Model FAQ: At What Age Should I Start Modelling?

what age to start modelling

So here’s the thing: you could start modelling, if you were so inclined, at around the age of fourteen. Although many agencies officially state that they won’t take on girls younger than sixteen, there’s an unofficial ‘buffer zone’ that they often dip into so that they can get a girl ready to work when she is sixteen. Even if a girl is still at school, she might pop into the agency every once in a while to have polaroids taken or to see a very important casting director – that way a ‘buzz’ is created around the girl and people can’t wait to start booking her for jobs once she begins modelling properly.

Two problems that I have with very young girls becoming models: 1) it undoubtedly plays with their minds when it comes to body image and body confidence. If not straight away, then later on in life. A young girl doesn’t yet have a woman’s body – but after a few years, when her womanly figure wants to appear and the editors and designers want her to stay looking like a child? Well. That’s a whole other full-length dissertation, isn’t it? Problem 2) if you leave education straight after GCSEs and enter the meat-processing-plant that is the modelling industry, you have absolutely nothing to fall back on once the industry spits you out. You might be lucky and have a long career, but equally, your long career might be dependent on you having something else going on other than very long legs and nice hair. Many young models are ridiculously brilliant; they travel the world learning languages, they self-educate, they make hundreds of thousands of pounds shooting amazing campaigns, they gain the kind of life experience that others couldn’t even dream of. But for every very young model who has that kind of drive and self-discipline to improve themselves and create a ‘back-up’ plan, there are hundreds who just fall by the wayside after a few years and struggle to start life again. Going back to education or getting a ‘normal’ job after you’ve been swanning about Paris and New York is, I imagine, quite a shock to the system when you’re still so very young.

My advice? If you’re planning on modelling, get at least your A-Levels. If you start modelling full-time after A-Levels you’re still just eighteen, you have something to fall back on and you can throw yourself whole-heartedly into modelling safe in the knowledge that, if things don’t work out, you can start University and you’ll have hardly missed a thing. Modelling is a little bit like living life in a parallel universe; whilst everyone else is off to work for nine in the morning and they might do the same thing five days a week, you’re doing something different every day. There’s no routine; you could be in Paris on Monday doing thirteen castings and then have nothing to do for the rest of the month. (An extreme example, but that has happened.) It’s quite difficult, after living that kind of life, to ‘slot back in’ to the real world. If you have some education you can always go back to it – or you can continue your education whilst having a career is a model, which I very highly recommend. I’ve gone off-piste here, where was I?

Yes! The best age to start modelling then. My answer would be: after you have done your A-Levels. If you’re dead-set on getting a degree then do that too! You’ll still only be about 21 – I started at 20 and it didn’t do me any harm! Don’t be railroaded by an agency into starting full-time earlier than you feel comfortable with – you have to remember that modelling is a short-term career and that life (hopefully!) will be long and fulfilling. Of course, you don’t want to leave it too long and rock up to your first casting at twenty-six – unless you’re fortunate enough to look much younger than you really are! Just have a sensible perspective on the situation – make sure that you’re not sacrificing something very important to become a model and remember that if it doesn’t work out (you don’t get any work, you don’t enjoy it) then it’s the easiest thing in the world to opt back out of so long as you don’t spend too long chasing the dream.

So bottom line is that, in my opinion, the best age to start modelling is probably between about seventeen and twenty-one. That’s not to say you can’t start much earlier or much later – lots of girls do and make a great success of themselves – just bear in mind your bigger picture. Only do what feels right for you!

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  1. olga
    May 17, 2011 / 10:35 pm

    I hope i can start at the age of the lady on the picture,much easier,x

  2. Kat
    May 17, 2011 / 11:19 pm

    Love your blog, especially these Model FAQ posts! Thanks for giving us info about the real side of modeling.

  3. May 18, 2011 / 10:12 am

    Thank you! This is my opinion, too! First finish school and than start your career, you never know how it will work. And if it fails and you have no basis you can fall back on, you will have a very hard life!

  4. Andrea
    May 20, 2011 / 9:58 am

    Let’s not forget that A levels and University aren’t for everyone. especially now that University is so expensive.

    • May 20, 2011 / 10:18 am

      @Andrea No, you’re quite right, but I think that if you are going to go into a possibly short-lived career then you need something to fall back on, and A Levels are free.

  5. Debbie
    May 20, 2011 / 11:56 am

    You used my photo on your blog! Yay!

    • May 20, 2011 / 5:54 pm

      HAHAHA!!!!! Debbie you do make my day sometimes!! x

  6. May 21, 2011 / 12:42 pm

    I hope this will be a mind opening post for some girsl, as it states the truth so bluntly – it is a short term career indeed. And so many girls fall prey of the belief that they can do it forever…

  7. Novia
    May 28, 2011 / 5:01 am

    What about more commercial girls vs. fashion girls? I’ve heard they are a little more lenient on age, is that true?

