Recently, I was casting models for a fashion shoot. To me, I thought it was normal casting requirements for print fashion. 5'8-5'11, Size 0-4, and no visible markings or tattoos. Well to my surprise, the last requirement seemed hard to come by. It seemed that those requirements were mostly able to be filled by "agency" models. So I ask, does having a tattoo or several impair a model's ability to get hired for a gig?
First, let me qualify the question with two things. 1) Personally, I love tattoos. While I would probably never have one, because I am not too fond of needles, I like the details, the colors, the meanings that most tattoos signify. 2) Whether it is a tattoo, changing your hair color, gaining or losing 10 pounds; any physical alteration that you do with your body will usually have an impact, positive or negative, on your ability to get casted for certain gigs. I feel so strongly about that second statement that I think it applies to both in front of and behind the camera. Physical appearance does matter when it comes to getting some gigs.
The reason why I ask, is because I want us to think about our personal expressions and our careers. When you look to Hollywood, you see many actors who gain and lose weight, sometimes over 50lbs, in order to land a role. Their dedication to their career requires them to do so. In the fashion world, I have seen blonds turn to brunettes, and women who are normally a size 4 slim down to a size 2 in order to walk a runway. At the end of the day, what is more important to you, your career or your personal expression?
This year, more so than ever, I think I have seen more tattooed models walking in NYC, London, Paris, and Milan. From my sources though, this is more a trend out of necessity than it is out of desire. I have yet to see tattooed models make a big impact in editorial fashion magazine and ads. As expressed by advertising clients, tattoos are mostly about personal expression. They are art. But a model's personal expression may not match the message or vision of the client. The preference will usually to have a model with a "blank slate" or "clean canvas." Most fashion designers and product clients do not want the focus to be on anything but their product, and often a tattoo is a distraction away from the product being marketed.
Yes with photoshop, or posing position, small tattoos can be covered up or removed, but the reality is that the more work that has to be done to make an image look ready for print, the more cost that is attached to it. Set directors and photographers do not want to be limited in what they can do with a model. When thinking of getting a tattoo, dying your hair, or anything that might change your appearance, ask yourself, "Can this wait?" If you are desiring to do fashion and you are 18 or 19 years old, can the tattoo wait. If you were casted as a brunette for a shoot coming up this weekend, can dying your hair red, wait until after the shoot?
If modeling is desired to be more than just a hobby, that means doing every little thing possible to make you more successful. Conversely, it also means refraining from things that can limit your progress. We should always strive not only to do our best, but to bring our best as well.