Walker does modeling?

Walker Chuppe/The USD Vista Me (Walker) attempting to model.

My girlfriend, Angela, is a fashion model represented by Wilhelmina Models, and through getting to know her, I was thrown headfirst into the chaotic industry. To be honest, I have minimal knowledge of the modeling and fashion industries, and I’ve essentially had to learn on the fly.

Photo courtesy of Wilhelmina Models Angela Sang poses against a plain wall in LA.

One of the first things that I learned is that there is a significant difference between an “Instagram model” and a “fashion model.” I have quite a few friends that are Instagram models, but I never thought about what the differences would be. Typically, when I picture models, I just think of an attractive person. To be an Instagram model, that really is the only criteria. However, to get into high-fashion modeling, there are much more stringent characteristics that agencies and brands look for.

The main difference between Instagram models and fashion models is that Instagram models typically work independently, essentially as freelancers. Smaller brands will reach out to them to do bikini work, to promote their products, and occasionally do clothing campaigns.

Big brands like Gucci, Topshop, Brandy Melville, and so on, do not usually use this method to book their models. Larger brands book their models through agencies like IMG Models, Wilhelmina, The Lions, and NEXT. There are also smaller agencies as well, but to work with the most popular brands, models typically have to be signed to one of the top agencies.

Given that it is so important for fashion models to sign with one of the best agencies to be successful, countless people send in headshots and go to open castings in the hopes that they might be signed. Sadly, hardly anyone makes the cut. Agencies have strict standards for their models and always have an exact “look” that they’re searching for. On average, female models have to be between 5’9”-5’11”, with a very thin build. Male models typically must be between 5’11”-6’1”, with a muscular build for commercial modeling (think Abercrombie & Fitch) and lean build for high-fashion (think Supreme or Givenchy). For both men and women, defined facial structure is absolutely necessary. High cheekbones, defined jawlines, and pronounced brow-ridges are staples of the industry. In many cases, fashion models are not necessarily people who you would instantly notice as attractive. Fashion models have very striking and unique faces, though maybe not what you might have pictured as the ultimate standard of beauty.

This is where I come in. Angela suggested that I could also be a model and that I had the face for it, but I had never considered doing anything like it. She suggested that I go to an open call first, just to get a taste of the industry. Since her agency is based in Los Angeles, my girlfriend recommended that I try out NoTies Management, which is based here in San Diego. NoTies had an open call model search event, which attracted a lot of attention from hopefuls throughout the city. People travelled from all over for this opportunity. I simply went to my Friday class and drove down to Little Italy for the event, not exactly knowing what to expect.

When I arrived, there were quite a few people hanging around outside the NoTies office. It was hard to tell if they had just been rejected or if they were waiting to be looked at. I was definitely nervous when I was walking up to the casting call. I had no idea what I was going to have to do or what the experience would be like.

My girlfriend said that all castings are different: sometimes they have you do a bunch of poses, sometimes you have to make an introductory video, and sometimes they just have you stand in one place while they study your face. In my head, I was going over all the different poses that I could pull out in case they asked me to. Even though I wasn’t really taking the casting seriously, I was still incredibly nervous, which I found kind of funny.

I walked in the front door, and there was a group of about 15 people in the lobby waiting. A representative from NoTies greeted us and gave us a short speech thanking us for coming to the casting. She also gave us a bit of a disclaimer as well before the casting started.

“All of you are beautiful, and don’t think that if we don’t choose you today that you should stop trying,” the representative said. “We have a specific look that we’re searching for, so, if you aren’t chosen, don’t be discouraged.”

This disclaimer was meant to pacify people who might be angry if they weren’t selected. She also apologized in advance to those who wouldn’t be chosen who had travelled to San Diego for the opportunity.

After the disclaimer, she announced that she’d start the evaluation. I prepared all my faces and poses in my head, readying myself for anything. She had all of us stand in a semicircle—the group was made up of both men and women, of different ages, demographics and height. She scanned the room for about 30 seconds and then said, “Sorry. At this time none of you have the look we’re looking for.” That was it. Talk about anticlimactic.

So my first taste of modeling ended in failure I suppose, but it was still a fun experience. I wasn’t too bothered about it; I didn’t really have any expectations going in. Some of the people in the group, however, looked visibly dejected. The excitement of the open call culminating in a 30-second look probably wasn’t what many hopefuls expected.

Angela said that, while a little unusual, castings do sometimes go that quickly, and you just have to move on to the next one. She said that even most successful models were turned down at their first few castings. Even she was rejected at her first casting, but now works for Wilhelmina Models, which is seen as one of the best agencies to sign for. Sometimes the industry can seem cutthroat, but, when agencies see hundreds of candidates per week, they have to move quickly.

For now, Angela’s agent said that I should go to a few more castings, and that I would probably get a bid if I’m persistent. Until then, her agent recommended that I change my Instagram feed so that it has a “theme,” whatever that means. I suppose when agencies and brands check out your social media, it’s good to have an overall pleasing aesthetic. I have no idea if I’m actually going to become a high-fashion model, but stay tuned to see if I fail miserably or if I’m shooting a catalog for Prada in the next few months.

Written by Walker Chuppe, Arts & Culture Editor