An insight into the reality and the life of an international model
HARBOR Magazine 1/2014
© HARBOR Magazine & DOPAMIN MODELS
What is the truth about glamour and luxury? Model Dino Busch gives an insight into the reality and the life of an international model – over and above casting shows and TV shows.
How does a model get discovered and what are the requirements to be able to work as a model?
Dino Busch: Talent shows try to give a fake impression of what real life is supposed to look like. Tons of tests and ‘competitions’ for all kinds of different characters. Wallflower meets arrogant urban-chic. The more drama, the better. Does anybody in these formats really want to find the next top model or is it all about making a profit? The product has to be sold, and in this case the product is the show, not the models. Most of the successful models never planned on becoming a model or even dreamed of becoming successful. As a young teenager, I was already scouted twice on the streets. At the age of 17½, my pictures caught my agent’s attention on facebook and that’s how I started.
Dopamin Models: First of all, it was Dino’s face that caught my attention. He was photogenic in all private snaps I saw of him. To be pretty is not enough though. You have to have that little something. Also, Dino works as a photographer, and I was impressed by the work he created with his friends. He has an eye for aesthetics and the ability to capture moments and emotions precisely.
Dino Busch: Many models were bullied throughout their childhood because of their looks. Too tall, too skinny, too boring. Sometimes it’s just the nose, the mouth or the chin. Gisele Bundchen used to be bullied because of her skinny body. But it is precisely these features that make a person interesting. But looks alone are not enough. As a photographer, I would say a model is only photogenic when that person has vibrancy. Something special that enables the model to fascinate people.
Dopamin Models: For many agencies and clients, the looks are all that matters when it comes to booking a model. Many model agencies change new for old models on a daily basis. For us, character and personality are very important. Something that makes a person stand out from the crowd. Next to personality and singularity, versatility, self confidence and motivation are important. And of course, soft skills such as politeness, good behaviour, reliability and the ability to cooperate with people. If all these points are fulfilled and there is a family that supports you, the requirements to start working as a good model are also fulfilled.
Does the biggest responsibility lie in the hands of the mother agencies or model managers?
Dopamin Models: The most reliable and responsible agencies not only invest in teaching the models and preparing them for the job; they support the development of these young people into strong personalities. Self-confidence, self-esteem and knowledge help them to be a partner for all clients and their productions. They don’t only care about maximising their profit but about achieving what is best for their protégés. Not only financially, but also guaranteeing them a trustworthy contract throughout, good and safe basic conditions in their own country and while they are on their travels, and protection from exploitation and disrespectful behaviour.
Dino Busch: Many agencies worldwide try to escape their responsibility and leave their models alone. Only a minority of models have parents with knowledge of the law who can check the details of contracts. But it’s not only about the contracts. A good model agency supports its models at all times and helps them wherever possible, even when they are on the other side of the world at that moment.
What time do you get up in the mornings, what role does having to be patient play in your everyday life, and what does a model have to do during a typical day?
Dino Busch: Normally, the agency sends the appointments for the next day in the evening via email: castings, go-sees, and during fashion weeks in the big fashion capitals, up to twelve castings per day all over town. This means a lot of queuing and waiting in lines of up to 200 models, all hoping to book this one runway job. It is important to remember that decisions during castings are 100% subjective. During fashion weeks, the person him or herself unfortunately isn’t important at all. Casting directors and clients are looking for a mannequin who can present their own fashion in the best way possible. Two hours’ waiting for a quick “Hello” and “Thanks for coming”. Eleven appointments left.
At castings for photo shoots, personal values are more important. The team may be working together for up to several days in a row. That’s why photographers find the personality very important. Diva behaviour and bitching around on set is a danger to the success of the project. But also on a photo shoot, patience is a must-have. Waiting, fitting, waiting again, then hair and make-up.
Waiting again, light testing, waiting and then the shoot starts. Waiting again if the set isn’t built properly yet and so on. So a ten to twelve-hour shooting day consists of a lot of waiting and at the same time being ready at all times.
What is the truth and what are the myths of the jetset life? What role does money play in the industry, and why do catalogues pay the rent?
Dino Busch: In the 90s, models were superstars: Claudia, Naomi, Linda, Christy. They had strong, unique looks. That’s why they have still been getting booked recently. And this in a time of short-lasting fashion trends, in which models don’t even survive for a decade. In many shows, it’s already hard to tell the difference between the young models on the runway. But still many brands are screaming for a new selection of new faces. This leads to model agencies having massive newcomer boards. The person is not important anymore, the agency’s model ID is more than enough. It’s not unusual that only 10% of models in an agency actually make money. The other 90% are exchanged really fast. Only a few are making big money and live off that. Those who have recognisable faces and spent a lot of time in their career. Being pretty is not enough. You have to be able to express the values of those clients and brands who booked you. You need to be versatile and be able to present emotions and moods. Talent is a basic requirement, but to be a good model, you have to learn your craft. You need elements of acting, dancing and other disciplines. The most glamorous jobs, beautiful editorials for major magazines and runway jobs make the least profit. They are your publicity. But they don’t pay the bills. Neither is the payment enough for other basic needs such as food, clothes and so on. Big campaigns are the best thing that can happen to you. But there are not so many of them. The most glamorous jobs such as editorials for the big magazines and runway jobs do not really pay. They are basically all about PR. But that doesn’t pay the bills. Neither is it enough for the other expenses in your everyday life such as food, phone bills, clothes etc. Advertising campaigns are the best that can happen to you. But there are not that many of those out there. The money you earn for your life is made through catalogue jobs. And what is the truth about the luxurious lifestyle everybody is talking about? This happens in between the pages of the magazines and at all the events models get invited to. But canapés with caviar and champagne don’t keep you fed in the long term.
