My posts are mostly science-based and not subjective. People who follow me know that I write about nutrition, supplements, training, as well as other topics. I chose to let go of my science geek personality and write about a topic that I believe will be useful to thousands of fitness models.
Because I am a well-respected “hard core” science-based writer with no BS, you may be wondering why I am writing what others will consider a “fluff article”. Over the years, I have received hundreds of emails, letters and in person from women asking me “How do I become a fitness model Will?” Even if you’ve been in the industry for a while, it is a good idea to know this information. This is what I hear from both newbies and from those who have been in the business for a while, but are unable to “break into” it effectively.
My experience in fitness, health and bodybuilding has been extensive. Although I am best known for being a science-based “guru”, I have also trained and judged many fitness athletes. I have also given business and marketing advice to many other athletes, including models. It’s not so far-fetched as you might think. I will use this space to discuss a non-scientific topic: how one becomes a fitness model.
This article is for both novice and experienced people who want to “break into” the business. This article may be of value to you if you’re already a successful fitness model.
The bad news is that there is no single way to be a successful trainer. There is no one way or secret. However, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of success in the fitness business as a model and possibly use that success to launch to bigger things like TV or movies.
Many of the most successful fitness models, including Vicki Pratt and Trish Stratus, have gone on to careers in entertainment. The bottom line is that, although there is no secret formula to success as a fitness model or a successful business, this article will give you a guideline.
“Do I have to compete?”
This is a question that I am asked all the time, and it’s not an easy answer. The answer is, well, yes and no. To answer this question, the person must first decide why they are participating in this competition. If your goal is to become a fitness model, then do you really need to compete?
No. Most of today’s most well-known fitness model have never competed or only participated in small shows. This is clearly not how they became successful as fitness models. But competing has its benefits.
Exposure is one of these. Editors, photographers, editors, owners of supplement companies, and other businesspeople will be present at the top level shows. Competing can increase your exposure. If you’re trying to build a business related to competing or would benefit from winning a show, it can be a good idea to compete.
Imagine that you own a private gym and are looking to start one. Yes, being named Ms Fitness America or winning the NPC Nationals will improve your reputation and help you to be known. It would be a great thing to win a show for your business or any other venture.
However, winning a show doesn’t guarantee success in your business (and it is a business) as a fitness model. You won’t get a call from the phone with huge offers for contracts. It is common for the fourth, sixth, or eighth place finisher in a figure or fitness show to get more media than the winner. This is why? Despite the fact that the winner may have the necessary skills to win the show, editors, publishers, and supplement companies often feel other women are more marketable.
It has happened many times. The winner is shocked that she didn’t get the attention she expected. Other girls placed lower have received attention through photo shoots and magazine coverage. Keep this in mind as you ask the crucial question, “Do I need to compete? If so, why am i competing?” This will give you the answer to the heading. While a title can be a stepping stone to success in the industry, it does not guarantee that you will. It’s not what you do with it that counts.
Now. You can compete for fun, but this article is about competing for business.
Wrong federation, right body
Okay, now you’ve read the above and decided to compete or compete again. You can skip this section if you don’t intend to compete. This is the biggest mistake I see. Many gals have the wrong body for the correct federation. Each federation has their own criteria for judging and competitors will be disappointed if they don’t research the best show for them.
This is a real-world example. I recently judged a show where the criteria for the figure round was that women should be curvier, more toned and more athletic than other federations allow. One of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen was on display at this show. She was proportional with great muscle tone and athletic shape, with narrow hips, waist, and wider shoulders. What did she do at the show? She was not even in the top ten!
Why? She wasn’t what we expected and didn’t meet the criteria. I told her after the show that she looked fantastic, but that this might not be the right federation for them. She had a more NPC-type body. This is where more muscle and athletic build are rewarded.
I was judging an NPC bodybuilding, fitness, and figure show the week after that and she was there. How did she do it? She was voted number one by all judges and won the whole show.
