getting used to. For example, things like siestas in Spain could change the way you are used to living your life. These differences, which may sound like small changes, can be hard to get used to in the beginning.

The obvious and most difficult change is usually a language barrier issue. I will never forget a 16-year-old girl from Uzbekistan I met in Indonesia who spoke neither English nor Indonesian. How hard it must have been for her being away from her family and not really understanding what people wanted of her. Speaking English is a huge advantage in this regard, as most people worldwide do speak some level of English and for that we should feel lucky. However, I must express how wonderful it is to pick up some of the local language. The attempt will be received and appreciated by local people, and will contribute to your personal growth.  My point here is to be prepared for issues in communication.  Even my English accent here in the States causes me no end of issues despite having lived here for over two years, and supposedly speaking the same language.

From my experience, food can most likely be the most major conflict after communication issues, especially for fussy eaters. In Asia I became accustomed to eating rice three times a day, even with curry for breakfast, but I missed cheese, bread and chocolate a lot. However, it is very exciting to go into a foreign grocery store and try new things like seaweed-flavored Pringles (recommended) and a fruit called durian (not recommended). Another important point is to be aware of local water and ice which may upset your stomach and cause sickness.


Model: Maria Eriksson; Photographer: Fotosbykevin

Safety

Your safety should always be a priority. Whether with an agency or not, one must be street smart and know that as a foreigner with your look and behavior,  you stand out more than a local so you are always more of a target for pickpockets and scammers (or worse).

Plan where you are going before you set off on your daily journeys. Know your route, look like you know where you are going even if you do not, and figure out a safe place to stop and regroup if you feel someone may be following you. Never have possessions on display such as money and keep your passport safe.

Be very careful at night and in secluded places like parking lots and watch your drinks if you go into bars.

Also, be aware of scammers and wary of people trying to befriend you. Sometimes people do this in order to gain your trust, only to mug you.  Know the local number to call for emergency services and where the nearest hospital is in case of emergencies.

Before leaving for a foreign destination it is also a good idea to check with your doctor to know if there are any vaccinations required for the country you will be working in.

Other potential safety issues include political warfare and natural disasters. These can happen anytime in any country, really, but they are something to be aware of since some countries could be on the brink of rioting, and civil wars. This could mean they are set to become financially unstable, and thus not a great modeling market, in addition to not being safe places to live and work, or even visit.


Model: Maria Eriksson

Summation

The best thing anyone can do is move overseas on one’s own for at least three months, not knowing anyone or having a secure job. That is very frightening. However, it is also exciting and challenging. It builds character and self-esteem, broadens ones outlook on life and is fun!  I hope that what I have pointed out with a serious view to modeling overseas is useful in avoiding pitfalls.

To summarize, some of the potential drawbacks of modeling overseas are communication issues, expensive flights home in emergencies, homesickness and loneliness. On the plus side, moving abroad for work will bring excitement, adventure, great memories, personal growth, and great potential work opportunities.

I hope this helps and good luck.

Maria Eriksson

Maria Eriksson is a three-time international Playboy centerfold (Croatia 2010, Singapore 2011 and South Africa 2013). She has appeared on magazine covers and billboards, walked in runway shows and appeared in both FHM and Playboy’s Top 100 lists. Maria used to be a high school science teacher and has a Master’s degree. She was born in the United Kingdom but currently lives in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in many countries working as a professional full-time model. Her articles have appeared in magazines around the world. For more information please visit www.mariaeriksson.com.

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13 Responses to “An Introduction to Modeling Abroad”

  1. December 19, 2016 at 7:05 am, [email protected] said:

    Very highly photographer. For modeling your picture inspire the young to work here. Your writing is also very nice and you write with confident.

    Reply

  2. August 31, 2016 at 11:53 am, Crystal Ariana Gonzales said:

    I’ve modeled in a couple of different countries. So far so good.

    Reply

  3. January 08, 2015 at 11:21 am, Mariami Nebieridze said:

    we are two model and we are interesting about work in europe.

    Reply

  4. January 08, 2015 at 11:18 am, Mariami Nebieridze said:

    how can i contact with you?

    Reply

  5. July 24, 2014 at 5:13 am, henry said:

    First check out the company and individuals who offer an assignment ,who are they and what is their background.

    Reply

  6. December 18, 2013 at 10:29 pm, Ominique Calypso Burrows said:

    this was very helpful thank you sooo much Maria your awesome! (^_^)

    Reply

  7. December 18, 2013 at 4:27 pm, Chanel Renner said:

    Thank you so much for sharing this I learned a lot from it

    Reply

  8. December 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm, AndyImages said:

    Very informative article for any traveler. Let me know if you make it to Jamaica sometime.

    Reply

  9. December 18, 2013 at 12:59 pm, Ron Bradley said:

    Great info Maria!!

    Reply

  10. December 17, 2013 at 8:56 pm, Todd Mizomi said:

    Great article! A must read for all models.

    Reply

  11. December 17, 2013 at 3:11 pm, Mike Walker said:

    Very well written advice

    Reply

  12. December 17, 2013 at 1:35 pm, Prose Photography said:

    Well written. Good advise from an experienced person.

    Reply

  13. December 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm, DKProPhotography said:

    Really good advice. Not just for models looking to travel overseas, but also for all models. Especially the part about researching the market. Thanks to shows like America’s Next Top Model there are a lot of models that either don’t realize that they don’t meet the requirements for runway and fail or give up because that’s the only segment they think of when they hear the word model.

    Reply

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