A Guide to the Top Modeling Agencies in North America

Learn all about the top modeling agencies in five major North American cities, their model requirements, who they represent, and how to submit to each one.


So—you’ve decided you want to be a model, you’ve landed your first few gigs and now you want to start looking for modeling agencies. We’ve put together a handy guide to finding the the top modeling agencies, from modeling agencies in Los Angeles to NYC to Toronto. Let’s get started!

As you’re working on building your professional modeling portfolio, you’ll learn quickly that there’s more to building your career than getting your photos taken. You have to work on consistently finding opportunities to get your face in front of the right people. While social media has helped many people launch successful careers in modeling, seeking out agencies can help you skyrocket your success by finding you larger brands to work with and hone your skills.

We’ve put together a handy guide to finding the top modeling agencies, from famous modeling agencies in Los Angeles to NYC to Toronto. Let’s get started!

Get Your Portfolio Sorted For Modeling Agencies

First, you’ll want to make sure your portfolio is in top form. While some modeling agencies will sign an unvetted model, most will definitely want you to have a few gigs under your belt and will want to check out your past work because the agency will be representing you to their clients.

You should have an online modeling portfolio, as well as a hard copy.

Making a digital portfolio is easy, especially when there’s so many great examples online to get you inspired.

Your digital portfolio should have more than just a photo gallery. It’s essentially a website-resume. While your modeling photos are important, so are details about your body measurements, prior work experience and what it’s like to work with you.

Your online portfolio website needs an About Me section. Add your resume here as well, and make sure it is up to date with any recent campaigns or jobs you have completed.

Your online portfolio website needs an About Me section. Add your resume here as well, and make sure it is up to date with any recent campaigns or jobs you have completed relevant to the shoots you’d like to work on.

Bringing your hard copy portfolio to any meetings ensures you are prepared for anything.

No WiFi? No problem! Dead device? Pull that book out.

Models need to be like scouts—always prepared. You’ll also want to bring your composite card that reflects your current stats and measurements, and includes a link to your portfolio. If you built your online modeling portfolio using Format, you can even download your online portfolio onto your iPhone to use offline, thanks to the handy little Format iOS app.

Scout The Scouts

There are tons of talent and modeling agencies across the globe. Deciding which one suits your needs best can be overwhelming. Before attending a random casting call or cold calling, do your research:

What kind of models are they signing? Some modeling agencies are more generalized, while others specialize in one type of talent. Some examples include baby modeling agencies, child modeling agencies, plus size modeling agencies, male modeling agencies, fitness model agencies, petite modeling agencies, black modeling agencies—even hand modeling agencies!

What percentage do they earn? Most modeling agencies take the standard 20% to 30%. Find out what your fees to the agency covers. Is this rate negotiable depending on how much your agent promotes you?

Is this modeling agency near you? If you live in a rural area and this agency is located in a major city, are you comfortable with traveling to casting calls, go-sees and meetings?

Are you only allowed to attend jobs that are approved by your agent? This can limit your opportunities and personal projects you may want to work on, so it’s important that you understand the restrictions a modeling agency may put on their models.

For example, look into whether you can participate in TFP (trade for print) collaborations, or volunteer for unpaid gigs to gain more experience? Can you accept jobs outside of the ones sourced by your agent?

What is the contract like? Before signing, bring it to a lawyer to have them explain the jargon to you. Make sure the contract is in your best interests. You likely don’t need us to tell you of the horror stories of models getting taken advantage of by unethical agencies. There are so many ways to learn about the industry now from review sites, forums, and social media. You should never walk into an agency office without first investigating them.

While you may be excited to just get your foot in the door—always have an exit strategy if things don’t work out. What are your termination clauses? If the partnership isn’t working, are there fees you’re responsible for?

How To Apply To A Modeling Agency

Modeling agencies often host talent-scouting events. It’s a great way to have a large amount of talent come to them. The selection process can be brutal. Don’t sweat it if you get cut on the first round. They could be looking for very specific traits that they didn’t advertise, or, for example, they already have a full roster of redheads.

Refer to the list below and/or find a modeling agency near you. If there isn’t a modeling agency in your city, don’t despair!

If you’re willing to travel, agencies are usually willing to represent out of town talent. If their website has a submission form or directions on how to apply, you can submit your comp card.

