FINAL ADVICE for SL Models from a True Legend: Dea Mills (Modavia Founder)

*TY to Nave Fall for sharing this article with us*

April 19th,  2010

Late, last week I received the note below from Dea Mills, founder of Modavia and someone whose presence the fashion world of SL misses a great deal. At the request of Sweet Lilly, Dea had written a very, long article ( attached below ) about her experiences as a model in SL. After I was introduced to Dea by Kay Fairey, and Payton Heron, Dea gave me this document to include in the book I’m writing about modeling in SL, The SL Model’s Survival Manual, which is way, way overdue for a lot or reasons. Now as she departs SL she asked that I get her work distributed to all of you.

Regardless of what you may think of me this article is a must read for everyone involved in the SL modeling community. Models, trainers, agency owners, designers and photographers who work with models ……..all of us need to read, and learn from, Dea’s wise words. I read her article several times and it’s convinced me to change some personal things about how I approach my SLife,

I’m 100% convinced Dea’s writing will change how a lot of you think too.  That is Dea’s wish as she leaves her SLife behind. I hope you get as much out of what she wrote as I did.

Warm regards,

Nave Fall

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Dear Nave,

When I retired from Modavia, I didn’t delete my account, but left SL to give my free time to someone who needed me. I thought that someday I might be able to return and be involved in fashion again, but I’ve found that to be impossible.

Whenever I can over the next few days, I’ll drop in and finish up a couple of things, then I’ll delete my account. It’s been a hard decision, but keeping my account in SL has become senseless to me. I love people and doing projects, but my career in RL has become so busy that I have little time to contribute to anybody. or anything, so there’s no purpose for me anymore. Dropping by and dressing up only to have to leave in 15 minutes is simply too frustrating for me.

That said, I’m leaving you with the right to publish the article you asked of me. I don’t know where you’re at on your book, but if you’re not near completion, I ask that you use a blog or another way to make it available; it’s my last contribution to the fashion community and I’d like to know that maybe I helped in some way. I never thought I had all the answers and never desired to write that article, but Sweet Lilly convinced me it might help struggling models. I built Modavia to show the finest designers, photographers, and models in SL, but helping models has always been my love. Maybe this article can still help just one model in need.

If you choose to publish it, then please know that it appears that Sweet Lilly has left SL, and since I mention in the article that Sweet asked me to write the article, it may seem that I made her up in order to promote myself. I really don’t want people to think that, so maybe you can see if Kay Fairey would add a note at the beginning verifying Sweet Lilly’s prior existence? Kay knows that the article did come from me and that Sweet asked for it, because we were all in a group together, and Kay has a copy of the article.

I’d also like to state that many months after I retired, I returned to SL in a very limited way, and began hearing about, and seeing, models that were unprofessional and haughty. It seemed to me that many new modeling academies had sprung up and were pumping out an abundance of graduates, who had the advantage of SL’s, now maturing, modeling tools and somebody telling them how to do everything, but too many of the new graduates lacked the heart and proper attitude to, ultimately, succeed. It looked as if they took some classes and then suddenly had a model tag to wear and boast about. I don’t think this way of everyone and I, certainly, don’t blame the academies, but I do know that this situation wasn’t present before I retired from the modeling world in SL.

When I started modeling in SL, there was barely a reliable modeling HUD, and lots of runway walks needed to be done manually. There were few helpful tools for models, only a couple agencies and academies, and everybody was still figuring out how to make everything work. We had no choice but to experiment while developing our skills, and reputations, with never-ending practice, promotion, and personality. I was honored to try to advance the fashion industry with truly professional models like Poptart Lilliehook, Payton Heron, Mimmi Boa, HarMonica Aabye (now gone) Salvo Weydelich, Dita Tran, Barbarella Fuosing, Liane Maertens, Summer Deadlight, Elisne Allen (now gone) Feles Seitan, Risa Bright, Nicolai Shepherd, Precious Duvall, Mui Mukerji, Gamp Lane, Ost Clawtooth, Tabata Jewell, Wyntir Kidd, Keeley LeFavre, Giela Delpaso, Emily Carnell, Essie Redgrave, Alinee Jewell, Azu Cattaneo, Arora Larsson, and many, many others. Some have left SL. Some have retired from modeling. Yet, they were wonderful, hard-working, dedicated people and very dedicated models.

What grieves me is that I’ve heard some of the new, current generation of models speaking in a derogatory manner about these older models. The newer models have complained about the attitudes of older models and that the older models look down on the newer models. If that’s true, there is no excuse for it. The established models I’ve known, and there have been many, would never act in that way towards their colleagues. Many of them constantly go out of their way to help younger models. I’ve always championed new models, but I’d also like them to keep in mind that the maturing, polished modeling profession they now enjoy was pioneered and built by models like those I mentioned above.

My passion in Second Life was to help people experience the joy of modeling, who in RL, would never have that chance; I hope I accomplished that.  That said, I’m most grateful for the friends I made along the way, and it is them I will miss the most.

To all the models of Second Life, my hope is that they will achieve their goals, freely help one another, and…as we say – rock the runway!

Thank you for your help, Nave. I wish you all the best in your SLife.

Sincerely,

Dea Mills

Dea’s article follows. Feel free to distribute this but please acknowledge her authorship.

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I’ve written this, because Sweet Lilly asked if I would write something about my experience, the beliefs I have, and the values I hold. My first response was to say, no. I don’t think of myself as an extraordinary person, so the idea of writing some kind of document about myself to give to others seemed somewhat arrogant to me.

Sweet Lilly persisted until she managed to convince me that I may have a few things to say that could help somebody. That’s what changed my mind; the one thing I enjoy, more than anything else is helping people. Maybe I should have been a nurse. Anyway, on the basis of writing this because it could help somebody, I agreed.

I admit, I still feel somewhat awkward reporting on my beliefs and values, because why should anybody care about what I believe or my values? The only resolve I could manage is that my background in RL and SL may be a bit interesting for some, and maybe that would cause them to care how I view certain things, and then in some way, I may help them. I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out.

Sweet Lilly also encouraged me to talk about my RL experience, along with my SL, so while I was still hesitant about all this, I agreed. I mention that now, because some people don’t like it if you bring RL into SL, and I want you to understand why I bounce back and forth with examples from RL and SL.

