Child Modeling: The Sometimes Harsh Reality
I believe in not beating around the bush and while you could consider me Paula Abdul on American Idol when it comes to giving reality checks with a smile, the fact of the matter is that the modeling industry as a whole can be harsh.
Of course, you probably already knew that but it is important to really understand that getting into modeling eventually puts you in the belly of the beast. And it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old. In the case of child models and their parents, grasping the reality of the competitive nature that comes with this territory is essential to building the thick skin needed to get through and keep your eyes on the prize.
So I wanted to do this post to address the parents of child models–namely, newbies. I have to do these reality checks from time to time as a form of tough love. Oftentimes, it isn’t just models who have stars in their eyes.
Parents want their kids to succeed in life, and if modeling is one of those goals, what I’m going to say has to be said and if you take it personal or take offense, that’s not my intention but believe me, it’ll be better coming from me and will ease the blow in case you don’t get the results you’re expecting entering your child into the modeling biz:
Your Kid May Be Cute But…There’s a LOT of Cute Kids Out There
There. I said it. Are you mad? Well, if you are, you better get over it because the modeling industry isn’t going to care about your feelings…much.
If you thought modeling as a teen or adult was hard, the competition is even tougher for child models. The industry contains no shortage of amazingly cute, adorable, precious, striking and (*using a Zoolander voice*) really, really, really ridiculously good looking children of all ages, sizes and ethnicities.
Does that mean your kid couldn’t stand out? If he/she has what it takes and is seen by an agency as the “total package,” you child will certainly stand out but it’s vital to know going in that your son/daughter will be one of many cute faces in the beginning of your modeling journey.
Teach Your Child Confidence–Not Ego
Nothing is worse than a child model who KNOWS they are perfect and can do no wrong because that’s what their parents grew up telling them. There is a difference between being confident and being arrogant.
Young children are so impressionable and as they grow and develop, it is important for parents to instill a sense of confidence in themselves but also the humility it takes to know that while they are special, they may not always get what they want. What is valuable to teach them is that as long as they are the best version of themselves, that is what matters most.
Egos breed brats (sorry but it has to be said) and you don’t want to be the parent of “that kid” who is throwing temper tantrums or has a meltdown at a casting or job if things don’t go their way. You also don’t want to be that parent who has to deal with hours of pep talks and trying to drag your kid out of bed and on to the next casting every single time they don’t book a job.
There will be rejection and hurt feelings (that’s normal, especially for children) BUT if you explain to your son/daughter how and why these things happen as they relate to being in the industry, they will develop a sense of confidence and the thick skin needed to continue being amazing and perform well in their castings regardless of whether or not they end up getting the gig.
Rejection is a Part of All Child Models’ Careers, Too
Placing your child on a pedestal will only set them up for a painful landing and a sore bottom the first time they get rejected from a modeling assignment. I’ve said it before but modeling is one of those rare career choices where rejection is a part of the job description.
No child model (or grown up model, for that matter) books every single job they submit to. Make sure your son/daughter knows that even if they do their best, there is a chance that they may not get chosen and that it is okay because there will be other opportunities.
Serving as a positive support system and giving tips about what could be improved on (if there were some mistakes made)–instead of a lecture critiquing everything–will help your child recover from each rejection and be better prepared for the next casting they attend.
When your child is able to grasp that they will get some jobs and not others, over time they will come to know that it is just a part of the territory and not a reflection of their talents or who they are as a person. That’s where growth happens and child models truly become comfortable in their own skin if this is truly the path meant for them to continue to pursue.
Every Parent Wants the Same Thing You Want for Your Child
The competition is fierce and it won’t change. When you and your child show up to castings, you’ll be one of many. It’ll be chaos and you might be wondering how your kid will possibly stand out. Welcome to the modeling world! The more castings you attend, this type of environment will become the norm.
Even if your child makes it to the next round and the pool of models gets smaller, the level of competition will still be high. Remember that each parent there wants the same thing you do: for your child to get the job.
Don’t be discouraged by the volume of competition out there. It is common and to be expected. Keep your confidence in your child high, their spirits up and they’ll perform to the best of their ability each time. It’s a numbers game so know that just because you’re one of many people present, you have to attend as many castings as you can to increase the odds that your son/daughter has the opportunity to shine in front of clients and snag those handful of gigs that will keep their career on an upward trajectory.
No One Owes You an Explanation, So Don’t Expect One
Time is money and agencies and clients alike don’t have the time, budget or resources to address every single person that has a question, concern or complaint. If your child doesn’t get chosen for a job, the casting director/client won’t take the time to explain why or what your child could do differently.
Remember, the modeling industry isn’t like other industries. It’s a unique beast all its own and it plays by its own rules. If you want to stay in the game, you have to play by their rules, too. Sometimes you may get lucky and receive insight from somebody who is able to share a few kernels of wisdom with you but it is a business and as you go through the motions, you’ll gain that “on the job” training and knowledge naturally and won’t require as much hand holding.
If you plan to make a stink or tell off somebody because they won’t give you answers or a breakdown of why your child didn’t get the job (or some other fairly trivial issue that really isn’t that big of a deal in the greater scheme of things), you’ll quickly get a bad reputation for being difficult and no one will want to work with you. Don’t do that to your child so take things in stride and keep it moving.
Agencies Have Other Models, Too
Getting agency representation for your child is a huge step in the right direction but just know that because you’ve got an agent doesn’t mean it’ll be easy street from that point on. They’ll do the legwork and tell you where to be and when, as well as guide you, but they aren’t your personal agent who will cater to your every need and whim.
Agencies will do what they can to get your child opportunities but there will be slow moments and dry spells. Totally normal and to be expected. When the work starts to pour in, it’s great but there are moments when nothing may come through the pipeline for weeks.
It’s good to keep open communication with your agent from time to time to check in and see where things are at but don’t bombard their phone line or inbox. Don’t make demands or criticize them for not doing their job. They are doing their job for your child and all the other people on their roster.
A modeling agency works with you, not for you so respect that partnership and make inquiries where appropriate. Being considerate of the things they have to be in charge of and letting them do what they do best will foster a good working relationship moving forward. If they’re worth their salt as an agency, they’ll keep you in the loop to the best of their ability.
Are You Still Reading This?
If you’ve made it to this part of the post and are still optimistic enough to move forward with getting your child into the industry, congratulations–you’ve already started to build that thick skin you’re going to need to get the ball rolling!
Press on and with common sense, time and experience, you and your child will be able to navigate the modeling world and hopefully create a memorable and unique life experience for your son/daughter with opportunities not everyone is fortunate enough to see to fruition.
BTW: the advice/insight I’ve written about are for the most commonplace situations for parents trying to get their child into modeling.
Of course there are exceptions to the rule and extreme circumstances where these things wouldn’t apply but those odds are fairly low so please understand that the information in this post is to be applied to “typical” scenarios.
Source: Modeling 101 – A Model’s Diary