Reality of being a fashion model in a competitive industry

By ElsaJurrens

Karli Rieschl ’23 walks along the runway in Omaha Fashion Week in 2020. She was in the modeling industry for 4 years. Photo courtesy of Rieschl.

Many girls dream of the life models seem to live. The beautiful photos, appealing outfits and extravagant lifestyle seem like a dream at first glance, yet becoming a model is not an easy feat. Models have to go to dozens of castings, work long hard hours, take criticism gracefully and on top of all that, survive a cut throat industry.

Like many successful models, senior Vanessa Wagstaff was thrown into the modeling industry as a child and hasn’t stopped since. “My parents signed me up for modeling when I was 8 years old and I stuck with it,” Wagstaff said. As a child, Wagstaff did lots of work with Oriental Trading Company, a locally-based company that sells party supplies. As she grew and matured, so did her modeling jobs. “Now, I walk runways for designers and do shoots for commercial brand websites and editorial magazines,” Wagstaff said.

Senior Karli Rieschl entered the modeling business in 2018 because she loves fashion. “I saw other people doing it and thought it was a good way to express my creativity,” Rieschl said. Rieschl walked on runway shows, including Omaha Fashion Week.

Wagstaff and Rieschl seem to be living every little girl’s dream. However, building a successful modeling career is no easy task. Modeling requires lots of hard work, determination and great communication skills. Models must form thick skin and learn how to take criticism. “Modeling is a super competitive industry,” Wagstaff said, “you have to learn if you don’t get cast to not take it personally and move on.”

Rieschl decided to stop modeling in early 2022. “In modeling it is hard to be yourself, it brings instability as you never truly know if you will ever reach your goal,” Rieschl said. Models like Rieschl felt constant pressure of getting certain measurements and getting signed. “I really felt the pressure of trying to be perfect,” Rieschl said.

Vanesssa Wagstaff ’23 walks the runway at Omaha Fashion Week in 2022. She represented Develop Models Agency. Photo courtesy of Wagstaff .

Wagstaff continues to pursue her modeling career with hopes of one day making it to New York Fashion Week. Through her agency, Develop Models Agency, Wagstaff takes classes and attends boot camps in hopes of learning more about the industry. “Boot camps help teach and perfect all the little tricks and poses,” Wagstaff said.

Before each runway or shoot, Wagstaff takes time to learn the photographer’s mood boards. Mood boards provide models with references and inspiration.

They serve as a guide of what type of photos the photographer is hoping to capture. Both Wagstaff and Rieschl prepare mentally to avoid stage fright. “I try to talk myself up and gain confidence before a shoot,” Rieschl said.

Another way models continue to grow their careers networking. Networking is the goal of developing strong connections that usually result in more jobs and a successful career. “Networking plays a huge role in modeling,” Wagstaff said. How you act toward other models and people in the agency determines your reputation.

Networking assigns a reputation that determines one’s modeling skills. “The best models are kind, they have good integrity,” Wagstaff said.

Being a model isn’t about being the prettiest or most popular. “Good models are determined on how they treat people and the type of person they are,” Rieschl said. Though models put in lots of hard work, day
in and day out, the type of person they are is not something that can be learned through practice.

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