I hope something here helps you.

Okay, so much for why I’ve written this and how it came to be.

Introduction

Three Observations

Before I mention my background I want to include three observations of SL that have helped guide me.

FIRST OBSERVATION

I’ve been in SL for 27 months. I realize that many have been here longer, but I know that I have at least been here long enough, and been involved with people, business, fashion, and society long enough, to know all you really have in Second Life is a cartoon and your reputation. Yes, we can decorate ourselves beautifully, but if we never say or do anything with others, then we are simply nothing but a pretty cartoon. The moment we begin involvement with others, our reputation begins. Again, I’ve been here long enough to know that your reputation is the most important thing you have.

SECOND OBSERVATION

SL is nothing more than a reflection of RL. I’ve listened to people argue about whether or not SL is a game. To me, it doesn’t matter. In every game, real or virtual, it’s a person playing or doing it. You may be able to become somebody else here as far as how you look, but given enough time and interaction with others, who you really are–your personality & character–will become evident to those around you. The real you will surface in the virtual you. Thus, your reputation will grow positive or negative.

THIRD OBSERVATION

It is as hard or harder to build anything of value in SL as it is in RL. Those who are not prepared to sacrifice in every way will never be successful here…or in RL.

MY BACKGROUND

I’ll mention a bit from my SL and RL to try to explain to you what Sweet Lilly has asked of me: my experience, beliefs, and values.
My beliefs and values are really what I have come to learn to be true and what I think works best (at least for me) in Second Life and Real Life. Some of this will also come out as what I hope for the future, as it applies to those who want to excel toward higher goals, rather than just showing up to dance or dress. I will also mention, to a great degree, my thoughts on models, modeling, and fashion, since that is really what I know best.

REAL LIFE
Please, please, don’t think I’m telling you my RL background, because I think I have it all going on or to brag. I’m telling you this, because it has everything to do with how my beliefs and values have been shaped. Actually, I run a risk by mentioning my background. I risk the possibility of people guessing my identity and that’s a problem for me. It’s a problem, because I have very little private life in RL, and I love SL, because I can come here and hide. I can play. I can have friends based on nothing other than we like one another, and you have no idea how much I enjoy and need that.

Okay, in RL, I’m a fashion model and have been since I was 15. I went pro at 16 and shortly thereafter was totally immersed in the world of fashion. I’ve shot and walked for designers whose names you would recognize if you follow fashion. I rep international brands and have walked the runways of the fashion capitals, done editorials, print ads, campaigns, television, catalog, events, etc., etc. All of that has taught me some very meaningful things that have helped me both in RL and SL.

Let me start out with a little of before I became a model. When I was a pre-teen, I was skinny and much taller than my classmates. I was laughed at and picked on because of my build. On top of that, I was a tomboy. I wasn’t afraid to climb trees, get dirty, pick up snakes in the wild, and while it hurt me when boys called me names, I wasn’t afraid of them. In fact, I would pick fights with them and win! The funny thing is when I became a teen and suddenly began looking more womanly, those same boys started coming around and it wasn’t to fight me either! Anyway, that fighter instinct has always been in me and I’m grateful, because to succeed in fashion, you need it. BTW, I now box to stay in shape!

When I was picked up by my first agency, I was given time with a modeling coach. When I met her, the first thing I noticed was she had the most intense eyes and they were piercing right through me. It was almost scary. She didn’t say hello or introduce herself. Instead, she took my hands in hers, looked at me and with a confident, serious tone, said, “Giving up is not an option. Failure is not an option. Never let me hear you say you’re too tired to walk the runway. Never forget what I just told you.” Then we sat down and she said, “80% of all women surveyed, admitted that at one time or another, they wanted to be a fashion model. Of all the girls who make it into modeling, over 90% will fail. They won’t fail because they don’t have the look, build or style. They’ll fail because they simply give up. Never let me hear that you’ve quit. I’ll find you, yank you out of your chair, and kick your butt back up on the catwalk!” Then she introduced herself, and I’ve never forgotten what she said. I’ve also watched her words become true; most models give up.

In RL, I’m actually pretty young. Not young for fashion considering most pro models start sometimes as early as 13 and many at 15 or 16, but young in terms of just life. In SL, I flat out lied about my age. I’m sorry that I lied, because I hate lying, but I did it because I didn’t think anybody would put any faith in somebody as young as me. I didn’t think they would listen to anything I had to say about fashion, modeling, business, or want to be involved in my ideas here. Yet, I have to tell you this. When you’re really just a kid and thrown into the adult and brutal business of fashion, you learn to grow up fast. That is if you want to survive, and it’s very, very hard.

You learn to have the skin of an alligator, because you’re going to be judged and rejected constantly, sometimes many times a day. It’s not uncommon to do 10 go-sees in a day. Go-sees are when a model is sent by their agency to go see a designer, photographer…a biz rep of some kind, about possible work. You may not get picked up by any of them. Essentially, 10 people just rejected you. Most of the time you have no idea why. That’s hard on an adult, but it’s even harder on a young girl.

I’m not going to drag you through all kinds of details now about that stuff, but I mention it so you have a point of reference when I say that I’ve learned that to survive you must have the skin of an alligator–tough. You need to be a fighter. You need to be like Rocky–you keep getting hit, but you keep getting up. You need to have the skin of an alligator first to be able to withstand constant criticism and rejection, and then later, once you succeed, you need alligator skin to put up with the people who seek to take advantage of you.

Yet, if you want to be somebody others want to be around, and you want to do more than just survive, if you want to flourish, I’ve learned that while you need the hard skin of an alligator, you also need to have a soft heart. You need the heart of a loving mother. I mean you have to think about and help others the way an unselfish mother does with her children. I’ve found that loving people brings love back to you, and there’s just no substitute for that.

I work in an industry with some wonderful people, but also many egotistical, arrogant, and rude people. I see the effect it has on people who are not that way. Love overcomes those things. It creates in you WHO you are and that is the key. I’ve seen so many promising models enter fashion, but they disappear, because their motivation was wrong or they just gave up. I’ve told models in RL and SL, if you do it for money or fame, you stand a great chance of failing. If you do it, because you love it, and you learn to find something good in every person…something you can love about them…you stand a greater chance of success.

