Photographed by Sarah Balch.
Making $4,200 in a week doesn't sound bad on paper, but this biannual blip is by no means a regular income. It's not unusual for models to go weeks without a paycheck, and when there is money coming in, it's not like all that cash goes straight into the bank. During this past NYFW, Rose spent nearly $400 on transportation alone, from cab fares to a driver hired by her agency on a particularly busy day. In that instance, she wasn't told how much it would cost beforehand, and after the tab grew to $250, she decided to walk between jobs for the rest of the afternoon. Then, there's the additional expense of sending a portfolio to clients — simple comp cards can cost around $200. Now, she's heading off to Paris, London, and Milan for the rest of the month, where she says her best hope is that she'll break even with her expenses, which include a €40/night model apartment and an $800 round-trip ticket. These expenses will automatically be discounted from any money she makes going forward.
So, is it worth it? Though she's done some impressive work, Rose says she "was hoping to do better shows this year." At the strong advice of her agency, she's had to turn down a number of gigs (some paying, others not so much) in the interest of her image. "Smaller decisions, the agency will make on their own. For example, for a smaller show without much press, they say no, unless it pays really well. For larger decisions, they'll definitely give you their opinion. In that case, it's your choice, but they'll make it very clear what they think is best. Ultimately, I trust their judgment."
If you're familiar with the industry, you know Rose's story is pretty typical. Even the big names started out this way. But as Rose says, at this point, you're not in it for the money. You're making an investment, and it's a risky gamble. Only a tiny percentage of models end up famous enough to make serious cash, and the window of opportunity is short. Rose has an education and a number of other skills and interests that she'll be more than happy to pursue should modeling not pay off, but there are plenty of young models who drop out of high school at 16 or 17 and have fewer fall-back options. It's scary, to say the least, though some can make a career of it off the runway, with fit modeling or mainstream commercial work.
We're not the first ones to say it, and we won't be the last, but modeling is a tricky business, and not just because of the reasons Rose outlines above. While some models are luckier than others in the genetic lottery, plenty of them — gorgeous, tall, and lithe as they may appear to us — have to work very hard to stay in line with the increasingly strict requirements for runway work.
But as always, we want to know what you think. Is it a fair trade to put natural good looks on display and get a pittance in return? Or is this a cause that deserves more advocacy? A crowd of strutting, six-and-change-foot-tall models at a union meeting would, after all, be a force to be reckoned with.
Rose is not pictured in this photo, nor did she walk in any of the shows used to illustrate this story.
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