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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!

Get Your Portfolio Sorted

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. 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 online portfolio 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.

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 other 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 that pays for. 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? Can you 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. What are your termination clauses? If the partnership isn’t working, are there fees you’re responsible for?

How To Apply

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! I 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. 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. 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? Don’t forget:

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.

Attach a PDF of your composite card. Email your composite card to yourself 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 Scams

There are, of course, smaller agencies outside of the top modeling agencies in the world. If an agency not on our list has scouted you, or you’re interested in applying to join their team, that’s amazing. 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.

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 Best Modeling Agencies

You’ve been waiting ever so patiently for it, so here they are!

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: This staple modeling agency in New York has a 25-year legacy of launching successful models and talent. While Next Management does offer open call hours, the most efficient way to ensure you’re seen is to submit your photographs through their recruitment 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: 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.

MP Management: This Miami modeling agency is touted to be the fastest-growing in the biz. The Miami office holds open call times every Tuesday and Thursday.

DAS Model Management: DAS Model Management is an independent agency with offices in both Miami and Chicago. The Miami office accepts online submissions only.

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

Elite Model Management: The Miami 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: 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 here.

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. 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.

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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