SECOND LIFE

In SL, I’ve been a fashion model, and the founder and CEO of Modavia, the Modavia Fashion Directory, the Modavia Designer’s Wardrobe Giveaway, and the Modavia Supermodels. I am retired from Modavia now, and I have become the creator and owner of Sashay – The Art of Fashion. Sashay is a fashion art gallery that presents my RL hobby. I digitally paint fashion scenes or manipulate photos of RL shoots and shows for which I own the rights. It’s therapy for me and I love doing it. I also create a bit of high fashion jewelry. Other than that, I seem to attract young models who are looking for help and encouragement. I help them as best as I am able. Most of them have the look. Most are willing to work. What I try to give them is what I’m trying to give you, encouragement. Fashion will suck the life out of you if you’re not careful and it’s easy to become discouraged, so a little encouragement goes a long way.

When I started Modavia, I didn’t think Second Life needed another model agency. I wanted to do something that would showcase the top models, designers, and photographers in SL. They were the people who were working the hardest, but in my opinion, not receiving the credit due. All the publications were somewhat typical of supermarket mags. I wanted to create a high fashion coffee table book.

The anniversary edition of Vogue had around 500 pages, weighed nearly five pounds, cost around $5 U.S., and was something like 87% ads. Of course those ads were high class and gorgeous. That told me one thing; women are willing to spend money to look at mostly ads. I’d been doing it for years, but I hadn’t put it that way to myself before. Because of my career, I know a lot of people in advertising, so without telling them what I was thinking of doing, I asked them about my observation. They all said I was right.

That is how the Modavia Fashion Directory (MFD) came into being. I decided that I would create a group of the hottest models and only they would have the privilege of shooting for the directory. The result was a hit publication. There was (and still is) very little editorial. It was (and still is) nothing but fantastic models showing fantastic garments shot by fantastic photographers. The last I heard, the MFD has over 11,000 subscribers. What I didn’t count on is what happened to me.

In building that team of top models known as The Modavia Supermodels, they became dear to me. I’d spend hours talking with each of them and they’d tell me about their personal lives…I cried a lot of tears then. I consider myself greatly blessed. I have problems like everybody else, but my problems were nothing compared to some of those girls.

What I then learned, that none of my staff, models, instructors or stylists knew, was that some of my models were actually cancer patients, some were suffering with other illnesses, some were abused wives, some were girls who were never attractive in RL and nobody had ever taken interest in them. My goal of just producing the MFD began to change. I knew I could never do much of anything for their real lives, but I wanted to do something that could help them escape for a short while. I wanted them to feel pretty and special…even if it was only in a virtual world.

I was determined that my new goal would be, that one day, they would turn on their television and see Oprah with a big screen TV showing the Modavia Supermodels in SL; I almost got them there. Unfortunately, for that goal, my RL bookings doubled and I had a loved one who got cancer. I decided I’d have to leave Modavia to help my loved one…there just wasn’t time enough for all of it.

I enjoyed, more than anything, the one-on-one talks I’d have with those models…trying to encourage them…just being a friend to them that they could trust. Even now, some still call me. I can no longer offer them a career in modeling, but we don’t even talk about modeling or fashion. I ask how their sickly mother is and how they’re doing. We talk about their children. I think that it’s fair to say that as much as it is possible in a virtual world, I love them.

It was another revelation to me that SL can be a place where you can help people. It may seem smaller than in RL, but what is the value of a kind word? I’ll never forget months after I retired, one of the Modavia Supermodels called me. She was the kind of person I thought of when I thought of a Modavia Supermodel. She was kind, hard working, professional, wonderful inside and out. Yet, she was always a somewhat private and quiet person, so we never spoke a great deal. She called me that day to tell me how much it meant to her when I announced that she would become the next Modavia Supermodel. She told me she had been a cancer patient, lost her hair, her looks, her husband, and as silly as it may seem, when I gave her the title, it brought her joy. That joy gave her something to look forward to in some very dark moments…I have tears in my eyes now as I think of her and that conversation.

I encourage you to never doubt the power of kindness…even in a self-centered virtual world.

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Thoughts for Models (but I think maybe helpful for others too!)

Before I say anything else, let me explain that I don’t intend to talk about walks, poses, AO’s, and general modeling techniques, etc. This isn’t modeling school. Also, I’m assuming you have or will be properly trained by a modeling instructor who has actually been a working veteran model in SL. If not, do it. I’m also assuming you’ve assembled the necessary wardrobe and at least a great look.

My hope is to not so much discuss with you what you wear, how you shoot and walk, but more of what you think. So many people mistake modeling as being a pretty thing wearing a pretty thing with not a lot of brains–that is both a fallacy and foolish. Modeling is a mind game. I want to talk about what’s in your heart and head, and how it relates to modeling.

I’ve had some people say, “Dea, honestly you take this modeling all too seriously, this is SL…cartoons, a game.” To them I would say, “You’re right…well…on the surface, however beneath that surface is a real, breathing girl who desires to be a fashion model. While she may appear as a pretty cartoon here, her desire is very real–why not help her be the best she can be?

Furthermore, isn’t SL about dreams and fantasies? You just read that my first coach told me that 80% of all girls at one time or another wished they could be a model. Here they can be what they desire. I’ve also been asked what then is my dream? For the most part, my dream has been to help that girl achieve her dream to be a top fashion model.

In RL modeling, it is expected that you will have the looks and build.  What is hoped for is that you will have the necessary personality and confidence — that’s where many models fail. Of course you must have beauty, but ask the icons of fashion, the top photographers, top designers, top agencies, top models, ask them what is the most desirous thing in a model and the answer will be — personality and confidence.

Doutzen Kroes is one of the busiest, and highest paid, models in the world. She did that in a relatively short time. I think she is a very rare model, because she easily passes from one style and genre to another and then appears as a queen of that style, rivaling the existing favorites in that style. That said, I am in no way taking anything away from Doutzen, but notice her thighs. Doutzen is heavier in the thighs than most models of her stature. She is also just a bit fuller, yet, she’s enormously successful. Yes, she has the looks and definitely knows what to do in front of the camera and on the catwalk, but so do a thousand other models. What then really defines Doutzen? First, it’s her personality. She has a reputation for always being sweet and an absolute dream to work with. Don’t tell me that having that same kind of sweet personality doesn’t apply in SL. Second, is Doutzen’s confidence; just watch her on the runway–powerful.