If your body is more toned and rounded, but has a bit more bodyfat, you will look wider, but not fatter. You might be a better candidate for the Fitness America Pageants if your hips are high. You must be willing to compete.
(1) Find out what the judging criteria are for each federation.
(2) Go to the shows as a spectator and check out which federations you will be most comfortable with.
(3) Decide if your athletic ability is sufficient to compete in a competition that requires a routine or a competition with figures/bikinis.
Many women I see who could do well in a show are not able to perform the required routines with the other competitors. Some shows allow you to compete in both, while others won’t.
Networking 101: dos and don’ts…
This is the most important area in any business. Yet, many people in the fitness industry fail to do a good job of it. You can’t market and network properly if you aren’t a successful fitness model or in any other business. We will keep it to fitness, for the sake of space.
My first job was as a self-promotion machine. I was always available at any show that I thought would be of interest, including trade shows, bodybuilding shows, and fitness shows. I gave out over a hundred cards, and took home a million. I followed up with each one. I attended as many industry-related meetings, parties, outings, and other events as possible. I attended as many industry-related meetings, outings, parties, etc. as I could. Now I have the experience and reputation in the industry that I don’t need to attend such shows unless I feel like or have meetings. However, they were very helpful at the beginning.
It amazes me how many fitness models I get contacted by who have never been to trade shows such as the NNFA Expo West or Arnold Classic Fitness Weekend. You have to treat the fitness industry like a business if you are going to succeed in it.
Many a pretty girl wants to be a model for fitness. They believe that if they look good enough, someone will offer to cover their story in a magazine. There are many beautiful women out there. To be noticed, you need to hustle.
You should attend a few industry shows each year. You should have a strategy for how you will market yourself and your network. Many bodybuilders and fitness models see a show like one big party. If this is you, then enjoy the party but don’t let it fool you.
It amazes me, too, how many fitness models have business cards but have cards printed on their home bubble jet printer. They ask me to help and I respond “give me my card”. I am a beautiful woman and should not be needing a card, they say. This attitude will turn off editors, writers, and other industry professionals faster than if you were a transvestite. Don’t do it. There are 100 professionals out there for every pretty girl who believes the world owes her a favor.
You may wonder why a fitness model you know is doing so much better than you, even though you are more beautiful than her. This may be why you should never go to a network show without professional head and body photos, bios, and cards. Do not assume that they will see you if you are pretty. Instead, go find them and introduce yourself. You should also be in good health and have a tan so you look your best.
Do you want to attend the parties and go to the shows? You can go to the shows and party, but only after all the work has been done. Don’t be a fool at an industry sponsored event. After going to sushi with well-known industry leaders and business owners, I was practically escorted into a taxi at the Arnold Classic last year. But at least I was not seen! After the show, we had our own private gathering to have fun.
Let me tell you one last real-world example of how not to market yourself. Last year, I was a consultant for a small supplement company. I was asked by the owner of the company if I knew any fitness models that would be able to work at his trade show booth. He actually asked for “unknowns”, new faces that people hadn’t seen but could help the company grow. I found two women who I felt fit the bill and went to find them.
He offered to pay for their flight, hotel, food, and a thousand dollars each. They told the girls to meet at the booth at 9 a.m. I witnessed the girls get in a taxi at 11pm, dressed up to kill, and leave the hotel the night before. They arrived at the booth an hour later than expected and were clearly exhausted. What did this mean? It embarrassed me greatly as I had recommended them. (2) They would never be able to get work from the company again. (3) They would never work with me again. (4) We would not give them a reference for any other jobs.
This is something I see all the time in the fitness industry, and it doesn’t just apply to fitness models. Amazingly, they reached out to me and the owner of the company a few weeks later to ask when their next job would take them! Amazing…
Who loves you baby?
The universal truth is that either the camera loves you or hates you. Professional photographers will confirm this. Some people are more photogenic than others, for some unknown reason. It is true that some famous fitness models (who will remain anonymous as they would likely smack me the next day) aren’t all that attractive in real life. They are beautiful in photos, but not very attractive in person.
