The world’s top models are, unsurprisingly, everywhere. They’re smizing at us from magazine editorials, ad campaigns and social media. They’re strutting runways from New York to Paris and even starring in blockbusters and television shows. But these beauties didn’t get to the top with only their good looks. Household names like Brooke Shields, Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum, and new supermodels like Karlie Kloss, Cara Delevingne and Joan Smalls have a secret weapon: their modeling agencies.
What is a modeling agency?
A modeling agency acts as the go-between for a model and potential clients. Most big name brands prefer to use modeling agencies so signing with one is a safe bet. They basically act like any other employment agency by matching gigs with models while charging a commission from both the model and the client.
What percentage does a modeling agency get?
Since most models are considered independent contractors, their modeling agencies can snag 20 percent or more as commission. And models frequently have to cover their own business expenses, like headshots and even plane travel. So if you think the average working model is living the high life like Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner, think again. Agencies also charge their clients a similar percentage.
How tall do you have to be to be a model?
Models’ heights typically range between 5 feet 9 inches (Ashley Graham) and 6 feet (Elle Macpherson). There are some exceptions, though. Kate Moss is only 5 feet 7 inches and Lily-Rose Depp stands just 5 feet 3 inches tall.
How do you get into the modeling industry?
Firms like Elite, Ford, IMG, DNA and other modeling agencies in NYC not only manage these global talents, they often discover them. Moss was famously scouted as a teenager in the airport, Coco Rocha was found at an Irish dance competition and Karlie Kloss was scouted at a mall. Others have been discovered the old-fashioned way: by sending in photos, measurements and a video showing off their personality.
Sure, it’s a notoriously tough industry to crack, but every agency looks for something slightly different – and always something new. Below, we’ve laid out the top modeling agencies in NYC and tips and tricks for making your application stand out from the crowd. Do you have what it takes?
Elite Model Management
The name says it all. Elite Model Management has launched the careers of some of the biggest names in fashion since its founding in 1977, and is responsible for introducing the world to the first supermodels like Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Paulina Porizkova, Gisele Bündchen, Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks (we could go on and on) as well as present-day leading ladies like Coco Rocha, Kendall Jenner and Cara Delevingne.
GET SCOUTED: Elite looks for star power and asks that modeling hopefuls be 14 to 19 years old and between 5 feet 7 inches and 6 feet tall. To apply, you also need three headshots, some je ne sais quoi and killer confidence.
245 Fifth Avenue, 24th Floor, New York, NY 10016, 212-529-9700
IMG is another industry heavy hitter with offices all over the globe, and has also represented Gisele Bündchen, Kate Moss, Heidi Klum and Liya Kebede. It also has top current-day talent like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Chanel Iman, Lara Stone along with runway and editorial darlings like Jacquelyn Jablonski and Hanne Gaby Odiele.
GET SCOUTED: IMG wants you to submit passport-style photos, including full-length, profile and headshot as well as a video with your name, age and height, plus a “casual walk” toward and away from the camera. You can submit your online application here.
304 Park Avenue South, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10010, 212-253-8884
You could say that it’s in this agency’s, well, DNA to manage some of the top commercial and editorial talent of the day. The agency, founded in 1996 by Jerome and David Bonnouvrier, represents industry heavyweights like Alessandra Ambrosio, Natalia Vodianova, Imaan Hammam and of-the-moment models like Dree Hemingway, Julia Nobis and Doutzen Kroes.
555 West 25th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10001, 212-226-0080
Founded in 1946 by couple Jerry and Eileen Ford (Eileen, herself a model, passed away this July), this powerhouse has been around for more than a half-century, which in an industry that is all about currency, feels like forever. However, with age comes experience, and the agency has one of the top rosters of runway, editorial and advertising models. In the 80s, Ford brought us famous faces like Christy Turlington, Elle Macpherson and Naomi Campbell, on the heels of introducing women like Jane Fonda, Brooke Shields, Candice Bergen and Beverly Johnson to the world.
GET SCOUTED: Those hoping to become a Ford model can submit an online application here as well as an optional online video.
57 West 57th Street, PH, New York, NY 10019, 212-219-6500
Next Model Management
Next is the agency behind current models like Abbey Lee Kershaw, Arizona Muse, Anja Rubik, Myla Dalbesio, Suki Waterhouse and her little sis, Imogen. It also represents a growing number of “hybrids” like fashionista Alexa Chung, Milla Jovovich and Rita Ora, to name a few. Next opened its doors in New York in 1989.
GET SCOUTED: Apply to be a Next model online here, or check out the site for current open casting calls.
15 Watts Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10013, 212-925-5100
The Society New York
This offshoot of Elite World opened up shop in 2013 and, thanks in part to its parent company, offers an impressive roster of names like Adriana Lima, Liu Wen, Kendall Jenner, Lindsey Wixson and more. Its models are some of the top faces in high-fashion editorials and advertisements.
GET SCOUTED: Think you’ve got what it takes to be The Society’s next model? Email [email protected] for more information on scouting protocol.
156 Fifth Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10010, 212-377-5025
New York Model Management
For what this agency lacks in age, it makes up for in attitude and real-world experience. The vice president of the SoHo-based agency, Marion Smith, spent many years with Eileen Ford at Ford Models before pursuing his agency. It’s a sister company to L.A. Models and the force behind new faces like Tatiana, Carol S. and Catrina Stella.
GET SCOUTED: New York Model Management looks for aspiring models up to age 24 in women and 30 in men. You also need nonprofessional headshots. Apply online here.
596 Broadway, 7th Floor, New York, NY10012, 212-539-1700
It takes a supermodel to know the ins and outs of modeling, so it comes as no surprise that this agency was founded in 1967 by leading Dutch model Wilhelmina Cooper. The brand has gone on to represent some of the most widely-recognized models of the day like Coco Rocha and also represents fitness and plus-sized models.
300 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010, 212-473-0700
When this agency was founded in the 80s, it purported to go against the homogeneous look of the day, and strived to find diversity and talent. Fast-forward nearly 30 years, and the agency is going strong, representing big names like Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Kasia Struss, Fei Fei Sun and more.
GET SCOUTED: Contact [email protected] for more information.
199 Lafayette Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10012, 212-334-7480
Silent Models New York
Though by no means a global tour de force, Silent is anything but silent in the modeling world. Its current star, Line Brems, a blond Cara Delevingne look-alike, has been on runways from Louis Vuitton to Dolce & Gabbana. The boutique agency also represents a variety of nationalities and ethnicities, a welcomed aspect of an industry that struggles with diversity.
GET SCOUTED: Silent only represents women (sorry, guys!) and asks that applicants avoid wearing makeup or accessories in their shots. More information and an online submission form here.
127 West 26th Street, Suite 502, New York, NY 10001, 646-370-1582