In SL, you’re forced to use the walks and poses that are available, but you’re not forced to have the confidence and personality. You can’t show the confidence in your walk in SL, but you can in what you say, how you act…how you treat people. You should never be cocky or arrogant, but be confident.

Victoria’s Secret (VS) Angels are the top models for VS. The Angels shoot the catalog nearly exclusively, do the annual televised show, do store openings, PR appearances, TV commercials, etc. When Selita Ebanks was still a Victoria’s Secret Angel, one of the cute, but actually smart things she’d do before she hit the catwalk was to tell herself she’s an Angel. She’d do that to remind herself of what she achieved and it boosted her confidence. That’s important, because let me tell you something, no matter who you are, your nerves are rattling before you take the runway…especially for VS, because it’s the most desired contract in the world for every model, and top celebs and industry people are in the audience–you really, really don’t want to blow it!

When you’re starting out in modeling, you need to keep something in mind, because you’re sort of like what happens with a newer, upcoming model in RL. You’ve done some shows, editorials, ads, etc. All of that is necessary to gain your skills, confidence, and to make connections, but you’re still not on the main board. The main board in an agency is a rack of headshots/comp cards of the girls that the agency has determined have made it through or are getting done with “development” and are now serious professionals. These girls will get looked at much more closely.

You’re sort of like what happens when your agency sends you on your first fashion week. You really don’t know many people and they don’t know you. Most of the shows are filled with established models, a few positions are open for new models, and a zillion models are competing for any of those positions. You can be in your first casting at 6 a.m. and then castings all day till night and maybe you only get two shows and they’re not the biggest names. It doesn’t matter, you do them like they were Dior. You walk fierce. You’re freaking exhausted and you’re scared out of your mind. Your legs tremble, but you do it, because — and this is that one thing you MUST remember — you ARE a model. You’re not TRYING to be a model.

You keep that in your mind and you keep coming back. You’re gonna’ get your face in front of anybody and everybody. The sooner you stop trying to be a model and hoping to be a model, and you start saying to yourself and believing you ARE a model, the sooner you’ll gain that certain “it” quality that all pros have.

Professionals never quit. They have the confidence, personality, and hard work ethic that gets them to the top and keeps them there.

Here’s your checklist:

* Personality – great to be around, friendly, kind.
* Work Ethic – hard working, professional, reliable, dependable.
* Confidence – not cocky or arrogant, but sure of your abilities.
* Presentation – GREAT, unique features and GREAT unique styling
* Skills – mastery of catwalk/shoots – use different, unusual walks/poses

and

NEVER GIVE UP.

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If a model works as a receptionist in a company and on the weekends they do a little modeling, they don’t say: “I’m a receptionist and I model part time on weekends.” They say, “I’m a professional fashion model and I help out as a receptionist.” In their mind, they are not still trying to make it as a model; they already have. Now, it’s just a matter of climbing higher to become a top model.

What I’m saying to you is if you want to be a top model, start thinking, talking, and acting like one…eventually the rest of the world will catch up with you.

Anybody can be a top model in SL assuming first they have been trained, they’ve created a great look, and have a great personality, then all they need to do is just work harder than everybody else. Also, modeling is not only what happens on the runway, but so much of the time what happens off the runway at after parties, rehearsals, emails, cocktail parties, calls, etc. Top models take advantage of every moment.

A top model walks into every situation and thinks about how they can promote themselves. When they’re out and about, they’re working it. Even if they go shopping, they are ever conscious of their image. This is serious business and it’s a business loaded with competition. You have to constantly seek to build meaningful relationships.

The point of after parties in SL and RL is not to simply unwind and have fun following the nerve-wrenching stress accumulated during a high profile fashion show. The point is networking. I think the term, “networking” has been so heavily used in past years that it may just “bounce” off our ears now, so let me restate it.

Networking is finding a way to relate to the right people and then promoting yourself, but don’t read that as walking up to somebody and handing them your portfolio. It’s about forming a relationship and earning the right to give them your portfolio. Better yet, it’s about making them want or even ask for your portfolio. It’s about you learning to sell yourself, and you’re going to have to do that or your career is over.

You have to see yourself as a product…better yet, a brand. You must be a desirable and reliable brand that will cause people to trust you with their precious designs and time, and so much so, that they are willing to part with their money to make sure they get you. There’s a reason that in RL, the same models are requested over and over again by the top design houses and brands — those models are worth it, period.

Thus, it is no coincidence or conspiracy that the top models in SL and RL are chosen over and over again. The reason for this is not just that they are pretty. It’s because they’re bankable. Any designer, producer, or photographer who hires them knows they will be on time, do the job with perfection, and be easy with which to work — no hassles or unforeseen issues, no drama. What they are buying is a comfort level, and assurance, better yet, insurance. Insurance that the final show or shoot will come off with excellence. Of course, when that happens, the final result is greater sales.

Now, let me take a moment to tell you what a fashion model is…a gorgeous influencer of the market. We exist for one purpose–to sell garments, to sell brands. We don’t put on shows just to show off. If sales don’t rise, designers stop designing, and you stop working. We’re in this together and we need one another.

Do you know that every single photo in the Victoria’s Secret (VS) catalog is managed in a computer and the sales associated with that photo are watched. The models in those photos are then either advanced (given more space) or demoted based on the sales associated with their shoots. In essence, VS is the brand, but the model is the asset marketing the product of the brand. Any model that can consistently sell product well is going to get more space in the catalog. Why do you think Alessandra Ambrosio has so much space? Yep! She sells like mad.

This is so true, that there are a handful of models in the world that guarantee with their photo on the cover of a magazine, the magazine’s sales will escalate the month the model appears. Gisele is one of those models. In fact, she’s the top. Anna Wintour knows that if Gisele is on the cover, Vogue will probably sell out in short order. Gisele is not the highest earning model in the world, because she has a smokin’ body and can command a catwalk, it’s because she has the power to move the market. She’s also a brilliant businesswoman who understands the real value of PR.

What can you learn from Gisele?