Where do you work? Which markets are interesting for models, and is there more than just Paris, Milan and New York?
Dino Busch: Big names such as Paris, Milan and New York represent fashion. That’s where all the big shows take place. Many ads and editorials are shot here. But the photo studios are not as glamorous as you might think. You are there to fulfil a purpose, and you work and try to achieve the result the client wants and nothing more. And you work wherever clients, producers and production companies have their offices. This might be Hamburg or Düsseldorf in Germany. Or even not so amazing cities such as Guangzhou in China and Bombay in India.
The 101 of modelling.
Dino Busch: The work of a model seems to look very easy. But there are big differences between theory and reality. Let’s start from your mental condition. You always hear the word “No” and a lot of criticism about your body that is not always appropriate. You have to have a thick skin to survive that. The most important ability a model should possess next to soft skills (such as a healthy appearance, getting lots of sleep, a healthy diet and fitness) is patience. Modelling means waiting. Long flights, castings, fittings, make-up, show and shooting preparations. All of this takes time. So it’s not unusual to sit around at a job for several hours doing nothing. And this is way more exhausting in the long term than it sounds in the beginning. Also, publications and negotiations with other model agencies can take weeks and weeks. So anyone who hasn’t got patience should look out for other job possibilities.
When do you feel you’ve done a good day’s work?
Dino Busch: You’ve done a good job when the client is happy and the model as well. The best-case scenario is, of course, that everybody is happy. But in the end, the model has to put his own interests aside. Criticism of the pictures, make-up or styling is an absolute no-no. You should rather try to let the client experience your passion and professionalism. A good model is only happy, when the client is happy. And the jobs should always be fun, of course!
How does modelling influence your personal career perspectives?
Dopamin Models: Modelling opens doors to job opportunities in a lot of non-classic employment fields. Companies have high expectations and are looking for personality. People who show enthusiasm and are able to give their best. They are looking for good communicative skills and expect the applicant to speak at least two languages fluently besides their mother tongue. The best-case scenario includes experience abroad and intercultural skills; this is because of increased globalisation. Also creativity, being able to work in a team, having the strength of your own convictions and the ability to be self-confident and independently minded; these are all qualities that are in high demand. What better way is there for young people to achieve all of this? Which other job can offer a young adult the chance to gain all this experience? Dino is way more independently minded than many other people of his age. He travels the world, lives alone and organises his daily life and himself all on his own. He is also able to meet many interesting people, which can help him get into other career paths after his modelling career is over.
What sets you apart from other models and what are your special characteristics?
Dino Busch: Every model is different, a different type. Obviously, I have my face and my body. That is important, because every client looks for a type of model that can represent his product in the best way possible. Other than that, I have to find other ways to convince the client to hire me. I always try to be positive, to have a positive vibrancy about myself, and I like to crack a joke from time to time. I have a lot of stamina, and even after working for ten hours, I am still excited. I love my job. The clients and people I work with see that, and I think you can also see it in the results.
What sort of support have you had in the past and will you still need in the future?
Dino Busch: Parents and good friends are essential in this superficial industry. You need help to adjust to the lifestyle and sometimes a shoulder to cry on. My parents support me in the best way possible; not only do they give me their time, they also supported me financially in the beginning. A good mother agency is also very important. The agency knows the business and can give better advice than friends who have no idea about the industry. So if you have good friends and a family who are looking after your back plus a good agency, you are good to go.
What gets you really excited?
Dino Busch: Everything about this job, to be honest. The friendships, the travelling, waiting at airports, the pictures, the shows, everything. It’s a great feeling, to be the centre part of a creative process and to create a result in the end, which wouldn’t have been possible without you. It’s a privilege to be creative, and that’s what excites me about my job. The whole package gives you so much that you couldn’t achieve in any other way at this point of life. The feeling of seeing yourself on billboards, in ads or in magazines is also incredible, and of course the payment plays a part in me being happy about it.
What are the temptations and bad influences out there, and how do you resist them?
Dino Busch: There are some. Models get a very privileged treatment. We don’t pay in clubs and get all drinks for free. That sounds like fun, but can become dangerous very fast, because there is no consistent routine in your life, there are no fixed times or days you are working. You need to have a strong personality and be responsible, to set yourself limits. And never go out clubbing before jobs and castings. The client deserves a model who has slept enough and is fit, who can work with 100% of energy on the job.
What makes modelling so different and nice but still like every other job out there?
