Modeling agencies are a common commodity, even in Utah. Across the nation, you can probably find tens of thousands, with the largest in the United States being Elite New York City, Ford Models and DNA Models. Some models can “make it” without agencies because they have the connections. They know the best photographers, makeup artists and stylists in town. But when you don’t have that network or don’t have time to make it, that’s where an agency comes in. Lately, especially in Utah, it’s become a question of whether or not agencies are really needed for models to find paying jobs. In my opinion, as someone who does some modeling, they are.
Why should a model in Utah sign with an agency? Agents give models exposure. Using their knowledge of the industry, they can choose your comp card pictures, edit your resume and submit you to the castings that fit you best. They should also have an established network of clients as well as good photographers who can contribute to your portfolio. If you’re by yourself, it’s harder to keep in touch with all the people you need to know and manage the tools you need.
The benefit to being a model in an industry like Utah — a less high-fashion market than, say, New York or LA — means you can book jobs with a “girl-next-door” type look. On the downside, it’s difficult to make a career out of modeling, since the market just isn’t big enough, and there is a stigma of models being snooty, anorexic bobble-heads.
Modeling in Utah is nice because you don’t need to be 6-feet tall and have exact measurements to find work. People come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, and many of our state’s models reflect that. However, competition is fierce because of the scarceness of paying jobs, so making a living solely from pictures and runway shows isn’t an option. Niya Suddarth, owner of NIYA Model Management based in Salt Lake City, says, “There are too many scams in Utah. As an agent, I really protect my models. A model needs to focus on being a model and not trying to negotiate rates and track down money they may never see because they didn’t have a proper contract with the client in the first place.
“I deal with the clients, contracts, finances, submissions, bookings, etc. An agent teaches the model about the industry and helps get them out of Utah if they have the potential … if a model does not have an agent in Utah, there is little chance they will actually get out of Utah for modeling.”
To me, the only negative of an agency is the possibility of getting scammed, but this can be easily avoided with a bit of research and common sense. A tip from the Federal Trade Commission of the United States government is, “Try searching for the (agency) name with words like ‘scam,’ ‘rip-off’ or ‘complaint.’ ” This is a problem especially prominent in Utah because many people aren’t well-informed enough about the industry to know what’s real and what isn’t.
The second a modeling agency mentions you paying them — without them booking you any jobs — or gives you requirements to shoot with their photographer, be wary. Modeling agencies can be a controversial subject, particularly in a place like Utah where the modeling community is fairly small and it’s possible to find paid jobs without being signed. Some models don’t like the 15-33 percent cut they lose to the agent; some think it’s worth it to be submitted to more bookings and have their images shown to more clients.
From my outlook, signing with an agency is beneficial because it gets you used to the management you’ll need if you want to model outside of Utah, it leaves the technicalities of searching for jobs and obtaining payments to a third party, and it automatically makes the relationship between you and the client a great deal more professional.