Monday, October 23, 2006

Craft of Modeling: Part II Give Them What They Want

CRAFT OF MODELING: Professionalism

So there you are on the catwalk. It is a huge press show in Paris. The master designer has designated the clothes for you alone, knowing you will do them justice. You have ascertained what role you are going to play in this ‘theater’ production called the press show.

First, you must be beautiful. Second, you must sell the clothes.

Then you must make sure you give the designer what he wants because ‘you are only as good as your last show’. In this case, the designer wants his clothes in the front pages of newspapers, he wants a big spread in fashion magazines and he also wants a great video of the fashion show that he will show to the buyers and department stores. The designer wants every single detail of the outfit recorded on that video.

In my modeling career, once I started to work with a designer, I was booked continuously from then on; some of them going for a span of 10 to 15 years. There was never a season where it was a question mark in my mind- (“Maybe they’ll use me this season, and maybe not this season.”) I was always in their list of models. Designers change their roster every season, to bring in a different look. But they always have their cadre of models (an A-list) they want to work with.

Now that we are in the show, there are a multitude of people who want and need something from you as a model. And, of course, you have to give them what they want.


Here is a very hungry group of people who are vying for the perfect shot of the garment.
All through out my modeling career, I know that I owe some of my success to this group.

It is a very simple thing. If they loved you, they shot you.

If you give them what they want, they will keep shooting pictures of you. So be beautiful, be professional – GIVE THEM THE SHOT.

It is as if you are traveling with a band of big brothers - as models and fashion press photographers go from city to city, season to season, designer show to designer show. Models and fashion photographers are joined at the hip. If you did 9 shows in a day, they probably did 10 or 12 shows. They saw you at 9:00 a.m. and are still with you till 10:00 p.m. on the last show of the day.

They wait long hours for the show to start and jockey for position in the photographers’ cage. Some are able to come backstage to scout the overall “look” and socialize and take beauty pictures. But most have a grueling schedule, carrying heavy equipment, lining up outside the tents before they are let in to set-up, protecting their ‘working space’ before the show starts. (Where is it good to position myself? That new photographer just got my spot….let me tell him to skedaddle out of there because I am shooting for Vogue. I am shooting for WWD. I am shooting for the house. I am senior here.) Trust me…there is a pecking order.

And of the mainstay photographers, I have come to know and respect a lot of them. When I first started, there was this Italian, the most vocal of the bunch, Graziano. He used to talk to me backstage when I first arrived in the scene. He probably knew that I was terrified out of my wits. But still, he was friendly and respectful. You could feel that he is curious and is trying to make a connection.

But he was smart….because when the show starts, he is certain to get a good picture. You are walking down the runway, blinded by the spotlight, hundreds of eyes on you; directly in front is a sea of men and women photographers that are in the press cage, and on both sides of the catwalk, it is shoulder to shoulder- a big voice booms when you get to the top of the runway. It is Graziano screaming, “Anna!” For a split second, you know it’s him and he is at top center of the blurred flashing mass of photographers and you give him a big smile or a glint in your eye or a fierce pose.

Over the years, I have come to know the voices of many photographers, especially the ones that are lined up along the catwalk. I see them in my peripheral vision and when they call my name out; I make sure to turn around or spin to give them a picture without disrupting the main flow of the fashion show. It is a timing thing. They are also confident that even if I don’t turn immediately, I will turn for them…and they will get what they want.

And it is never my face that I am concerned about. If the best feature of the dress is the back, then I give them the back shot. If it is the long silhouette of a mermaid or the flouncy skirt, or the crispness of a business suit ..then that is the shot I give them. It is moving photography.

So when I am sent out, I start my walk and the photographers start screaming my name….I give them what they want. They want a good picture…I lock in like a sensor towards the direction of their voice. I turn. I pose. I give them the biggest smile…. tomorrow, my picture is the in paper.


When I started modeling, putting fashion shows on film and on TV was not yet the norm. Elsa Klensch of STYLE for CNN put fashion on the television map. Now every channel is doing what Ms. Klensch has started.

Another innovator was Norma Kamali who used videos to sell her clothes, specifically her swimsuit line. Now, every department store designer stall space has fashion show videos in the background.

As for the videographers, it was instinctive for me to walk straight down. It was my style and my method. I figured that if I walk a straight line, I will never be out of the main source of light. The videographer needs to focus with one eye on something moving smoothly. He needs and wants a clean continuous shot. He can’t have girls bouncing around, going hither and hie, turning and losing balance. Videographers are already pre-editing when they take a shot. Otherwise, the footage of a dress or a model is cut and is in the editing floor.

You really don’t want your footage to be cut…so again, you have to give them what they want.


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