    • May 28, 2011 / 12:42 pm

      @Novia yes you’re quite right. Commercial girls have a longer ‘shelf life’ but I think it depends on how good you stay looking! A lot of brands are now using women rather than girls, but most of them have been modelling since their twenties, I don’t think that they begin that late… I should do a proper survey! x

  8. Snezhinka
    May 29, 2011 / 8:41 pm

    I LOLed at the photo of the old lady!!!!! You’re so funny, I love you! Lol. I’m 19, at university, I’m starting now :-) Its great you clarify the importance of a fall back plan, many girls think modelling is a cast iron forever job!

  9. Sugar and Spice
    June 25, 2011 / 8:09 pm

    That’s the smartest advice I have ever heard from someone from the modeling industry! :)

  10. Katrin
    January 12, 2012 / 10:24 am

    do you think there’s any chance to be successful starting at age of 30? I still look like im 22!! (lucky :P)

  11. January 21, 2012 / 4:58 pm

    Great post, Ruth and some good advice I hope girls will take.

    I went full-time at 22 after university and managed to sign with a good London agency. It may have been easier for me had I started younger but I worked VERY hard on my book in that first year and by the end of it my book was stronger than many girls who’d been doing it much longer. I have also worked internationally, but I would advise any girls wanting to do the same, if you’re from a town like London with a big market you have to be proactive about getting overseas placements, as agencies can make more money from you if you stay put!

    I would also advise girls to figure out their back-up plan while they are still in the game so they can start working on it before they hang up their modelling shoes (is that the phrase?). For me, it’s fashion styling, so I’ve networked furiously with photographers, makeup artists, designers, fashion PRs and magazine editors, to try and build up a styling portfolio while I am still modelling so by the time I quit, I’m ready to hit the ground running. You can take part-time courses while modelling or do part-time internships to get experience for the area you next want to work in, whilst modelling is still paying the bills.

    • Ruth
      January 22, 2012 / 1:51 am

      @Sundal thanks so much, that’s all very true! Nice to know you were another late starter who went on to be successful! xx

  12. BlondeAmbition
    February 15, 2012 / 6:19 pm

    Hi Paula,

    Your website is really inspiring and I would be really grateful if you could offer some advice.
    I’m 23 years old (5’10, size 6-8) and would love to model but I’m concerned that I have now left it too late.
    I was approached by scouts in my teens but did not pursue modelling as my parents did not approve. Last year I was approached by an Abercrombie scout and have since worked in store as a ‘model’ (shop assistant!). I’ve now moved to London and regularly get asked if I’m a model (not just by sleazy men!) so I’m keen to at least try and noticed a lot of agencies have walk in slots.
    Do you think any of the big agencies are likely to even consider somebody of my age?
    Should I try agencies that focus more on commercial modelling than fashion?

  13. Mo
    July 16, 2012 / 7:39 pm

    I agree with you I have a little plan to go ahead with my career but do part time modeling maybe during uni

  14. Akanksha
    November 5, 2012 / 7:11 pm

    Wow, this was so helpful <3
    I'm 16 right now and I've really been debating on whether I should try out modeling or not and when should I. But, I suppose I'll join university for a strong course and start modeling if I can afterwards or during college. Just one question, what do you think is the best way to get into modeling? Sending photographs to modeling agencies first? And if no one accepts, do you just go on and start building a portfolio like on modelmayhem or something?

    Thank you <3

  15. Malaika
    December 22, 2012 / 10:54 am

    In my opinion, the best age to start modeling is between seventeen to nineteen! That’s the ideal age because you’re completely grown and will be considered as an adult. At younger age, Girls mostly have a childish face and are eager to start their modeling career but I recommend that they should at least complete their GCSEs. After that, they can look forward to give auditions to other modeling agencies. In younger ages, they should practice for that like taking their pictures, having different classes and stuff. With this, If they continue to practice their confidence level will increase and in future, they will get more oppurtunities from agencies. And at the end, I would say that please don’t do any experiences with your hair or face at younger age like doing facials making complicated hairstyles e.g doing backcombings, or using conditioners and other chemicals after every other day. because most of the people do that in younger age and in the end, they regret on it, Try to stay natural and become a natural beauty! <3

  16. solun1
    February 5, 2013 / 5:09 pm

    Very nice article, you have probably helped a lot of girls out there :).

  17. abc123
    December 27, 2013 / 7:00 pm

    im 14 years old, 68inches/5’8

  18. March 3, 2014 / 2:31 pm

    i wanna start my modelimg career now because i belive i can do best on that my age is 17 years

  19. April 28, 2014 / 3:56 pm

    I want to be a model but I don’t know how to becoming a model . when I go outside I have a lot of people that all ways tell me I should try modeling because I get a perfect face and body for it but they thing is I don’t know how to become one and I am kind of scared that I am getting to old for it I am 19 I am about to be 20 in may 16 get my high school diploma and certification as a office Administration I get my back plan. I want to know how it work

  20. yolanda
    February 1, 2016 / 11:09 am

    hi iam 22 years old is this too late for starting the modeling?

    • Meetali
      May 19, 2017 / 6:09 am

      22 is an acceptable age by agencies :)

  21. Aisa Alvarez
    August 25, 2017 / 5:46 am

    Hi i want to be a model Im 17 but my height 5’2 only

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