In this article, Charleston Pierce reflects on how the business of modeling and the model’s life has changed through his 25 years experience in the industry and gives you the relevant edge on how to work the business today. Walking the runway is an art. It takes grace, discipline, preparation, attention to detail, confidence and attitude. The walk says it all, but the hours of preparation and business savvy it takes to get on the catwalk are another story.
Like the business of modeling itself, only the finished product gets attention, but all the work that goes into that moment or set of moments is the real art of the model’s life. Modeling is a highly competitive field. The better prepared you are in any field, the more chances you have for success. Modeling is no different. Navigating the business of modeling has been my life’s passion for the past 25 years- years in which time there has been major changes.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s there were fewer models that were chosen in the industry. For woman like Claudia, Cindy, Naomi, Linda, Kate and Christy to be considered a supermodel, they had to be on multiple covers all over the world at the same time. That their glamorous beauty was seen and recognized around the world was enough to make them a household name. In today’s world, more actors and actresses are seen on covers of magazines and as the faces of major brands. This change has opened up the industry to many more models, of all types, to make a name for themselves. With so many opportunities, it is more important than ever to develop your brand early.
Knowing your strong points and how to accentuate them can be the difference in a casting director’s mind between you and the other hundred girls or boys in your category. So how do you brand ‘you’? I started as a model in Macy’s Passport Glamorama Fashion Show. I modeled in that show for 15 years and then got promoted to model coach. When I later realized how much information and knowledge I had about the industry as a performer and coach, I eventually embraced the role of being a producer.
I love the entertainment industry and have enjoyed sharing what I have learned from my careers, as well as challenging my own creative mind as a producer. For me, there is nothing like watching my vision come to life. There are so many pieces to a production, so when you have the right talent, timing, and energy, the visionaries’ art is enjoyed and shared through entertainment. In other words, I was able to target and develop my passion into my brand. Follow your passion. If you’re truly passionate about your work, you will naturally look for inspiration. Inspiration provokes creativity and a creative individual will create their niche in the industry. It’s a simple yet true concept that will never lead you wrong, just as hard work and training will never lead you wrong. And you’d better work! For a model, training on many levels is of the utmost importance.
For starters, all models should take acting classes. Models are actors; their job is to portray the look, style, and personality of the designer or brand they’re representing. All designers and brands are different, so it’s important to know how to portray different characters. Again, it’s that skill set that separates you from the crowd. Acting classes will also prepare you for work in commercial campaigns. This preparation is key. As a model/actor, you have to be able to love yourself. Not in a conceited way, but you should love and embrace who you are as a person with a humble attitude. This love will help you exert confidence. If you’re confident, you can do anything you set your mind to do. That’s important, especially when a producer asks you to dance, sing, or improvise on the spot. You have to believe in yourself before you sell that belief to others. Personal self-confidence training starts at home, in the mirror.
The more you tell yourself, face-to-face, that you love you, the more you will start to embrace it. Just like practicing poses, walking, dancing, singing, and speaking in the mirror will help you feel more confident because you’ll know what you look like when you perform. Another change that has occurred over the years is in the commercial/print campaign. As a good agent, manager, or coach will tell you, most companies are looking to hire crossover talent.
Talent that can move well on camera, speak well, and pose for photographs are often needed in one job. These are all essential skills if you want longevity in this industry and, frankly, to get paid more. Many models, like Cameron Diaz, Charlize Theron, and Halle Berry to name a few, were models that crossed over into film acting. In the past, supermodels kept busy and were getting paid so well doing runway, print, and receiving endorsements that they didn’t have a need to cross over into film acting. With the industry opening to so many new faces, however, being prepared takes not only passion and training; you also need a good team on your side. Part of that team is a good coach.
To be successful and become a professional at anything, everyone needs a coach. A coach is someone who has lived it, studied it, and is a good support to push you to help you grow and develop your talents and skills. In the entertainment industry, an agent or manager is a helpful source for contacts, but a coach develops and strengthens you to be prepared to meet those contacts. Once again, preparation is key. The modeling industry is notorious for having stories of broken promises and almost endless tales of hard-earned lessons from those taken advantage of. How to effectively protect yourself while not shutting any doors can be tricky for the scores of eager, young talents looking to make a name for themselves. I have three quick tips can help you avoid common missteps:
First, anybody that asks for money should send up a red flag because if they really believe you can make them money people will represent you and be happy to get a percentage of what you make. Second, anybody who says they can make you a star is lying. They might be able to give you big opportunities but when it comes to doing the work you are in charge. You have to perform and be consistent. Third, you don’t have to sell out. You don’t have to lower your standards. Keep your integrity and if the job is meant to be, it will work out. Use your conscience as your guide, if you don’t feel comfortable about a situation, get out. Be smart and prepared. People will take advantage of you if you let them. Follow your passion, work hard, and the money will come.
BY CHARLESTON PIERCE, AUTHOR OF STAR WALK Charleston Pierce is a native of San Francisco, CA, born and raised . Throughout his career as a model/ actor he has appeared in national billboards, movies, print ads, fashion shows, and over 30 commercials across the nation, including his most recent Cadillac commercial. Charleston broke through into the fashion producer/choreographer role during his time with Macy’s Passport Glamorama.
In 2005, after 16 seasons of modeling in that famous show, he was appointed as a model coach and runway trainer. Charleston currently coaches weekly model workshops, as well as produces and hosts countless events and fashions shows around the Bay Area. Charleston recently published a book entitled Star Walk: embrace your inner power and find success on the runway of life, and continues to reach out to a larger audience to spread his knowledge and expertise.