1) be a smokin’ model, of course
2) understand you’re here to market the products of a brand
3) be a good businesswoman
4) understand and use PR (public relations…promotion)

PR is our next subject.

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What It Takes To Promote Yourself As A Model

Let’s talk about what it takes to promote yourself. I call it, PR.

In regard to PR, let me put to you three questions:

1) Who decides who the next supermodel will be? Answer that.

2) Why is the next supermodel the next supermodel, and not an equally talented and perhaps just as beautiful and experienced, other model? Answer that.

3) Assuming looks and talent are the same, why does one top model earn $10,000 in an hour, yet the other equal model earn $500? Answer that.

Here are the correct answers:

Answer 1) Who decides who the next supermodel will be is ultimately the media.

Answer 2) The next supermodel is the next supermodel, because she has a better PR machine that influences the media. Of course, a supermodel is expected to be the epitome of beauty, grace, poise, talent, etc., but the truth is, many models are that. It’s effective PR that actually creates the supermodel image. It’s in everybody’s best interest to create a new supermodel–she’ll generate zillions of dollars for her agents, lawyers, accountants, designers, photographers, and all the way down to the local dress shop.

Answer 3) The model who earns $10,000 in an hour does so, because the demand for her is greater, and the demand for her is greater, because the demand for her has been carefully planned and created over time; she didn’t just get lucky.

Thus, you must create a demand in people for not just a model, but for YOU! To do that, you have to first get their attention. That’s not only hard, but with the addition of every new model, especially a savvy model, it gets even harder for you to get attention. To get attention, you have to stand out from the rest. To stand out from the rest, you have to specifically decide to stand out from the rest, because you won’t do so automatically. To make yourself stand out, you must do things that cause you to stand out. Let’s talk about it.

To explain to you what I mean, you’ll have to endure a lengthy letter now, but I think you will have a better idea of how and why this stuff works after you read it.

If ever in the past you applied to Modavia, you would have received the following letter from me with your application. Though I no longer head Modavia, I believe these ideas are timeless and “good medicine” for any model to be.

Dear prospective Modavia model:

I want you to remember this: pretty and handsome mean nothing. They mean nothing, because beauty is easy in SL. Anybody with some money, time, and determination can become beautiful. Gorgeous aspiring models are a dime a dozen. So how do you know if you’re a candidate for becoming a fashion model? Let me suggest a quick checklist followed by further explanation.

If you don’t have an insatiable appetite for amazing fashion, don’t enter modeling.
If you don’t have the willingness to accept constructive criticism, don’t enter modeling.
If you don’t have the ability to continue trying after being rejected…many times, don’t enter modeling.
If you don’t have an unending ethic of hard work, don’t enter modeling.
If you do have the single purpose of achieving fame, don’t enter modeling.
If you do have the single purpose of making a lot of money, don’t enter modeling.

If I haven’t scared you off yet, then let me explain why I’ve said the things I have in that little checklist.

I believe that this is true in RL and SL fashion modeling; if I can scare you off, then you were never meant to be a model. Professional models may become frightened and lack confidence at times, but they don’t scare off, period. Professional models did not become so, because they were simply pretty. They are professionals, because they have persisted even though they became timid at times, and painfully aware of the enormous cost in time, money, hard work, rejection, and patience. Simply put, they are not quitters. They couldn’t be scared off, because they love what they do and they just won’t stop. I hope that’s you.

Still here? Great! Let’s take a look at what I believe to be the basic ingredients for entry into Fashion Modeling.

You are expected to be stunning in appearance, able to take direction, charming, graceful, gracious, kind, courteous, and talented; you better be, because models are supposed to be just that–everybody’s dream of the “model” woman or man. Modeling is not just about good looks and the proper measurements on which to hang clothes.

Models ought to have a “core” of goodness that people want to be around; they’re people magnets and not just by physical beauty. Even Sharen Turney, CEO of Victoria’s Secret, the leading mass market line of lingerie, has said that even though Victoria’s Secret is best known for marketing sexy under things, and displaying them on some of the hottest models in the world during the brand’s annual televised fashion show watched by millions, the selection of Angels (top VS models) is not done by just body and skill, but for what’s inside, i.e. personality, charm, poise, confidence, etc.

You can be shy and be a model. You can be quiet and be a model. You can’t be unlikeable and expect to succeed. I’m talking about personality and you better have loads of it. We’ll discuss that more fully later.

It seems almost humorous to me to mention the following, but experience has taught me it is necessary. It is possible to have a pretty face, catwalk & shoot skill, good personality, and style, but be hampered by unacceptable dimensions. Here’s a few do’s and don’ts :

1) No big booties; you may feel it’s cool or representative of how women really are, and that’s fine, but the fashion world doesn’t care, so if you want to work, lose the booty.

2) The fashion world in RL, and in SL, is not ready for short models. In RL, Kate Moss completely caused huge battles, because Kate is 5′ 7″. The minimum requirement for high fashion runway has been 5′ 9″ and sometimes 5′ 8″. Because of a lot of unseen factors, Kate made it in, but she’s rare. Again, you may feel short is cool, but I assure you, fashion loves tall.

3) I’m aware of clothing and products for large men and women, but we’re not talking about retail products, we’re talking about Fashion Modeling, so like it or not, agree with it or not — if you’re overweight, chunky, plus size — Fashion Modeling hates you. Don’t get mad at me, I’m just telling you the truth. Yes, I’m always aware of the ongoing debates and pleas for female fashion models to become more “normal” or “healthy” sized, and there’s a small rising trend to that, but the norm is still tall, thin, and with smaller breasts. I suggest you do the same.

4) Make sure your clothing, hair, jewelry, shoes, and accessories fit correctly and look appealing. In RL, a model never walks onto the runway or in front of the camera without everything being checked, adjusted, and perfected. She’s rushing backstage, but she’s stealing every glance she can to check herself, and most of the time has what’s called a “Dresser.” That’s somebody who has as their sole task, to help the model in and out of outfits and check them over to make sure everything is proper. In SL, you don’t have Dressers; you have to be your own. Consequently and unfortunately, I see too many aspiring models who get in front of the camera and their hair is poking through their ear, or their necklace is lopsided and part of it is buried in their neck, or their hands are too big, or they’re using free or cheap “lifeless” eyes, etc. All of that may be missed by the fashionistas at a show where odds are the lag will cause you to sometimes appear gray, or since you’re moving, it’s harder for them to spot imperfections. In a photo shoot, it ALL shows, and it says just one thing — amateur. Don’t do it. I suggest you get demos and try them on in bright lights or in one of the free photo studios around SL. Look at yourself on a close-up; watch for bad seams, jagged edges, poor detail, etc.

