How to Become a Plus Size Model

Melissa B. Manuel, Ph.D.
become a model

Ever wondered how easy or difficult it would be to become a plus size model? What steps would be involved? What are the requirements and time commitments?

Steps to Become a Plus Size Model

With all the unknowns, getting a handle on the answers can be overwhelming. However, armed with knowledge, talent, and bit of guidance your chances are as good as any to make plus size modeling a viable career path.

1. Know the Facts

Different types of plus size modeling is available.

  • Fit models - Work for designers and/or clothing manufacturers and have a specific size and shape to fit the sample size clothing. Designers can check the precise fit and drape of the clothing on the model's body similar to testing on a mannequin.
  • Catalog models - Hired by brands to model clothing and products that will appear in print and online catalogs.
  • Showroom models - Work for designers to showcase collections in private designer showroom and/or stores.
  • Print Models - Models for ads appearing in various publications such as magazines, brochures, billboard campaigns, etc.
  • Runway models - Work during fashion shows to showcase designer and retail brands.

2. Know the Requirements

Due to specific size requirements, you will need to record your bust, waist, height and hip measurements as well as your weight and shoe size.

  • Height: Requirements typically range between 5 foot 7 inches and 6 feet
  • Clothing: Sizes range from 10/12 to 14/16 for agencies that book modeling jobs and 16/18 to 20/22 for fit models; some agencies have slightly different requirements, so always double check.
  • Appearance: Models need well-kept hair, nails, and stain-free teeth. Visible tattoos and piercings can sometimes be a deterrent when seeking modeling jobs. Plus size models are expected to have toned bodies. This doesn't mean you must be skinny, it only means you should be well-proportioned. Models of all sizes must follow a healthy diet and fitness program.
  • Good personality: Agencies and clients want to work with personable, friendly models
  • Be professional: Be on time and have all of your essentials at the ready for every appointment. If you want to make modeling your career, take every step seriously.

3. Build a Portfolio

A model's portfolio is her resume. You'll need an impressive one filled with your best shots.

  • Include a headshot and a full-body shot in the forward of your portfolio. You can also include other types of photos taken in different clothing styles, different locations, and lighting types. Get ideas from plus size fashion magazines and websites such as PLUS Model Magazine and The Curvy Fashionista.
  • Take professional photos. Invest in quality hair and makeup artistry for photo shoots so that the results will be a product of your best effort.
  • Wear clothing that demonstrates the best proportions of your body shape. For the headshot, clothes such as a tank top or great-fitting button-down shirt are best. With the full body shot, wear clothes such as a dress that shows proportions well but is not too tight nor too loose. Denim jeans and a tank top are always a good choice. You should wear similar clothing when you attend casting calls.
  • Use make-up that shows your true complexion, avoid bright lip and eye shadow and blush colors.

Best Chances for Success

Work With an Agency

Although you can seek modeling work on your own, it's not the best route if you're just starting out. If you are serious about a plus size modeling career, work with a reputable plus size modeling agency that has a good track record of securing modeling jobs for their clients. You will find instructions on becoming a model on agency's individual website. For example, aspiring plus size models interested in Wilhelmina Modeling agency can find this type of information on the Wilhelmina Models website.

Network

Network with other models in the industry. Use social media to build brand awareness for yourself. Have a digital portfolio available online. You can also follow agenices on their social media pages to stay abreast of upcoming open calls, model searches and other company or industry news.

Be Prepared to Travel

It will be necessary to travel to bookings and/or other locations for jobs. You'll also need to be available for casting calls. The times are usually set at the convenience of the agency or brand. Be sure you maintain a flexible schedule in your daily life.

Meet Clients

Going to meet clients, also called "go-sees," is part of every model's start. Your agent will make these arrangements for you. Clients want to see you in person to evaluate if you're what they're looking for. Being professional and courteous is important. Stories of diva-like models are certainly entertaining, but few rude models make it far in the business. You need to show up for meetings on time and be approachable and friendly. Models who are easy to work with generally find more work than models that give everyone a hard time.

Avoid Scams

Be leery of agencies or modeling search companies that ask for money upfront to take part in their program(s). Typically, agencies are only paid when they secure jobs for their clients. It is wise to research a company thoroughly before signing any type of contract. You can find reviews online - a good starting point is to check the business names through the Better Business Bureau. You should also ask questions of your network. Larger, more well-known agencies will have tons of information available online and upon request. Smaller firms or individuals serving as modeling agents may not have as many reviews.

When interviewing with any agency it is a good idea to inquire about the number of clients they serve per year, the companies where they have secured jobs for their clients, and possibly any tear sheets for any models they may advertise as the "face of the company." Tear sheets are magazine ads, brochures, and other types of print that showcase their clients' work.

It may not be possible to get specific names of other clients they serve due to privacy policies. But, with the previous information, you should be able to garner an idea of the agency's experience and professionalism. If you are unsure about contract terms, please request to review terms with your attorney prior to signing any legal documents.

Not an Easy Climb

Becoming a plus size model is not an easy task, but if you're willing to work hard and try to overcome the odds, you can use this information to see if you have what it takes to make a career out of this exciting and fulfilling industry.

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How to Become a Plus Size Model