Is modelling tough?

Modelling is considered a glamorous profession by many, with models gracing magazine covers, walking down runways, and starring in fashion campaigns. However, behind the glitz and glamour lies a demanding career that requires hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice. So is modelling as tough as it seems? Let’s take a closer look.

Physical requirements

Modelling has strict physical requirements that must be met to work at the highest levels. Models are expected to be very tall, with most female models standing around 5’9″ to 6’0″ and most male models being 6’0″ or taller. Models must also maintain very low body weights, often falling below the healthy recommended BMI range. This leads many models to engage in restrictive diets and excessive exercise regimes. Genetic factors play a role, but maintaining such an unusually tall and thin frame still requires immense discipline.

Staying in peak physical shape as a model also means adhering to an athletic lifestyle. Models must spend hours in the gym, on runs, and doing other cardio to keep their bodies toned and defined. They cannot let regular exercise and healthy eating habits slide, even for short periods, without it showing in their appearance. Such a regimented lifestyle is challenging to maintain year-round.

Travel requirements

A modelling career requires extensive travel to photo shoots and fashion shows around the world. Models may need to relocate to major fashion hubs like New York, Paris, London and Milan where the most opportunities exist. This constant jet-setting leads to jet lag, living out of suitcases, and being away from family and friends for long stretches. Models typically go where the work is, crisscrossing the globe at a frantic pace. Such extensive travel is draining over the course of a career.

Unpredictable schedule

The modelling workload is highly unpredictable, with extremely busy periods followed by long lulls. Fashion weeks, shoots for advertorials/campaigns, and private client bookings can come up last minute. One week a model may have just 1-2 small jobs, while the next week they are working overtime with 12-hour days on multiple major jobs. This erratic schedule makes it difficult to plan ahead and get into a stable routine like people in 9-5 office jobs. The uncertainty takes stamina to adjust to both physically and mentally.

Fierce competition

The modelling industry is extremely competitive, with a huge supply of aspiring models fighting over a limited amount of jobs. Top modelling agencies only select the cream of the crop, and models are constantly competing against hundreds of others for the big campaigns and runway shows. There is always fresh young talent wanting to break into modelling, so established models have to keep proving themselves to stay in demand. Handling constant rejection when you don’t book jobs takes resilience. Very few models achieve supermodel status, as most drift in and out of the industry within 5-10 years. Standing out requires exceptional looks, personality, persistence and luck.

Public scrutiny

Models face intense scrutiny over their appearance from the public and media. Their bodies and looks are constantly critiqued, with tabloids and social media quick to criticize any weight gain or aging signs. Models really put themselves out there for judgment each time they step before the camera. Developing a thick skin is necessary to endure waves of criticism and impossible beauty standards. It’s a psychological battle to ignore all the scrutiny and project self-confidence despite flaws and imperfections.

Long working hours

Many models work extremely long hours during their busiest periods. Fashion shows often require models to be in hair and makeup for 4+ hours before even stepping onto the runway. Photoshoots can stretch on 12 hours or longer too. Standing and posing for such long durations in high heels is physically grueling. Meanwhile, there are no breaks for meals which must be grabbed hurriedly between jobs. Models also spend hours doing castings, meetings and plain old waiting around. The workload is more intensive than the finished glossy images suggest.

Health impacts

The demanding modelling lifestyle takes a toll both physically and mentally over time. Common health issues faced by models include:

– Eating disorders – To stay thin, models are at high risk for anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. These lead to nutritional deficits, bone loss, heart problems and more.

– Drug addiction – Some models turn to cocaine and other stimulant drugs which suppress appetite and boost energy levels to cope with their hectic lifestyle. Addiction is common.

– Depression and anxiety – The physical scrutiny, rejection, erratic lifestyle, isolation from travelling, and unstable finances in modelling often lead to mental health issues.

– Bone density loss – Extreme thinness taxes the skeletal system. Studies show most models have unusually low bone density for their age, putting them at risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis.

– Premature aging – The harsh makeup, lighting, travel, irregular sleep, and restrictive dieting accelerate skin and hair aging in models. Their bodies tend to burn out quickly.

– Reproductive health issues – Such low body weight and body fat percentage can cause hormonal issues, missed periods, and problems with fertility in women.

Models also sustain minor injuries like irritated skin from makeup, twisted ankles from high heels, and sore joints from long hours of posing. While less glamorous than it appears, modelling really puts the body through the ringer.

Financial instability

Modelling is often perceived as an extremely lucrative career, but the finances are far from stable. Most models go through boom and bust cycles based on the randomness of modelling gigs. Even at the peak of a career, models may earn in the low to mid 5 figures annually. Expenses like agency fees, portfolio costs, casting transportation, and costly housing markets like NYC and Paris gobble up a huge portion of models’ earnings. Saving and investing wisely during busy periods is crucial to survive the inevitable dry spells. Paying for one’s own accommodations, flights, insurance and basic necessities is feasible at the start. But without multimillion dollar contracts, modelling money projected across decades falls well short of retirement needs. Relying on looks alone to fund your entire lifetime is unrealistic. Most models are woefully underprepared financially when their careers evaporate. They are then left to restart and retrain in their mid 20s with limited work experience.

