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Getting Ahead Without Degrading Yourself

Reader Question: How to Get Ahead in This Business Without Degrading Yourself

I recently got the following question from an aspiring model (let’s call her Joyce) via email. She writes:

“With the oversaturation of the market I don’t see many people getting discovered these days. So how does a determined lady go about taking her career from the amateur level to actually working without pulling a Cubana Lust if you know what I mean.”

I think what Joyce is actually asking is, “how do I become a working model in the industry without resorting to booty shaking videos or doing something I might regret later?”

That’s a difficult question, because supply greatly exceeds demand right now in the urban market, which means that even qualified models have to work harder and resort to more drastic measures to get noticed.

The first step is to be really honest with yourself about where you stand compared to the competition. I don’t think a top notch beauty will ever have to turn to booty shaking videos to get noticed. It may take longer, but quality always rises to the surface. Of course, not every girl can be Melyssa Ford. So where does that leave the moderately attractive model with a nice figure who still wants to retain her modesty and excel in the industry?

Well, there are other ways to stand out besides doing booty shaking videos. Model/actress Claudia Jordan is doing quite well right now because she has a gift for gab and has made a name for herself in radio. Rosa Acosta is using her ballet training to produce videos that mix eroticism with classical dance. Today’s urban model has got to be inventive if she wants to set herself apart.

As just one example, some aspiring models are gaining a fan base by making Youtube videos talking about controversial subjects (often times quite passionately). The pretext is the speech, but what viewers are really interested in is how beautiful the girl is. For instance, check out terra904’s speech about the backhanded compliments women of darker complexion often get. Notice the low cut top she has on and the overall aesthetically pleasing quality of the video? Not a mistake. Today’s vixen will have to be clever in ways like this to get noticed.


Another way to set yourself apart from the crowd is through your photos. If everybody else is shooting glam in the studio, take natural light shots at the beach. If everybody else is oiled down in a thong, wear a one piece. Your styling also plays a part in this. Amber Rose stood out because she had a blonde buzz cut. Now she’s Kanye’s girlfriend.

Finally, you’ve got to buck up and get ready for the long haul. It simply isn’t going to happen overnight for most girls these days, and especially the ones who want to maintain their integrity. But if you understand that going in, you won’t be discouraged. Just remember, before there was urban modeling, women of color who wanted to model simply got an agent and went out on castings for things like TJ Maxx catalogs and McDonalds commercials and continued to improve themselves through strict diet, exercise, speech and acting classes, etc. -- none of which are degrading -- until something hit. That's the traditional way to break into the market, and it still works. Winking

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Aspiring Urban Models & Managing Expectations

I was talking to a friend today who is considering hanging it up from urban modeling. Her reasons? There's no money in it; the market is saturated - no one can shine; 90% of the "offers" she gets on Myspace and through her website are bogus, etc. Which led me to this conclusion: today's urban model has to view this as a hobby, like an aerobics class on the weekend, and nothing more. With the closing of KING magazine, a recession that is darn near a depression, and hip hop in a slump, gone are the days of models getting $5,000 or more to host or back-to-back SSX issues (how many of those have you seen this year?). Sure, a few of the top tier girls like Melyssa still probably make decent money to host, but by and large the money isn't there in hosting. Also gone are the days of the lead model in a music video making $1,500. It just doesn't happen anymore. Lead models are lucky to get $500 for the day.

Which narrows the money making opportunities for video vixens down to pay websites, modeling in a magazine, and dancing professionally (aka stripping). And fewer models are making big money off websites these days. In other words, the industry has reverted back to what it was pre-2002 (except there was still money to be made on the internet). Back in 2000, if a girl made it into the Swimsuit Edition of BlackMen magazine or Jet magazine -- remember, there was no Smooth, KING, or SHOW back in 2000 -- she got her little check and maybe did a music video or a calendar and that was it. But girls still did it, because it will always be cool to pick up a magazine on a newsstand and see yourself in it.


And that's pretty much where we are today. With the proliferation of prospective urban models on Facebook and Myspace, the best a girl can hope for is a magazine spread or a decent music video. Chances are it won't go much beyond that. Back in 2000 it didn't go beyond that because the career trajectory for urban modeling hadn't yet been formulated. Now it won't go beyond that because supply exceeds demand, discretionary incomes are shrinking, and print magazine are becoming a thing of the past as the internet takes over.

So my advice to the really hot wannabe models out there is that if want to do this, do it. But manage your expectations. Be realistic about where this can take you. You probably won't be the next Buffie because there may never be another Buffie or Melyssa Ford. Those times are over. But there will always be a reigning eye candy model. And it may just be you.

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