Dino Busch: The job is often pictured in a completely wrong way; behind all the glamour of jet-setting, parties and billboards is a lot of work. It is a completely different work process than most other jobs, but it is also professional. Those five or seven pictures in a magazine can take up to ten hours of production. We don’t work everyday, but we work on weekends and always have to be prepared in case castings and jobs come up at the last minute. The job has many positive aspects, no doubt. Mentally and physically it is tough, the competition is big. The job is different from someone working in an office. But it is every bit as hard and not just a paid hobby or a paid vacation, like many people picture it to be.
What responsibilities do parents have, and what level of support is necessary?
Parents should always be aware of their responsibility, no matter if the child is a minor or not. They invest time, money, patience and understanding into the modelling career of their child. Be careful about ads and offers from model and casting agencies that are looking for new models. Professional model agencies have their own scouts who approach new faces on the street, in the shopping mall or other locations of your everyday life.
After getting in contact with the agency, there is an invitation to a free test shoot. The invitation should contain a request for a parent to attend in case of the model still being under age.
Be very careful if you have to pay for the introduction and the shoot or if you have to join a paid course. A professional model agency never charges. They believe in the new face, and they invest their money in the model; these expenses are going to be paid by future bookings of the model. Never sign a contract in a rush. Ask all questions you want to ask until all points are 100% clear. Especially in the modelling industry, there a many promises that will not be fulfilled in the end. It’s important to have a fair contract that covers all the small details. You might want to check this contract with a lawyer, just to be sure. Trusting people too easily can become dangerous. Especially under-age models should get special treatment. You have a very close relationship between model and agency, because it is the only consistent part of your job, since all the jobs are short term. They are the person you can trust when it comes to taking care of your career and your personal issues. These kind of agencies are hard to find. Is there someone who is able to always be there for the model, no matter what time of day or on the weekends?
Problems in Asia, Australia, Indonesia or the States are not bound by the rules of an eight-hour working day and a five-day working week. The work with models requires a lot of responsibility, professionalism and integrity.
The first steps
Especially in the beginning, it is important that the ‘new face’ gets help to earn experiences. You need photographers who shoot for free. This is how the model gets self-confidence, experience, safety and good pictures to further their career. These shoots take a lot of time, lots of hours or a complete day and can be hundreds of kilometres away. The shoot itself might not cost, but you invest time and money for travelling out of your own pocket. International model agencies only provide money for models who have already gained experience and who have a strong book. Modelling requires a lot of investment of your personal time. Time you cannot spend with your friends and on different hobbies. Especially under-age models should always travel with a person they trust and they feel safe with. Normally, not much can go wrong, even travelling internationally. But there are people who use this business to treat people without any respect and let models work in inhuman conditions. They can achieve this easily with models who come from poor families and dead-end situations. Especially East European models or models from South America from rather poor environments are in danger. Therefore ‘new face’ models need to build a strong personality. Self-confident young people who are able to say “no” and who just leave the studio if they feel something is wrong. And who know that their families and their agencies have their back in any case.
How to deal with criticism
Competition is part of the business. It leads to a bigger selection and better prices for clients. Only the strongest providers can survive in the long term when it comes to quality or by offering a product the market does not cover yet. Modelling is not much different in that way. There are thousands of young people who get casted all over the world and get introduced to clients and agencies. Hundreds of boys and girls compete for a single job.
The decision not to take a model has nothing to do with the person themselves and is never objective. The decision is always subjective. The client might not like the hair colour, the hips are too big or the nose doesn’t fit. All points made up from personal criteria. The problem is that there are human beings who have lost the connection to reality and lost their manners, who think of themselves as demigods and who have no social skills. It hurts if you always get negative comments about yourself and if you get insulted. Nobody can take that easily. That’s when you need your family and good friends who support you, who take time to listen, to talk and to cheer you up. Anyone who doesn’t have that will struggle a lot. All of the above should not leave a bad impression. The majority of people working in this industry are amazing. Photographers, stylists, designers, other models and clients. People who are fun to work with. Working in a professional field with lots of compliments and constructive criticism. You build many friendships that go further than just modelling.
As a model you work hard on your body to gain an aesthetic physical appearance. A healthy diet is essential. Studies carried out at the Robert Koch Institute show that one in five of all teenagers between 11 and 17 have some kind of eating disorder, whereby the number of girls is double in comparison to boys. Models are in even greater danger, since they work in an industry that tells them what the ‘perfect’ measurements are. You have to watch out if your kid is eating enough and if it is getting everything that is important for a healthy development. Health is always the most important part.
Inform yourself about the business. Only then will you be able to give advice. The most important thing is that parents have an open ear, because often they are the only ones who can actually help. This means you should Skype a lot, support as much as possible and take time to talk.
About Dopamin Models
Dopamin is a Boutique Model Management company.
We think that a good model only comes in a combination of beauty with a strong character. That’s why we place a lot of value on the personality of our models.
Our philosophy says that we take care of models represented by us with all our heart. For us, they are individuals, and safety and health is always of paramount importance to us. We try to support our models in developing not only their modelling career, but also their personal artistic career and their character development.