This is referred to as a cold-call. Cold-calling is when you contact an agency you have no previous relationship with. Before you start your cold calls, you’ll want to have a sharp composite card with great shots of you, your measurements, statistics, contact information, and a link to your full digital portfolio. If you are doing an in-person cold-call, dress simply but stylishly — don’t wear any distracting patterns and wear silhouettes that flatter your body but aren’t flashy. You want to make an amazing first impression. Remember, this meeting, as brief as it will be, can be the launchpad for the next step in your career. This means:

  • Hair: Clean, well-groomed, and tidy.
  • Face: No dramatic looks. Keep it simple. Facial hair should be groomed and tidy.
  • Attire: Simple is better. A good combo for any gender is dark-wash denim, a crisp button-down, a casual blazer or jacket, minimal jewelry, and a dressier shoe. Have an elegant tote bag with you and stash some heels in there. That way, you can swap out your shoes a block away.

Nowadays, you don’t have to drag yourself from agency to agency handing out comp cards anymore. You can now submit them from the comfort of your living room while wearing your pajamas.

Before cold-calling any agency, be it in person or digitally, be sure that they are, in fact, accepting cold calls. If they aren’t, it’s better to wait until they are open to submissions than to give yourself a bad reputation by submitting anyway. You don’t want to appear like you don’t follow instructions well. Agencies are busy, and if you’re constantly bombarding them with unwelcome submissions, it can reflect poorly on you.

Determine which modeling agencies are a good fit for you and make note of the correct email address to contact. Some agencies have a staff person dedicated to fielding these emails. Others will just accept submissions through their general email. Doing your cold calls online?

Here are some pointers you want to keep in mind:

  • Each email should be as personalized as possible. Include the name of your contact, a reason or two why you would like to join the roster of this specific agency, and why you’d be an asset to them. Keep copying and pasting to a minimum—it shows a lack of effort, and recruiters can see right through generic emails.
  • Attach a PDF of your composite card. Email your composite card to yourself or a friend first and view it on a desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile device. You’ll want to ensure that it responds properly to all possible devices. Agents often work on the go and you don’t want a hiccup like that to lower your chances.
  • Include your contact information and link to your digital portfolio in your sign-off. Your sign-off is another chance to shine. Congratulate them on a recent event or campaign score. It shows the agency that you are on top of the happenings in the industry.

Let Them Come To You

There are so many avenues an aspiring model can take to get recognized by top modeling agencies.

Social media platforms like Instagram have made being discovered easier than ever. Models have been discovered while attending a popular music festival and ended up getting regular work as a result. IMG Models has even sent scouts to festivals and other chic events where fashionable folk are out in numbers.

Even if you can’t attend these events, you can still get in on the action. Follow the event hashtags that are trending and post accordingly. Put on a little fashion show of what you would have packed if you were attending.

Share your online portfolio on social media and elsewhere, and stay up-to-date on industry news around how agencies are scouting talent.

Don’t Fall For Scam Modeling Agencies

There are, of course, smaller agencies outside of the top modeling agencies in the world—and they can be fantastic and legitimate modeling agencies.

Just make sure to research them and make sure they are all that they say they are. There are many faux or disreputable agencies eager to prey on models looking to break into the industry.

When it comes to agency scams, here are the things to watch out for:

They ask that you use a specific photographer for your portfolio shots. Yes, you definitely should have a portfolio before approaching an agency but the choice should be yours. Expensive and mandatory photograph packages are a big red flag. These are often opportunities for a scam agency to make a quick-buck off of you.

Are they pressuring you about a limited-time opportunity? If the agency says their offer expires soon and is pressuring you to sign, take that as a hint to walk away. If they are truly interested in contracting you, they will allow you time to go over said contract with your lawyer. Just say no to agent pressure.

If they’re charging you start-up fees, promising large salaries or guaranteeing you work, watch out. Agencies get paid when you do. They take a commission off of your pay. And, as far as your salary and work opportunities go, nothing is set in stone. Work, and therefore pay, can be very irregular, especially when you’re just starting out.

Check their rep. Google the name of the agency with “scam” and see what comes up. Ask for references. Ask to see their license and confirm that they’re bondable.

Keep a copy of everything for your own records.

The Top Modeling Agencies In North America

You’ve been waiting ever so patiently for it, so here is a list of some of the biggest modeling agencies in North America.

Modeling Agencies in New York City

Elite Model Management

Elite has been a major player in the fashion world for decades. Elite popularized the term “supermodel” and has represented Cindy, Naomi, Linda, Tyra, Heidi, and Giselle plus a score of others. At time of publishing, Elite has no open casting calls in New York scheduled, but they do invite models to submit via an online form.

IMG Models

IMG Models has a 20-year track record for launching and supporting models at every stage in their career. Their annual Fashion Camp is like summer camp for models and preps models for agency life. Can’t make it to camp? The good news is that IMG Models accepts online submissions, too.

