|Cheshire Scott, NH|
So I've gotten to thinking, after getting riled up over a few recent emails.
One interesting and rather under-the-rug aspect to freelance modeling is the relationship dynamics between freelance models.
I'll go ahead and mention that I'm a huge purporter of networking with other models: It keeps the profession safer and more pleasant, and can lead to some really phenomenal friendships [or, at least, puts you in touch with people who can relate to your rather unique vocation]. Other models were an invaluable resource to me when I first started.
So should models contact each other, trade references and share experiences, meet up, host each other, travel together, etc.? Absolutely.
But there's an interesting gray area that I haven't really heard people talk about openly. Specifically, interactions between experienced and new models.
Brand-new models, this is for you. Read this.
I've gotten these messages every now and again, and I'm willing to bet other models who are more well-established than myself have been utterly spammed with them.
Ohmygod you're so awesome and gorgeous and holy shit blah blah WOW you're amazing [basically: really vague, impersonal, and over-the-top ass-kissing like "you're so amazing" that goes on and on, sometimes for multiple paragraphs].
I want to be a model just like you--contacts would be GREAT.
Holyshityou'reamazing thank you in advance!
But honestly, this is a somewhat understandable letter for a person to send, if they're just zealously jumping in and are not sure what to do. In all honesty, I myself probably wrote letters that aren't too terribly different from the above when I first started out. It CAN be an intimidating prospect to contact someone more established who really has no "reason" to pay attention to you, and ass-kissing is one way people try to win favor when they're not sure what they themselves can offer [being new to modeling, and perhaps feeling like they lack the charisma or eloquence that would otherwise get people to listen to them]. What the hell do you say to someone who does not know you, who has absolutely nothing to gain by responding to you, and absolutely nothing to lose by ignoring you?
Anyway, back to the point. There are a couple problems I--and many models I know--have with this sort of letter:
Firstly: The over-the-top flattery. It's insincere. It's annoying. The first piece of advice I give to models who write me a load of ass-kissery is, "Do not kiss ass in an attempt to give people a reason to answer you. If you genuinely love someone's work, it's nice to pay them a compliment. But kissing generic ass to excuse yourself for contacting someone is far too transparent to be flattering--and can even backfire so as to insult the recipient. It also makes you come across as being unsure of yourself, like you need to apologize for writing them--you're automatically making your recipient the alpha dog, whether they'd have it that way or not." I've gotten a few really nice compliments from new models--those tend to be specific and relevant, and they don't come from a place of desperation.
Antidote: Concision and gratitude. If nothing in your message is going to be of benefit to your recipient [i.e., you're asking them to take time out and do you a favor], and if you genuinely DON'T have all that much to talk to them about, then do them a favor in turn by keeping it on the shorter side [this is something I am personally really bad at, I'll admit]. Thank them sincerely--tons of little hearts and smiley faces and excessive punctuation and all that kitschy shit doesn't make a thank-you more sincere. Simplicity and earnestness in your word choice does--and saying things that are thoughtful and specific rather than generic ["Ohemgee ur so amaaaazing thank you in advaaaaaance i am eternally grateful teehee"]. If you DO have something to say--for instance, a mutual interest/background/experience/friend, or a question/compliment specific to them, that's another story--mention it all, why not? But don't insult the intelligence of your recipient with fluff.
Secondly: The expectation that a model's just going to fork over all her hard-earned contacts so you can spam all the photographers on it for the possibility of a quick buck.
Here are the problems with that:
--Confidentiality. Some photographers really love getting constant referrals of all skill levels...but not all of them want their name to get spread around among girls who are just scrounging around to find out who'll pay them to take their clothes off. Photographers are my clients, and the reason I can keep doing this to support myself. A certain amount of respect on my part is due.
--Credibility. In my opinion, freelance modeling is entirely reputation-based. If people like you and think you're worth your price tag, you'll continue to find more work. Burn enough bridges or overcharge and underdeliver, and it won't stay a secret. If I think a model is rad, I'm going to tell other people she's rad so that they can also bask in her radness, and I've been thanked in turn by photographers for introducing them to really great models. On the other hand, if I don't know you and you give me the impression that you're naive/greedy/flaky/etc....I'm not going to feel comfortable with you contacting photographers saying, "Oh, hey, Freya recommended you to me," because in the event that they have a miserable time working with you, they'll likely be annoyed at me for leading you to them, especially if they've dropped some good money on you. Not to mention that they'll probably form an association between the two of us, especially if you've claimed that we're friends, and whatever negative qualities they found in you they might begin attributing to me [consciously or not]. If your email to me sounds manipulative, dubious, or even just ditzy, I'm not going to be eager to tell the world about you.
--Safety. Some girls are just not prepared and have delusions about what modeling's going to be like. They're young and pretty and possibly broke and they think that anyone given the opportunity is just going to want to lavish them with money simply because they're young and pretty and possibly broke. Unless these girls are down to shoot porn, they typically don't last long because they either find out that modeling DOES take work...or they go through a negative experience that teaches them their lesson in a much harder way. I don't feel comfortable dishing contacts out to random girls who are completely new before they've pulled their own weight because it cultivates in them a blind acceptance and doesn't teach them that they NEED to do their own homework--ESPECIALLY if they're new and lack the contacts to rely on references.
Here's what I WILL do:
--If a model's brand-new, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, that's fine: I'll give practical, logistical advice, as well as some cautionary advice [a lot of girls try to become models for what I think are the wrong reasons--"wrong" because they'll often lead to devastation if she's not smart about things], and perhaps refer her to models in her area whose portfolios she can scour or whose brains she can pick further, and let her go from there. I'll also give her references if she asks me about any particular photographers that she's been researching.
--If a model's planning her first trip [or something similar that shows she's been doing it long enough that she DOES know what she's doing and HAS put in some work] I'll happily give her a few trusted contacts to help flesh out a trip.