How to Start a Modeling Career at 21? Essential Steps

So, you’ve hit the big 21 and the catwalks are calling your name—but where do you start? Let’s face it, the fashion industry isn’t exactly holding open auditions in your local mall.

This post will walk you through the practical steps to kick-start your modeling career, even if your only current fan base consists of your Instagram followers and your cat.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Build a versatile modeling portfolio with high-quality images that highlight your unique look, and use TFP sessions to keep costs down.
  • Identify your modeling niche by assessing your attributes and researching industry demands, then target agencies that align with your style.
  • Prepare for auditions with confidence, dress in simple basics, and be ready for the unexpected, while maintaining financial and personal health.

Is 21 Too Late to Start Modeling?

If you’re wondering whether the modeling ship has sailed because you’re 21, let’s set the record straight: absolutely not! The idea that you’ve got to start young is a common misconception. While industries like high fashion often scout for younger talent, there’s a whole world of modeling out there that doesn’t put such a tight cap on age.

Take Ashley Graham, for instance, who landed her first big break with a national campaign in her early twenties and is now a household name. Or Maye Musk, who at 69 became CoverGirl’s oldest spokesperson. These are shining examples that if you’ve got drive and the right look for a niche, your age won’t be the deciding factor in your success.

How Can You Build Your Modeling Portfolio?

Your portfolio is your resume; it’s critical to make it impressive. It should showcase a range of styles, moods, and settings that shout your versatility and unique attributes. Here are a few cost-effective tips to kick things off:

  • Scout for Talent: There are tons of talented photographers looking to build their portfolios too. Strike a Time for Print (TFP) deal where you both benefit from the session without cash changing hands.
  • Be Resourceful: Sometimes, the perfect shot doesn’t come from a professional studio. Unique locations and good natural lighting can sometimes do the trick. So, keep an open mind and be creative.
  • Focus on Quality: Even if you’re on a budget, a few high-quality shots are worth more than dozens of mediocre ones. Prioritize getting a handful of stellar images to start.

Remember, a robust portfolio opens doors. You don’t need a mountain of photos—just ones that pack a punch.

What Kind of Modeling Is Right for You?

Dive into the modeling pool by finding your niche. Are you more high fashion or commercial? Does your physique scream fitness modeling, or are you rocking a look that’s perfect for alternative markets? Here’s how to suss out where you might fit:

  • Assess Your Qualities: Jot down your physical attributes and personality traits and match them to the industry’s various demands.
  • Research, Research, Research: Each modeling niche has its prerequisites. For instance, runway models typically need to meet certain height requirements, whereas commercial models often benefit from a relatable look.
  • Unique Selling Points: What sets you apart? Perhaps it’s your eye color, your hair, or even a distinctive scar. Embrace it – uniqueness can be your ace in the industry.

Remember, the right fit feels natural. Don’t force yourself into a type of modeling that doesn’t align with you. Your authenticity is currency in this industry, and you’ll shine brightest where you’re at your most comfortable.

Stay tuned, as we’ll continue exploring how to navigate the modeling world and turn heads in the industry with savvy moves and keen strategies. Keep your eyes peeled, because your modeling career might be just a few smart steps away!

Where Do You Find Modeling Gigs?

So, you’re 21 and ready to dive headfirst into the world of modeling. Wondering where to find those modeling gigs? The journey starts with legwork and a sprinkle of digital savvy. Signing with an agency is your golden ticket. These pros have the connections to land you those dreamy gigs. But, don’t just waltz in; research is your best friend. Look for agencies that align with your personal brand and style. Got your list? Great, now it’s time to sweep them off their feet.

Contacting Agencies:
Craft a Stellar Portfolio: Put together a portfolio that showcases your versatility. Think high-quality snaps, a variety of angles, and diverse looks.
Touch Base Professionally: When you approach agencies, do it with finesse. A concise, professional email with your portfolio can do wonders.
Follow Up but Don’t Stalk: No reply? A gentle follow-up after a few weeks can nudge them nicely. But spamming their inbox? Big no-no.

Don’t have an agent yet? No worries. Keep those eyes peeled for open calls and go-sees. These are real chances to strut your stuff in front of industry bigwigs. And yeah, social media and online platforms can be a treasure trove. Websites like Model Mayhem or the LinkedIn of the modeling world, The Fashion Model Directory, could lead you to your next big break.

And remember, networking isn’t just a buzzword. It’s the bread and butter of the modeling world. Connect with photographers, makeup artists, and other models. You never know where your next job tip might come from.

Online Presence:
Create a Professional Online Profile: Platforms like Instagram are your portfolio to the world. Keep it professional, but let your personality shine.
Interact and Network: Engage with brands, photographers, and agencies online. Build those relationships.

How Do You Prepare for Castings and Auditions?

Alright, you’ve landed an audition—now what? It’s your time to shine, but preparation is key. Think of auditions like first dates. You need that something special to stand out, but you’ve gotta stay true to yourself.

What to Wear:
Keep it Simple: A clean, well-fitted pair of jeans and a plain white tee can be your go-to. It’s the modeling equivalent of a blank canvas.
Choose Flattering Basics: Footwear? Think simple heels or boots that elongate your frame but won’t trip you up.

Presenting Yourself:
Confidence is Everything: Walk in like you own the place, but with humility. A fine balance is key.
Know Your Angles: Practice your poses and walk. Mirrors are your BFF here.

At the Audition:
Expect to Wait: Bring a book or something to keep you calm during the inevitable wait.
Be Ready to Perform: They might throw a curveball your way. Stay flexible, literally and figuratively.

Rejection? Yep, it’s part of the gig. Take it on the chin and use it as fuel to improve. Some of the biggest names in the industry were told ‘no’ more times than they can count. So, keep your head high.

What Are the Must-Know Industry Tips?

In this glitz and glamour world, staying grounded is crucial. Here’s the real talk on keeping safe and savvy.

Safety First:
Never Go Alone: To shoots with unknown photographers or sketchy locations, always have a buddy.
Trust Your Gut: If something feels off, it probably is. Listen to that inner voice.

Avoiding Scams:
No Upfront Fees: Legit agencies make money when you do, not before.
Do Your Due Diligence: Check out agency reviews and talk to other models.

Understanding Contracts:
Details, Details, Details: Read every word before signing anything.
Seek Professional Help: An attorney can save you from a world of trouble.

Budget Like a Pro: Gigs can be sporadic. Plan for those rainy days.
Save for Taxes: You’re likely a freelancer, so Uncle Sam will come knocking.

And here’s a unique take—align your modeling career with a cause or passion. Sustainable fashion, body positivity, mental health advocacy—whatever floats your boat. Brands love a model with a message. This can set you apart and give your work deeper meaning.

Physical and Mental Health:
Stay Fit, Stay Healthy: This goes beyond the surface. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper sleep can do wonders for your performance.
Mindfulness Matters: The industry can be tough. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, or a hobby that keeps you zen, make sure you find time to unwind.

Whew, that’s a lot to take in. But with this toolbox, you’re more than ready to nail that modeling career. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keep pushing, stay true to yourself, and when you hit the runway, walk like there’s no tomorrow!

  • Alex Mitch

    Hi, I'm the founder of! Having been in finance and tech for 10+ years, I was surprised at how hard it can be to find answers to common questions in finance, tech and business in general. Because of this, I decided to create this website to help others!