Okay, those are the BASIC do’s and don’ts, and what is expected as a minimum to enter the world of Fashion Modeling. If you disagree, then you need to enter the world of Commercial Modeling where anything goes, however SL has little to none.

If you’re still with me, then the next few things are what can cause a model to stand apart from the rest and thereby garner close attention, which can lead to success in RL, and SL.

If you ever notice the top RL fashion models up close, you’ll see that quite a few are not what most would consider to be total drop-dead gorgeous knock-outs. In fact, certain models are even un-attractive to some people. What these models are is UNIQUE. They have some feature that sets them apart from others. It could be one eyebrow is curved more and higher than the other; or one eye is not formed like the other; or their nose is crooked, etc.  That factor is critical, and it’s one of the things that spawned the fat, pouty lip look of some years ago. It happened, because it was easy for women to do, simple lip injections, painful, yes (I did it–ouch!) but it quickly gave you a different look that was unique, because not many girls had those big pouty lips. The problem was, everybody did it, and it was no longer unique.

My point is that in SL, it’s possible, and I maintain, essential, to create a unique look. And I believe it will be even more important in the future, because of this fact:  Two years ago, there were one million people in SL. Last year there were 10 million, and this year there’s over 16 million people in SL. That means lots more competition ladies and gentleman. And for those of you who think, yeah well it takes a long time for them to find good clothes, skins, etc. — WRONG. I’ve personally met some new, aspiring models only a couple months old that are going to be strong competition, so be UNIQUE!

Unique can be anything. Not that I think I’m all that, but let me tell you a few things I did when I got serious about modeling and knew I needed to differentiate myself from the gazillion “cookie cutter” models I was seeing. Doing these simple unique features and applying PR, I was able to attract more serious attention in 30 days, than models that have been here since 2004. I’ll tell you about that after we talk about the unique features I created.

1) The mole. Moles are way more common now then when I first created one. Only a few ladies had them, and thus, it added some unique quality to my facial structure. Consider this: close your eyes and think Cindy Crawford. What comes into your mind? Uh-huh. Point made. When Cindy was trying to enter fashion, she was told by many pros that she would have to remove the mole if she wanted to model professionally. They were dead wrong. If Cindy would have done that, she would have looked like a million other, just as pretty, professional models. She would have gotten lost in the mix.

2) The eye. Not as obvious as the mole, but at various angles, you could see that my left eye was slightly smaller than my right eye. I think models are afraid of imperfection in SL, but the truth is, perfection is boring to the human eye. It’s imperfections that make us the most unique and interesting, and thus–memorable.

3) The hair. I would often use hair that most other models would not use, as well as color. I did it for one reason; if you follow the crowd, you’ll get lost in the crowd. Most models were (and still are) blond. After that is brunette. Then comes black. I went red. Nobody was a redhead then. I did it solely to differentiate myself from the pack. It worked too, because I actually had people say that when I walked into a room, they knew Dea arrived before they saw anything else, because my unusually styled, flaming red hair stood out. That’s the other thing, even if a model copied my hair color, which began to happen, they’d have a hard time capturing my particular hair style, because I never wore “off the shelf” hair. Instead, I’d spend hours editing hair so that it looked different from the store version. The moral is don’t be afraid to be different. You’ll have to endure snide remarks from snotty, jealous, gossip-filled, little-minded models, but who cares what they think? Care what you think and what designers think. And by the way, designers are creative people. They love different, unique, unusual, even weird. So the overall goal is not to just be pleasing to the eye, but to be different or UNIQUE from others. That’s harder to do than it sounds.

By now you may be saying, “Well great, but that’s a lot to do and how do I know it works?” Good question, and here’s my reply:

I’ve been in SL since May, 2007. I did other things before deciding to see how successful I could be as a model. As I’ve already stated, I’m a fashion model in RL and one of the reasons I told you that is so you would understand that when I started looking at the SL fashion world, I was comparing it to the RL fashion world. What I found was that SL wasn’t very close. I found quite an alarming rate of unattractive and even ugly models. I found many very similar, nearly identical models. I found oodles of Barbie types. I found many who were nothing but copycats of others. All of that bothered me and it also made me want to see how possible it was for a nobody newcomer to rapidly climb the ladder in the SL fashion world. Here’s what I did:

I re-created myself using some of the tactics I’ve already described, then I applied all that I know about PR (public relations) and promotions. Because of what I do, the people I’m exposed to, and the friends I have, I’ve gained a lot of RL experience along those lines, and believe me, as a model, whether it’s RL or SL, you had better never be ignorant or forget how incredibly important PR is.

Okay, I re-created my features to appear unique, I dressed unique–I never settled for off-the-rack outfits, but spent hours doing mix and match to create unique looks. Then I added PR tactics, and this is what happened in 30 days:

1) I don’t want to mention her name in writing, because I don’t know if I have that liberty, but I will do so in private if you ask. I can tell you this: at that time, she was the most powerful, successful, and influential fashion agency head in SL. You’d generally have to jump through hoops and go through her very extensive schooling to even be considered to model for her. Within one day of casually running into her, she offered modeling to me. I didn’t ask her for it. She also offered me her Director of Marketing position.

2) A hot and growing designer (again, I will tell you the name in private) offered modeling to me, and again, I didn’t ask for it. She also asked me to be her Fashion Manager.

3) When I was a student at a well-known modeling school and agency, an upcoming model asked the agency head about what trends to follow. The head pointed to me and said, “Don’t follow trends. When I look at Dea, I see a model that is unique and not like the other 10,000 models out there, because she’s created her own style, and that’s what I and other agency owners look for, somebody that has their own style.”

4) I was personally requested (not group invited) by the publisher of a new fashion magazine, to be present at the press conference for the launch of the magazine.

