CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 2004
Interest in modeling, whether as a full or part-time career, appears to be strong. According to a press release provided by the book's publisher, more than 3,000 Canadian youth participate in talent and beauty conventions, more than 6,000 enroll in modeling schools, and many of them spend in excess of $5,000 pursuing their dream by attending classes, having test photos done, and traveling to attend events. It is a highly competitive business, and few models have long or lucrative careers. So, what gives a would-be model a bit of an edge?
Heather Young intends that More than a Pretty Face: The Essential Handbook for Canadian Models serve as a kind of "text book" on the nuts and bolts of the modeling business in this country. Knowing virtually nothing about modeling, I found the book to be fascinating reading. As in any job, there is more than meets the eye, and certainly, there is more to modeling than standing around being photographed wearing fashionable clothes. I didn't know that, particularly in the early stages of their careers, models really have to work hard at keeping in touch with agents (and credible agents can be hard to find), managing their time, keeping careful track of their finances, and being their own best advocate. It is an experience that develops self-reliance and fosters personal growth, and many of the models who provided their stories for the book spoke of these benefits. But, it is also a business which can prey on the vulnerability and inexperience of young people following a dream, and Young is candid about this aspect, too.
How might someone from Heather Young's intended audience might respond to the book? I asked Adriana Krawchenko, 17-year-old high school student and part-time model, to provide me with an "insider's" perspective. My initial question to Adriana had to do with how well Heather Young achieved her intention of providing the insights she learned through her work experience. Adriana agreed that Heather did a very capable job of describing "different scenarios you might encounter with which experienced models are very familiar. . . . she gives examples of questions that a booker would ask you. If you had no idea about their line of questioning, you would feel a lot more nervous than if you were semi-prepared."
Say the word "model" to me, and I think of fashion or commercial modeling; Adriana pointed out this book provided information on the various other types of modeling work available, as well as some of the specialties (petite and plus-size modeling), useful for someone who might be able to find work in these areas. Parents have very real concerns about their son or daughter's entering the modeling profession, and I was interested in Adriana's view on this issue. She wrote: " It does address some parental concerns. Some concerns parents have are about the lifestyle that models lead. Heather addresses all the myths and stereotypes that come with being a model. Other parents are concerned about the costs of starting a modeling career. She provides honest figures and estimates of the costs of starting out. Finally, she addresses concerns that models and parents can share, like dealing with rejection. The fact is, it's a common aspect of this career."
Scattered throughout the book are profiles of various models, both male and female, along with brief interviews, detailing how long they have worked, how they became involved in modeling, and the various types of jobs they have undertaken. I wondered what Adriana thought of these profiles, and whether or not they offered a realistic job of portraying both the pluses and minuses of modeling. She responded that the "questions asked of the models were answered honestly, which added to the integrity of the book. I seemed to notice more 'pluses' than 'minuses,' but it just might be because the models really enjoy what they're doing."
Finally, I was curious about what she thought of the book's presentation. It made use of black and white photos (all of very high quality), rather large type face, and "Quick Model Tip" side-bars (offering useful hints, whether you're a model or not). I found that the non-serif type face slowed down my reading, but Adriana preferred it. As well, Adriana particularly liked the "Quick Model Tips": "They were fun, and they really sound like they would work." Not surprisingly, given Heather Young's commercial affiliation with a major cosmetics company, there was the occasional (but subtle) "plug" for Bioré products. One thing which detracted from the book's otherwise professional approach was the number of typographical or spelling errors; someone should have proof-read it more carefully.
At the beginning of the book, Heather Young counsels that successful models must have both a practical and a professional attitude. Thus, the book concludes with a set of Appendices containing lists of actors' unions and travel information, a glossary of modeling terms, a resource list of other books on grooming, financial, and self-help, and an index. Whether as an acquisition for a school's career resource centre, a school library item (if the library has a current careers section), or as a personal purchase by someone interested in modeling, More than a Pretty Face: The Essential Handbook for Canadian Models is a more than useful resource, one which would also be found useful by career counselors and parents of aspiring models.
Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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