We frequently get emails from women all over the country (or sometimes the world) wanting to know if we can offer advice on becoming a fitness model. These ladies come from all walks of life. Maybe they’ve been involved in sports for a long time, are proud of their physique, and want to get into the business either to show off their body or earn a little fame or fortune. Maybe they’ve never been terribly athletic, but have been spending more and more time in the gym, and have “that look.” Age doesn’t seem to matter, but I do think more middle-aged and older women take fitness more seriously than girls in their teens and early 20’s.
Modeling in general can be a tough industry to break into, and fitness modeling is no easier. In fact, one could argue that fitness models have a more difficult time since the standards for their physique are frequently set even higher than a normal model’s. There is definitely no single method that can guarantee success, so let’s go over some tips, pointers, and comments.
1) First of all, you don’t have to compete. Being a fitness or bikini competitor is not a prerequisite for being a fitness model. There are pros and cons to competing. Cons: It is possible that it could distract you from your main goal of modeling. Also competing can be hard on your body. In some cases you have to drop weight, dehydrate yourself, tan excessively, or arrange your diet in a very unusual and/or unhealthy manner (cutting out carbs or more importantly fruits and vegetables as you go for a more ripped, competitive look). It’s also important not to develop too much of a mental dependence on winning a contest. You don’t want to come in 6th place out of 8 people, get down on yourself, and develop a loser’s mentality. Ya’ don’t have to win the contest to achieve your goals, remember?! On the Pro side: It can be good exposure. What better way to get yourself out there and talked about than to climb on a stage and show off your assets? And as we’ll discuss later, it’s a great opportunity to meet people in the industry and network. If you win, you may even get mentioned in a newspaper or website, or be invited to guest pose or speak at an event. Also, competing may give you that extra little kick to develop your fitness level and your physique. Nothing like a good competition to push you to new heights.
2) You define success. What is your goal? How hard are you willing to work? Are you willing to live a certain lifestyle or give up or trade off certain things in your life to be successful? Is your goal money or notoriety? Or a mixture of both? How frequently would you have to work, or how many people would have to know your name, or how much money would you have to make before you feel successful as a fitness model? I’ve found it’s best if you actually write down your goals, whether they are fitness goals or career goals. It’s okay to change your goals as you move through life and find new things that you like. But don’t be too easily influenced, stick to your guns and re-evaluate periodically.
3) Regarding success and goals, have realistic expectations. It’s okay to be ambitions and set lofty goals for yourself. Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t make it a habit to say “I’ll never be competitive and being a movie star is unlikely.” Orville and Wilbur Wright didn’t listen to people who said “Mankind will never be capable of sustained flight.” When I say realistic, I mean don’t expect offers to fall from the sky in droves. Don’t expect to have a perfect body or face 52 wks per year. Don’t expect to be on the cover of a famous fitness magazine 2 weeks after you start your fitness modeling career.
4) Consider it a business. Whether your goals are consistent only with a hobby or part-time effort, or require an all-out herculean miracle, don’t take things personally. Editors, photographers, and others are searching for a certain look. Maybe you have it, maybe you don’t. Maybe this just isn’t your job/time/outlet. The very best salesmen out there, the ones who sell stuff for a living, know they have to embrace rejection. Even if they start out with yes’s, they know they haven’t gone far enough until they hear a no. And as you market yourself and seek modeling opportunities, you are basically a salesman – selling yourself. When it’s your body, your face, in some cases your personality you are trying to sell, it’s hard not to take things personally. But again, no “commodity” is perfect, as a person you have advantages and disadvantages over another model, try to treat it like a business.
5) It’s important to network. Photographers, other models, other fitness models, other athletes, marketing people, agents. Trade shows, fitness competitions, internet websites and forums, after-event parties. Market yourself by networking, handing out business cards, portfolios, tear sheets. Develop your own website. In 50-90% of the cases, the difference between a successful fitness model and a frustrated one is her marketing efforts.
6) Learn everything you can about the fitness industry. If you are really serious about this as a career, you should try to learn constantly. Learn about nutrition, physiology, exercise science, sports psychology. Learn about contest prep, contest rules, contest times and locations. Pick up the more popular and well-respected magazines and go through them page by page. Learn about the fitness babes profiled inside. Scope out the companies advertising in the magazine. Memorize the publishes, editors, photographers. Learn who sponsors local, national, and even international shows on a regular basis. Work to better understand photography, wardrobe, hair and makeup.
7) Find photos of a fitness model you really love. Find out who the fitness model is, and who the photographer is. Contact them – ask them questions about opportunities, methods, tips/tricks. Send them photos or your portfolio/resume.
8_) Look great. I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but if you are pudgy or not very attractive, being a fitness model may be an unrealistic goal. I do think there is room in the modeling industry for just about everybody, regardless of body type or classical beauty. So do your best. When you go out to the grocery store looking like something the cat dragged in, your are pretty much eliminating the possibility the guy/gal behind you in line (who may be a photographer, web developer, publisher, etc) is going to notice you and make you some kind of offer. Also, looking great takes practice. If the only time you are fit or spruce up a bit is when you have a shoot, you are making a career off an exception rather than a rule. Do do your best to present yourself at your best all or most of the time.