5) I became quick friends with a number of top models

6) I was asked by an agency to do runway for high profile fashion shows

7) Out of over thirty wonderful models, I was the only model asked by an agency to sign an exclusive contract

8) I was personally invited (not group invited) to EFA Fashion Week. EFA was the only agency at that time who did a fashion week.

9) This is a quote about me from an inside person at a leading agency: “Awesome presentation!…way beyond what I’ve seen most models ever do…”

10) I was featured in Essensual magazine (no longer in publication) in an article entitled, “5 VIP’s in Second Life”

All of that in 30 days about a little nobody girl no one had ever heard of. That’s the power of making your appearance unique, and applying PR. After that, after you’ve gained attention, it’s all about personality, character, and caring about people that keeps the attention.

Remember, it’s your looks that first attract and your spirit or attitude that keep attracting. You need to have a great attitude. Respect people even if you don’t like them. Believe me, fashion needs people who are beautiful on the outside, but desperately needs people who are beautiful on the inside. Be available. Be helpful. Be kind. Be generous. Be hard-working and people-caring. Love people first and fashion second – that’s true beauty.

Your friend in fashion,
Dea Mills

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SOME PRACTICAL STEPS
First, as I’ve already said, you should take any and all work you can, but now add to that, make the work “work” for you. Here’s what I mean….

Get testimonials from every important, or noteworthy, person you can–ALWAYS.
For example, when you study with a modeling instructor, ask them to write a sentence or two about their impression of you.

When you do a show, ask the designer for the same kind of testimony, i.e., “[YOUR NAME] is one of the best models I’ve seen on the catwalk this year.” – Sissy Pessoa”  Do this with everybody you can.

Put those testimonials in your profile and portfolio.

Do whatever you can to get some editorial work. Come up with an interesting angle on fashion, modeling, etc., but get a story about you in a fashion magazine…even if you pay for it. This is an image business. It’s about face time. It’s about your name showing up everywhere. You are CREATING your image. The point here is not so much what the article is as it is simply that somebody did a story about you. Thus, you can mention it in your profile and portfolio: EDITORIALS – Featured Model Expose, Runway Magazine, February, 2009, etc. What you want to get across is that OTHER people are talking about how great you are, so create ways to get other people to talk about you, then quote them!

You can begin a letter to an agency head or top designer or top photog with some quotes from others about you; this immediately gets attention and sets you apart from the majority of the models and how they approach people for work.

On every shoot or show you do, make a list of every single thing you’ve worn, including skin, hair, nails, accessories, etc. Let’s say you’ve just done an ad for a dress from Ziamela Loon, but you accessorized with a handbag from Leezu Baxter, shoes from Melanie Zhao, Jewelry from JD Hansen, hair from…etc., etc. Of course you will thank Ziamela, but when you get your copy of the ad, immediately send a copy of it, along with a brief thank you note to Leezu, Melanie, JD, and every designer represented in your total outfit.

EXAMPLE  title of the note: “Melanie – You’re in the Ad – Thank you! (she’ll open it with that title) Body of the note: “Hi Melanie, I want to thank you for your fabulous brown leather Asta boots! As you can see in the ad I’ve sent, I wore them and they were perfect! Thanks again, Melanie.”

Every designer will love you for that and you’ve made an impression on them…better chance they’ll remember you. Also keep copies of all that. Then some day in the future, if you decide to approach a designer directly for work, you have a much better chance.

Agency heads and designers are always busy, but something you can try is to write a brief testimony yourself, then send it to them and tell them you realize they are busy and don’t want to bother them, so to save them time, you’ve written something yourself, and if it sounds close to something they would write, could they either just change a few words or could you use it as it is and sign their name.

I could spend a day and write 30 ways to promote yourself, but then everybody would do the exact same things and in a little while, people will begin to hate you, because they’re getting hit with all these models saying and doing the exact same thing. It’s far better for you to spend a day and come up with creative ways to promote yourself.

The point is, you’ve spent money and time on training. You’ve spent money and time putting together looks. That’s where the majority of models stop and it’s WHY they’re over already. You just need to add to that this: spend equal or greater time on promoting yourself as you have on training and styling.

=======================================================================

What It Takes To Work With Difficult People

I’ve had a number of models mention to me their problems working with difficult others, so let’s talk about that for a few minutes.

Yes, some models can be mean, two-faced, arrogant, and rude. Yes, some are this way in RL too. Generally, they act this way, really because they are very insecure and immature–ignore it.

If you’re able to help them be a better person, do it. If they don’t want to be a better person, move on.

This is why at Modavia I constantly said to the models:
1) don’t ever let me catch you being ugly to somebody–absolutely NO arrogance, and
2) people first – fashion second.

I could tell you horror stories of what I’ve had to put up with and still do with some people, however that wouldn’t help you, so here’s what to remember: true professionals–real models are confident in their look & skills–they don’t need to make others feel inferior in order for them to feel better about themselves.

Professionals don’t become caught up with arrogant, mean, rude, selfish, drama queen types. Professionals don’t give their energy to drama queens. They give their energy to being a professional. They spend energy on being confident and having the personality that makes people want to work with them…you do the same.

One of the first supermodels, Gia, could have had the world, but due to drugs, and her difficult personality, she ended up being despised and nobody wanted to work with her. She was unreliable, inconsistent, hard to work with, and could be mean. Don’t ever let that be you.

Just let slip off of you the behavior of difficult people. Stay focused. Never return anger, meanness, arrogance, and rudeness with anger, meanness, arrogance, and rudeness. Instead, show kindness, patience, peace, compassion, and joy. Be a lady. Be a pro. Be a true model, not just a walking clothes hanger, but a “model” woman–one that every girl aspires to be. The world will come to you.

=======================================================================

Last Thoughts…

Things I Try To Remember

1) To sum all this up I say again, in SL, all you have is a cartoon and your reputation. Your reputation is built by what you say and even more by how you treat people. I’ve watched people come here with a lot of money and build empires. Then, one person at a time, they dismantle whatever seemingly good reputation they have had by hurting people to further their own careers or image. They use people. I’ve seen the same thing in RL over and over again.

Your reputation will determine the value of influence you have with people. If you want to have a good reputation and you want to have influence that people will want you to have in their lives, then be a good person in RL…then bring that goodness here…one person at a time.