Contrarily, I have witnessed the opposite many times. A girl who looks better in person than she does in photos is something I have seen. This is what happens to anyone who dreams of being a model, even a fitness model. You may find that you are not very photogenic. Keep working with other photographers until you find one that captures you well. Then, pay the photographer handsomely!
To be honest, some people want to be fitness models, but they aren’t “unphotogenic”; they’re just “fugly”. Some people don’t have the right to try out for fitness model jobs. This does not make them bad people. It just means that they have to get out of their heads and choose a better profession, such as radio personality ….
“How can I get into the magazines?”
This section combines the best of what I’ve already covered and includes a few more strategies. As I said, participating in fitness and figure/bikini competitions can help increase your exposure. This could result in you being noticed by a magazine publisher or photographer. You may be able to get into magazines or get a job as an ad writer by networking at trade shows.
All of these strategies are passive, but I think they’re still active. It is still the fitness model that needs to be “discovered.” To me, waiting means waiting for bus stops or pregnancy tests. Success does not wait for any man… or woman, as is the case. What else can you do to get magazine coverage after the above is considered?
One, it is important to read all magazines you are interested in. This will allow you to know the names and styles of each magazine. You can be sure that if the Editor-in Chief of a large fitness or bodybuilding publication says “hi Bob Smith, what’s my name?” Bob won’t be pleased if the fitness model doesn’t know who Bob Smith is. Why should he? It is important to know the names of the key players in the publications that you wish to see. You are doing him a favor and not the other. It is important to know the names of the key players and to actively search for them. Don’t wait until they “discover” you.
The masthead of any magazine will reveal who the publisher is, the Editor-in Chief, and so forth. You can also find the mailing address and, often, the email and web site for that magazine. You can look up the names and send them your resume and photos. That’s all. You can contact the photographer directly and send them photos if you like a photo spread. That’s all.
I am stating the obvious: If you want to get a break in business, do it. Don’t wait around thinking it will find you. Don’t be reactive, but proactive! Design is luck. Design is the key to success. When I was a child, my older brother would tell me that I was too afraid to ask for a girl. “What’s the worst thing that could happen Will?” She can only say no. This is the worst thing that could happen to you.
Beware of web idiots and morons, schlubs or perverts, scumbags and sleazoids.
Although this part is self-explanatory, it’s worth noting. Like all entertainment-based media industries (e.g. television, modeling, theater, and so on), this one is important. The fitness industry is home to many web idiots, schlubs and morons as well as perverts, scumbags, and sleazoids.
The schmoe is another class. But that will be a different topic. The point is that you want to meet the right people and not get involved with those worthless people who will drag you down, delay or just plain screw you over.
A guy may approach you and say he would like to “shoot” you for the magazines. But what do you know about this guy? The guy has a camera and business cards so he is a photographer. But, you’re wrong! You should not be approached by someone who wants to photograph you if they aren’t a well-known photographer. Find out their names. Are there references they can call? You can reach out to girls who have shot before and were satisfied with the results. Which magazines has he been published in? Is it a profession or a hobby? This type of thing.
Another scam I see is the huge web scam. It’s amazing to me how many girls are ripped off by these idiot web designers. The lesson here is that you only get what you pay. If someone offers to create a website for you for free, it’s likely you will end up paying more. There is a lot of money to be made online, and it can be a great way to market yourself and make contacts. But most of the time, it’s a scam.
It is better to hire a web designer and web master who have experience working with other types of fitness models and can provide references. There have been many instances where girls have been scammed by the internet. For example, the fan who offers to create a site for free and then runs away with the money or uses the site to make sexy purchases.
Although I cannot list all of the potential pitfalls of web idiots and morons, perverts or scumbags out there in the entertainment industry, you get the idea. Be careful!
This concludes my guide to “making it” in fitness modeling. There are many business issues that I could address and tips I could offer, but this is my best guide to the basics of being a fitness model. It will help you more than you realize if you follow it.