Ford Models

Established in the home of Eileen and Jerry Ford in 1946, the Ford Modeling Agency initiated some groundbreaking practices: models received advance pay, i.e. being paid when the job was done instead of waiting until the agency collected their fees. Currently, the New York office of Ford Models doesn’t host open casting calls but you can submit your application via their online form.

Next Management

Next is a staple modeling agency in New York that has a 25-year legacy of launching successful models and talent. When you think of major modeling agencies, Next is one of them. While Next Management does offer open call hours, the most efficient way to ensure you’re seen is to submit your photographs through theirrecruitment form.

Wilhelmina Models

Celebrating over 50 years in the modeling business, Wihelmina Models represents men and women along with children, full-figured models and fitness models. Their Park Avenue office holds open casting for women on Thursdays. Any other divisions should apply on their website.

Modeling Agencies In Miami

FRONT Management

FRONT Is a boutique modeling agency in Miami, FRONT represents fashion women, men, plus size models, big and tall, and children. Open calls are held every Wednesday and online submissions are always welcome.

Select Management

Select has merged with MP Management, which was a Miami-based modeling agency that is touted to be the fastest-growing in the biz. Select has been in the industry for over 40 years and has offices world-wide, representing some of the most prestigious models in the industry. The Miami office holds open call times every Tuesday and Thursday.

Next Management

Does this agency nama look familiar? Next Management has offices all over North America and Europe. Call your local office to inquire about open call hours, but the most efficient way to ensure your applications are seen is to submit through their recruitment form.

Elite Model Management

You don’t have to be in the Big Apple to work with Elite management. The Miami Elite agency welcomes models to attend open calls every Wednesday and their online submission form is available.

Modeling Agencies In Los Angeles

DT Model Management

Industry veteran David Todd launched this LA modeling agency in 2012. Its A-list clientele and boutique vibe are a testament to DT MM. While the office isn’t currently open for casting calls, you can submit your composite card via email.

LA Models

LA models is the largest modeling agency in Los Angeles and the entire west coast. Men and women models are invited to the casting calls every Wednesday, but the office would prefer that child models submit online.

Nous Model Management

With more brands looking for models that represent real people, Nous recruits a diverse set of talent. In addition to online submission, women models can attend open casting calls Tuesday through Thursday.

The Lions LA

The Lions LA is a Los Angeles modeling agency that has shifted their focus to branding their models instead of molding the models to their brand. When submitting your composite card to The Lions LA, do so through their email bediscovered@thelionsny.com.

Photogenics Media

Established by an international model and two cosmetics moguls, Photogenics Media was born for beauty greatness. Open calls are every Thursday, or submit your application here.

Modeling Agencies In Atlanta

MP Management

This Atlanta modeling agency is a division of a larger international MP Management agency. Open calls are held on Wednesdays for fashion models. Lifestyle and commercial models should submit their comps via email: submissions@mp-atlanta.com.

Atlanta Models & Talent, INC.

Covering all the talent bases, AM&T represents models, child models, actors and voice actors. Submit your application through the forms on their website.

Click Model Management

Specializing in women, men, plus-size, runway, showroom, fit, and commercial talent, this modeling agency in Atlanta provides results for its talent. Submit your application, and don’t forget to include your online modeling portfolio link.

BMG Models

BMG Models represents men and women in both commercial and fashion modeling; kids and teenagers; and plus-size models. Open casting is held Tuesdays and Thursdays for models ages 13 and over. Everyone is welcome to submit online.

Houghton Talent

Adhering to a traditional submission system, Houghton Talent only accepts submissions delivered via mail. This isn’t always ideal, especially in the digital age, but Houghton runs on tradition. Review their submission requirements here.

Modeling Agencies In Toronto

Elmer Olsen Model Management

Located in the heart of the the Entertainment District, this modeling agency in Toronto accepts submissions through their online form.

Two Management

The Canadian office of this international modeling agency accepts applications through their submission form alone.

AMTI Management

AMTI Management represents fashion models, commercial talent, and actors. If you’d like to join their ranks, you can apply here.

Want Management

Want Management has a knack for knowing what the next new face will be. Is it yours? Email your submission.

Next Canada

The Toronto branch of this international mogul invites men, women and plus-size models to attend their open casting calls Tuesdays and Thursdays, and you can also submit online.

Interested In Learning More About Modeling Agencies?

After there any other modeling agencies in other cities in North America you would like to know about? Let us know on on Twitter @useformat or on Facebook @useformat, and we’ll add them here!

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