This article is a part of the series “5 Models Answer 5 Questions”. We asked different models to share their experience and advice when it comes to working in the fashion industry. This article’s guest is Tristan Lim.
After being scouted on the street, Tristan Lim took a while to understand if modeling was something he really wanted to pursue. Although the lifestyle that comes with it seems luxurious and glamorous, he knew from the very beginning there are certain risks that are not appealing for everyone.
In this interview, we talk about his career, the importance of resilience, and some of the red flags to keep in mind.
“Remember, it’s all business, but it’s a career that can have many unique benefits if you’re able to take it far enough”
First of all, could you please tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada and studied Mechanical Engineering for 2 years before deciding that’s not what I wanted to do. Since then, I have been modeling and involved in the creative industry. I do photography and love exploring the world, meeting people and generally being involved in creative projects.
What were the key steps you took to become a professional model?
I was scouted on the street and after that, the contract sat on my desk for months while I reviewed it and finished my semester at University. I never considered modelling until it fell into my lap but if you ask the vast majority of models, at least in my experience, I think they’d tell you that modelling isn’t their end goal.
I think the biggest key to being a professional model is the mentality. You can’t take anything personally in this industry and you have to push for what you want and getting to that mentality can take some preparation. There’s a lot of patience involved in the job and a lot of testing moments.
What are the main do’s and don’ts when showcasing yourself to an agency?
Beyond basic grooming, the best thing I could recommend would be to showcase your personality. It’s all about personality. If you can hold a good conversation and speak with confidence about yourself, it shows agencies that you are able to do the same with clients.
When they decide to sign you, they’ll analyse your look and what market you’re good for but also the personality that you’re able to portray, through conversation and physical expression. On the contrary, if you go into a meeting with an agency with a bad attitude and acting cocky, they may be reluctant to work with you.
In the end, modelling is a business and there are tons of people out there trying to become signed models and there will always be someone doing it better than you. So keep the personality and attitude positive because the competition is fierce in this industry.
On that matter, modelling is a business and agencies shouldn’t be on a pedestal. If one agency is interested, read the contract and review the terms but feel free to check other agencies and shop yourself around. Take your time and don’t jump the gun. Although if all goes well and they want to sign you, the biggest “don’t” I could tell you would be to make sure you thoroughly read and understand the contracts you sign. Many models don’t and I’ve seen some disturbing things in contracts, as they say, it’s all in the fine print.
How do you master the art of posing?
Posing is difficult at first. Everyone starts out looking at themselves in the mirror or taking selfies but the best advice I can give is to get experience. Get friends or photographers you know to shoot you and ask for feedback. Always get feedback.
When you first sign with an agency, they’ll help you. Many agencies have boot camps, and the bookers will critique and give you techniques or references to practice from. Learn your angles and learn your shortfalls, so you can correct them. If you are consistently being told to arch your back more, then learn to arch your back without being told. It takes time to develop just like anything, it’s muscle memory.
One of the biggest areas of importance is the face. Learn different facial expressions, if you only ever make the same expression you won’t go far. The job of the model is to fit the narrative of the project but also to portray expressions through your body and for this, the face extremely important. Try expressions in the mirror or play around with test shoots, there are many ways to get experience but once you got it, you’re golden.
When working as a professional model, what are some of the aspects attached that people do not always see?
While the model lifestyle seems glamorous and luxurious, and don’t get me wrong it is at times, there is also a lot of struggles. There will be times when you have so much work that you are completely drained every day and there are also times where you could have no work for months.
Consistency and stability are a rarity for models, but it does exist. Stay focused, I know many people who get completely wrapped up in the lifestyle and it’s easy to lose yourself. The whole industry is about criticising you and the pressure from agencies and clients to keep up appearances really affects some people.
For some, this job is really a strain mentally and physically but I suppose there is that possibility with any career. You’ll dread getting an email for a job, and it says “Call time is 5 am so be there at 4:45”. But what is known as the “industry standard”, in some instances, still astounds me. Just be aware that there are benefits but also struggles to a model’s career, it’s not always as glamorous as you might think.
What advice would you give to your younger self if you knew what you know today?
I was lucky enough to sign with a good agency and meet some good friends in the industry who helped me avoid some mistakes while getting started. I would tell you to rely on others when you’re not sure, ask for feedback/opinions and keep yourself informed.
Remember, it’s all business, but it’s a career that can have many unique benefits if you’re able to take it far enough.