Lack of creative control

Models essentially serve as walking mannequins, with little input into their images or personas. Artistic control lies with photographers, stylists, designers and clients dictating exactly how models should look, pose and behave. Models must be chameleons adapting to different roles and aesthetics as required. Personal style and preferences take a back seat. Models spend hours in hair/makeup having their bodies contorted into sometimes uncomfortable positions for shoots. There is little room for individual creativity or expression like other arts. The model is more of a physical “canvas” for others’ visions. This total lack of creative license can feel stifling and uninspiring in the long run.

Sexual harassment

Models, especially young females, often deal with inappropriate sexual remarks, unwanted advances and outright harassment. There are countless stories of photographers crossing ethical lines on shoots. Models work in a vulnerable atmosphere of partial nudity and heightened aesthetics. Predatory individuals exploit this, putting models in compromising positions. Saying “no” may mean being blacklisted from future work. Despite some progress in protecting models, exploitation remains an ugly truth in this image-focused industry. Just being perceived as a “model” subject models to risky scenarios.

Short career span

The limited professional lifespan of models adds pressure to achieve financial and personal goals quickly. While superstardom is rare, even moderately successful models typically only work 5-10 years in the business. Youth and looks are what clients want. By 25, many models’ careers drop off as incoming 18-21 year old talent takes over. Some may transition into acting, hosting or other related fields leveraging their personal brand. But most models end up moving on entirely to more stable careers. Such an abrupt shift after having one’s looks determine their livelihood is challenging psychologically. Modelling’s fleeting nature means making the most of the short opportunity.

Lack of job security

There is zero job security in modelling with no long-term contracts or stability like regular office positions. Models are constantly at risk of being dropped by their agency if their look goes “out of vogue” or stops booking jobs. The most in-demand model one day can disappear the next if their popularity fades. Fickle fashion taste and ever-changing beauty ideals are impossible to keep up with long-term. Modelling leaves you constantly on edge, knowing you are always replaceable. Agencies and clients hold the control. With so much beyond models’ influence, lasting career longevity is a crapshoot.

Neglecting education

Most working models drop out of high school around 16-17 years old to pursue modelling full-time while their window of opportunity is open. The combination of extensive travel, fluctuating schedule and financial instability as a model make completing formal education extremely difficult. Often education falls by the wayside, as models miss out on formative academic and social experiences of regular schooling. Lacking education or other marketable skills, models can really struggle if modelling fame is short-lived or opportunities dry up. Having a backup plan through education is crucial.

Are the challenges worth it?

Despite all these difficulties and downsides, modelling still offers dream-like opportunities at the peak of a career. For those who achieve enduring success, the financial rewards and global fame can be worthwhile tradeoffs. And some simply thrive in the jet-setting lifestyle. Short as it may be, a modelling career can boost one’s options, connections and exposure tremendously if leveraged well. The challenges are not insurmountable, and everyone must balance pros and cons individually. With the right attitude and support system, a modelling career can still be an incredible adventure. But pursuing modelling strictly as a glamorous fantasy without understanding the gritty realities is a recipe for hardship and disappointment. As with any top tier profession, those who work the hardest, plan the smartest, and persevere through obstacles, have the best chances of making it over the long haul. With eyes wide open to the barriers, modelling’s risks and rewards can be weighed appropriately.


While modelling’s glitzy image depicts a life of luxury, the real-world grind of the job is far from easy. Models must withstand immense physical demands in terms of strict dieting, daily exercise and extensive travel required to stay runway and photoshoot ready. The work schedule is unpredictable and hectic, with long hours and being constantly “on-call”. Financial instability is common due to random gigs, gaps between bookings, and weighing present earnings versus saving for the future when jobs may dry up. Models also lack creative control in shoots, deal with intense public scrutiny over their looks, have high competition constantly at risk of replacement by fresh faces, and endure potential sexual harassment. With careers peaking by the mid 20s and no long-term stability, modelling necessitates smart financial planning and development of educational/vocational side skills to ensure success after exiting the industry. Despite the challenges and downsides, those who perceive modelling’s opportunities as greater than the costs can still thrive in the profession, especially if leveraging the advantages as part of a bigger picture career strategy. But overall, behind the scenes, modelling does live up to its reputation as a tough and demanding field.

Challenge Description
Physical demands Need to maintain exceptionally tall, thin frame through strict dieting and exercise. Frequent jet-setting and sleep disruptions are taxing.
Health impacts High risk for eating disorders, bone density loss, drug abuse, depression, anxiety. Premature aging effects.
Financial instability Feast or famine income cycles. Need to save/invest wisely when possible for future financial security.
Harassment Predatory individuals take advantage of vulnerable work atmosphere and power imbalance.

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