2) The more successful and in demand you become, the more you will have those who want to tear you down. They are simply jealous and they get a sick temporary feeling of importance by saying and doing things that are harmful to you — ignore them.

3) Most people will only be interested in what it is that you can do for them. I suggest we catch them off guard and treat them with respect and kindness.

4) For prospective models, new models, and even veterans: assuming everything is proper…you have the look, willingness to work hard, you’re not a quitter, and you have a great personality, then the most critical characteristic is confidence.

5) Modeling is more about who you are than how you look. Yes, you must have the look, because this is an image business. It’s important also to remember that the only reason models exist is to sell brands, nothing more. Models forget that and start thinking it’s all about them and their looks. If they’re not careful, the “who” they are is lost…or never really found. With that, let me end by telling you a true story about “who” you are.

Some time ago, I was practicing a walk and pose combination for an important upcoming show. I wanted it special for this designer. You don’t always have time for practicing like that for a show, but this one I did, and I was working very hard on it.

At the same time, there were two models who for some reason, seemed to hate me. They were saying and trying to do things that would hurt me. I had been very overtired and I began to let them bother me too much.

I asked a former modeling coach who knew me well, and I knew would not B.S. me, to come and watch my walk and tell me their opinion. This coach has a reputation for insisting a model brings everything they have to bear on their presentation. They won’t accept a half-way, just okay presentation.

I started my walk and before I reached my mark and pose, he pulled me off the catwalk. I was stunned. He asked me what was wrong with me, and I didn’t know what to say. I thought he meant that I was sick or something. He said he could immediately tell that my confidence was lacking and he didn’t see the uniqueness of my personality coming through that he knew.

I had to think about it, but the only thing I could answer was that there were these two models who were trying to hurt me. Maybe it was bothering me more than I thought. Maybe it was showing in my work.

I’ll never forget what he said to me, and I made sure I wouldn’t forget, because I later wrote it down in my diary and I keep it on my laptop. This is what he said:

“Now you listen to me. You didn’t get your success just because you’re one of the fiercest models on the catwalk. And you didn’t get it, just because you shoot like a damn goddess. You got to WHERE you are, because of WHO you are.”

I cried. And he was right. I say the same to you. Be beautiful outside…be more beautiful inside.

Please let me know if there’s something I can do to help you.

Rock that runway……………

Dea Mills

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13 Comments

  1. Pingback: This Model Life: Old Me, New Me | This Second Life

  2. I knew Dea long before she started Modavia. The RL info she gave here is vastly different than the RL info she discussed with me. I won’t divulge it, but needless to say, you can’t believe everything you read, no matter who posts it. Dea is nice, but flighty. I was dumped rather unceremoniously by her for reasons that she and I are well aware of. Why am I saying this? Because everyone seems to look up to Dea as some sort of semi-SL-deity, and I’m here to say that she’s not someone who should be venerated or looked up to.

  3. Hi Bea , I was really interested in all the things you had to say.You answered my fist question how in the world will I be noticed between all these beautiful girls in sl ? . To accomplish being notice alone is what had me a little nervous. Now with all your great tips, and all that time you took to help others to try and accomplish there dreams I want to thank you . I know I will struggle ,but I have faith in myself. You are awesomeeeee…….

  4. WOW…I knew this was going to be a long read. What I didn’t expect was to become so enthralled in it that I actually didn’t want it to end. Dea Mills has always only been a familiar name to me since I began modeling not so long ago ;) . Now I understand why so many of the top models in sl look up to and admire her. I’m with you Rico, when I’m having a tough day and feel like giving in, I will certainly come back and read it again. I only wish I had the opportunity to work with and know this amazing woman before she left.

    Jade Spectre

  5. I am usually a multi-tasking sort of person: writing an article while I listen to music, modeling at a store in SL while I edit photos in GIMP, conversing in IMs while I style or take photos…but I just read this entire article from beginning to end, alone, without music, with no distractions of any sort.

    Very rarely has an article left such an impression on me or taken so much of my attention as this one has.

    I never knew Dea Mills, but the deep love and caring she has both for people and for fashion just shine through in her letter. It moved me, made me stop and think, encouraged me, and ultimately made me see things with a refreshed perspective. It simply is that brilliant!

    Thank you, Dea, for sharing your insights and your valuable advice with all of us. Thank you, Nave, for making sure that this letter is published. And thank you, Rico, for doing so on your fabulous blog:)

    Love,
    Rhonda

  6. We may have lost Dea physically from SL but now she has left this legacy for generations of SL models still to come. In fact, while it is in essence about modeling, it applies to everyone, everywhere about how you leave an impression long after you’ve left the room. Thank you to Rico and Naive for sharing. xx

  7. I wish I had the privilege to know Dea Mills because she sounds like a person to look up to and be the perfect role model. She speaks a lot of words of wisdom that every model should take to heart. THANK You Dea Mills for your encouragement. Every time I am feeling down about modeling, I will come back here and read your lovely message.

    TY to Nave as well for sharing this post with us.

  8. Dea and Sweet would be very happy to see this. I know for a fact it would mean alot to them. I knew both of them very well and they are and still have what you call a good heart. They took and take time for others and care for others without being selfish. There are so many models who are good people I am honored to know here but I need to say for Dea and Sweet a special something. They were good mentors with what I learnt you call a good heart from Dea Mills. I have had tears and now have more tears as miss them alot. But they need to go to their life and do what need to do. RL does come first. Thank you for posting this so much, I know they would and will be very happy you did. Love both of you Dea and my sister Sweet forever … with tears in eyes but happy for both of you as know you are both happy.

  9. This was DEFINITELY the best article that csltm has posted! It really makes me feel and breathe fashion, and I really admire Dea Mills fopr this! Truly inspirational!

    Evryone on SL modeling industry should learn from it!

    Dea Mills, you go girl! <3

    Diconay Boa

  10. This so made me cry, because it sums up everything and shows the true loving nature of Dea Mills an inspirational women. Dea showed me some hope when I was very sad and lonely and gave me some of her special kindness while I suffered very bad times with my ongoing illness and I will always love Dea for everything she offered me while I was at Modavia. You made me! Love you forever! Nicholai Shepherd

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