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How to become a model

Sean Lerwill's Men's Fitness Cover December 2012

I get a multitude of questions via email, my Facebook or Twitter. Most are either about fitness goals or joining the Royal Marines.

However, quite a few have been asking me about sports/fitness modelling and how to get into it. I even had someone say I have taken the exact route they want to take: Royal Marine, Marine PTI, sports model, cover model! Let me just say, that wasn’t planned! I’ve sent a few separate replies, but since looking around and seeing the number of “sports models” and “fitness models” out there, I thought I’d put a post together.

How I personally got into sports modelling is probably not the regular route. I wrote a fitness book which was published by Haynes. I was used for the exercises photos for the book, so I then used a few of these photos, along with a few my friend’s girlfriend (a professional photographer) took, to apply to some agencies. The latter is probably quite usual in terms of getting into the industry, so in that sense that’s a good place to start:

1. Get some good quality photos taken for a portfolio

Don’t spend too much. You only need a handful to show your physique, sporting ability and that you can look natural in front of a camera.

2. Send off to some sports modelling agencies

Explain who you are, what your skill set is, why you would be good for them and obviously attach your best three photos. Try to ensure these shots are different from each other, even if all from the same shoot.

3. Wait for a reply

If you didn’t get one, then perhaps the agency doesn’t feel you are quite ready yet. You could send a follow up email asking for feedback, just in case they missed your first email.

4. Rejection

If you get rejected, it’s not the end of the world. It’s a great place to be. Send a thank you email to the agency for their response, then hit the gym, train hard at your sport and at some point get some more photos taken and apply again.

Sean Lerwill's Maxifuel poster5. Interview

If you get invited to interview with the agency, that’s a great place to be. However, it doesn’t guarantee you are on their books. The interview is to see if you are personable. Are you likeable? Would casting directors, agencies or companies want to work with you? It isn’t just about looking good or (more important than that) looking right. Think of it as a job interview, but don’t get too nervous. So many sports/fitness models think it’s just about the “perfect” physique. it’s not. People with good bodies are 10 a penny in the industry. it’s about being able to do what’s asked of you on top of having the “right” look.

6. Rejection after the interview

Not a problem. You are back to where you were before. Hit the gym, train hard, but work on your people skills. Your ability to interact with strangers and have conversations. If the offer to re-apply was given, do so. If not, apply to another agency.

7. Acceptance

You are now on an agency’s books. However, as far as I am concerned you still aren’t a sports/fitness model yet. Hold tight and let your agent do their thing. They will put you up for jobs that suit you. You may be lucky and book a job from your photos (a direct booking). If you do, congratulations. Now go and do a good job and ensure good feedback to your agent. Or, you may be put forward for some castings. It’s unlikely for you to get your first job from your first casting. This is a good thing, as you learn from your mistakes and from that rejection, so don’t be put off. I did get my first job, but that set me up for a downfall. I had to learn from subsequent castings and mistakes. What I am trying to say, is see each casting as a chance to get to know how this new world works and how you deal with it. Eventually you’ll get a job.

Sean Lerwill dumbbells8. Sports Model

Now you can call yourself a sports model/fitness model. As far as I am concerned, you aren’t a sports model until you’ve actually done a sports modelling job. There are a lot of personal trainers and fitness instructors out there (including some who are ex-Royal Marines who should know better) who have had one photoshoot and now their website, Twitter or Facebooks says, “Personal Trainer and Fitness Model”. Having a few photos done is not the same as getting paid to represent a brand, company or magazine. Don’t lie to yourself. “Aspiring Sports Model” is what should be written. If a young man passed a Potential Royal Marines Course then started calling himself a Royal Marine before gaining his Green Beret, every Marine would be in uproar. He is an Aspiring Royal Marine. You wouldn’t start calling yourself a race car driver just because you bought a fast car.

Final bits of advice:

9. Don’t kid yourself

To work as a sports model you need to have either a good physique and be at least semi-photogenic or be very good at a sport, martial art or the like and be able to do your skill on call for stills or video. If your physique is mind-blowing, you may be able to get away with not being too photogenic. While we are at it, you can learn to be photogenic. You just might need someone to help you understand how to stand, move and express yourself.

10. Don’t lie

I went to a casting where someone in the room with me said he was an ex-Royal Marines Officer. If he had have really been, I’d have known him. It turned out that he’d been in Royal Marines Officer training for the best part of a month before being medically discharged. Not his fault. But, in a sense, his reason for leaving is irrelevant. To state he was a Royal Marines Officer is insulting to me and my fellow Royal Marines who have endured months of training to earn a Green Beret. Equally, he’s using it to get a job over other people. You will get caught out and get a bad name in the industry for doing that. My advice, don’t do it. In the same way, don’t say you can do something you can’t do. You’ll get caught out and look stupid when you get asked to do it. When the feedback gets back to your agent, you’ll make them look stupid and get taken off their books.

11. Be yourself

Don’t try to be like Steve Cook or Rob Riches, or any other fitnesss model. Don’t make up stories about what you’ve done and don’t be desperate. Just be you. You have been booked/are being seen at a casting because they like you. So, just be you, come across well and your genuine nature will mean you’ll get a good name for yourself.

12. It’s not all fun

People assume sports modelling is all hanging out in shorts with your tops off, or running or playing sport while someone takes a few photos.It can be fun. I’ve had some great experiences. Some great trips abroad. However, it’s not all roses. It’s usually quite long hours and in the UK, often quite cold, wearing little clothing, being asked to hold a position that is actually quite hard, painful or uncomfortable. Yes the final images/video look great and is something to be proud of and that’s the reason to do it. But like being a Personal Trainer, it’s not for everyone!

13. Money

Lastly, and not to break your heart, you’ll never earn a fortune being a sports model. Yes it might open doors. Sure it can be fun, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s really made a considerable amount of money doing it!

Sean Lerwill's Conservative Party poster

Sean Lerwill - Author

Sean is an former-Royal Marines Commando Officer & Physical Training Instructor. He has been published as a writer five times, has a BSc in Molecular Genetics and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. He is also a MaxiNutrition ambassador.

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