The “Ugly” Girl’s Guide to Modelling: My story

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“If everyone isn’t beautiful, then no one is.” – Andy Warhol

The following extract is from The “Ugly” Girl’s Guide to Modelling by Anita De Bauch, published by New Haven and available from good bookshops worldwide.

Here’s something that might make you feel better if you’ve already faced the heartache of agency rejection: almost everyone who applies to a modelling agency, alternative modelling or otherwise, is rejected. Really, they are.

What about the girls who do get through, though? The tiny minority who make the cut are often dropped again within a year because they aren’t booked often enough. Wipe away those tears, and remind yourself that joining an agency is simply a means of getting modelling work, not an end in itself. If you can get the work without the agency, you don’t need the agency.

I’m ‘old’, ‘short’, ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’, and I’ve been a professional freelance model for over eight years. (You can read a little more about how I did it in my previous interview with Mookychick.)

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Model: Anita De Bauch. Photography: Stephen Perry

I was never signed to a fashion agency. I was too short (five foot seven), too fat (a hundred and twenty pounds) and too old (twenty-two when I first moved to London and started modelling full-time) to even get an interview.

I was penniless and desperate. This resulted in having to be my own agent, which in turn resulted in full-time modelling work, a portfolio the size of a phone book, a nice flat in London, being jetted all over the world to visit amazing places I might never have hoped to see otherwise and not having to pay commission on my earnings to anyone.

I’ve shot covers, editorials, advertisements and catalogues, strutted runways and stages, acted in music videos and fashion films, appeared in photographic books and exhibitions, met all kinds of models along the way – fashion-agency girls, alternative girls, glamour girls – and gleaned some of their secrets to success. I guess I’ve done pretty well for an ‘ugly’ girl.

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Model: Anita De Bauch. Photography: Stephen Perry. Dress: Lipsy. Shoes: Kurt Geiger.

I wrote The “Ugly” Girl’s Guide to Modelling to show women how to model without an agency and without conforming to beauty standards, based on my personal experience. I want women to realise they don’t need ‘perfect’ genes, a personal styling team, thousands to spend on designer clothing or an unlikely stroke of luck in order to model. All you need is a little insider knowledge and a lot of determination.

If you don’t think it’s possible, watch some reality makeover shows, in which various people are transformed into dazzling beauties within a thirty-minute episode, after being given a big heap of confidence, expert advice on hairstyling, make-up, wardrobe, dieting, exercise and, of course, really, really, really good lighting.

Now, I’m not saying that just any girl can succeed in a modelling career. But I am saying that any girl with enough determination to move mountains (or at least her own butt), enough dedication to prioritise modelling over everything else (including partying, dubious family members and jealous partners) and enough flat-out obsession to be thinking about modelling first thing when she wakes up, last thing before she goes to sleep and all the other times in between, every day for weeks, months and years on end, can make a part-time living, at least, from modelling.

Have I put you off yet?

If not, then you just might make it.

AGENCY VS. FREELANCE MODELLING

Preparing for battle: Perfection is in the preparation

I’m a freelance model. Agency people might refer to me and other professional Ugly Girls (UGs) as internet models, because we book our own work via the internet instead of via an agency. Many freelance or internet models like us don’t even have a traditional physical portfolio – that is, a display folder of our best photos to show clients. We simply have a website to which we upload digital images. Why? Because it’s usually all we need. We aren’t signed to agencies, so we can do pretty much whatever we want.

Agency models are models who are signed to a modelling agency. They earn some or all of their income from modelling jobs found for them by their agencies. The agencies make money by taking a commission from each of these jobs, typically twenty percent. The agencies may also arrange for the model to visit other countries, find them accommodation (less experienced models usually have to pay for the travel and accommodation themselves) and set them up with test shoots to build their portfolios.

Sisters are doing it for themselves.

Although the idea of being an agency model and having someone else track down modelling jobs for me is appealing, I would rather be a freelance model because I can be in total control of what I do, where I go and how I’m presented. Not to mention I get to keep all the money! This is fortunate for me because, as an UG, I don’t have the slightest chance of being represented by an agency who would find me enough work to live on, anyway.

Perhaps you’ve already done some internet searching and come across some model-networking sites. Hundreds of thousands of girls upload their photos to the internet every day, hoping to become a model. I see them appear and disappear from various model-networking websites, with their dreadful blurry photos taken in the bathroom mirror, their screen names full of Xs, underscores, random punctuation marks and illegible or non-existent portfolio notes, and I know they’re going to be disappointed by their lack of success, feel bad about themselves and give up. What makes me sad and frustrated is the knowledge that potential contractors are also seeing their pitiful portfolios, rolling their eyes and writing them off without a second thought. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The first lesson is:

Make a perfect first impression.

Get a notebook out right now, and write the above sentence down under ‘How to become the most successful model I can be’. It applies across the board.

Like many models, I was an awkward child and an awkward teenager: in my case, with lank sandy hair, baggy clothes that swamped my figure, chunky wire braces on my teeth and permanently chipped nail polish. For many years, I didn’t realise that, not having inherited my mother’s and grandmother’s particular beauty genes (our family photo albums show they were both stunning young women), I could develop my own taste in beauty with hard work and lots of make-up practice.

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Model: Anita De Bauch. Photography: Stephen Perry.

When I was twenty, I started internet modelling as a hobby, and soon I was dyeing my sandy hair different colours, training my boyish shape into an hourglass figure with a bespoke corset, practising walking around the house in my new skyscraper heels and painting my eyes and lips in all sorts of wild colours and styles—a different style every night. Modelling meant more to me than simply attending a photo shoot every now and then. I felt like Dorothy at the very start of the yellow brick road, gaze fixed on the horizon, feet planted firmly in a magical pair of six-inch heels…

Main Photo: Photography by Shawn Bishop

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Excerpt from The “Ugly” Girl’s Guide to Modelling, published by New Haven and available worldwide from good bookstores including Waterstones and Amazon.


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