I get a lot of questions from our great Beverly readers and WieFit.com visitors about Fitness modeling. Here are just a few: “getting prepared for photo shoots”, “what should I wear and bring”, “is this photographer reputable”, “any tips you can give me”, “what body fat % should I be”, etc. So, in this forum, instead of just picking one question of the many, I thought I would write about my fitness modeling experiences, and give you some details about my last trip to L.A. for the April Muscle and Fitness Cover (that’s the one where I’m holding an egg).
So, the first question I get asked is, “How did they find you”? Now, I’m not giving advice here, I’m just telling the truth. The fact is I kind of got lucky. You really need to go out and look for work if you want to be “found”. I didn’t consciously, but, then again, maybe I sort of did take steps to be “found”.
I remember watching the Musclemania World Championships on ESPN 2 a number of years back. I liked the idea that I was watching a “tested” show and the competitors were getting national exposure. I had competed in a number of natural organizations, but none got that type of exposure. So, that year (I believe it was 2000), I got ready and entered the New York Musclemania. I knew they televised the top six in each class, so top six in the light heavy was my goal. And, of course, as soon as I went into the pump up room, I realized that the light heavyweight class was not only the biggest class, but by far the best. I really didn’t think I’d make top six. I knew I was shredded for the show, as Roger at Beverly always got me shredded for shows, but I was just 26 years old at the time. I say that, because the top ten (outside of me) in that class were 30 or older. Talk about muscle maturity… (which I’m also starting to develop at the age of 34!). Anyway, the following day, I was told I made the top six and would be doing my posing routine for the televised finals. Man, was I happy. That’s kind of funny, because my goals up until then had always been to win my class and the overall show. And I had done that in each of my previous four shows. But, these guys were not only from all over the United States, they flew in from all over the world. Two or three months later I saw the show on ESPN 2. It was cool, but no big deal. I didn’t set the world on fire.
It wasn’t the television show that jump started my fitness modeling career. It was a photo from the show in Natural Muscle Magazine. About 3-4 months after the show I got a call from Muscle and Fitness. They’d seen my photo in Natural Muscle and all of a sudden I’m on a plane headed for L.A, nervous as can be, for a COVER!
It was really cool. The female model, Carol Grow, was a very experienced cover model and TV host. The photographer knew it was my first time and patiently guided me through each pose. The entire staff on that set couldn’t have been better.
Anyway, a few months later, I get a call from my neighbor asking me if that was really me on the cover of Muscle and Fitness’ Total Nutrition Magazine. I had no idea that they had actually used the photo. See, at that time, I just knew to smile, be in shape, do what they wanted me to do, and not ask too many questions. So, I had NO idea when or if the magazine was going to come out!
So, let me stop here and give you some advice. There is a reason I say “That’s how I found out they used it”. In truth, they don’t always use what they shoot. I found out the hard way.
I guess M&F liked me enough for another photo shoot. They called me back six months later and there I was again back on a plane to L.A. Well, this time was really cool (except for the end result, which I’ll get to). I show up that morning at the shoot, and guess who is there? Well, there were two female models, and two male models – me and… Roland Kickinger (Son of the Beach, Past IFBB successful bodybuilder, Cover Model, and played Arnold in the A&E documentary about Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Now, that was pretty awesome! —— My first meeting with a celebrity. At that time in my bodybuilding career I looked up to these guys like gods. But that was nothing compared to who I was about to meet. Ten minutes into the shooting, Joe Weider walks in. He stayed for the entire shoot, a good 7-8 hours, and even had lunch with us. He was a down to earth guy. He knew everyone there—the models, makeup people, wardrobe people, and the photographers. Well, he knew everyone but me! So, he made it a point at lunch to make enough room at his little table to allow me to sit with him and eat lunch. Man, all I could think was “Is this really happening”. He asked, “Why haven’t we seen this guy before”? and started laughing. Then said, “Who is responsible for finding this guy”. Then he asked me, “Have you ever been in a magazine before? My response (this is the best part) —”Yes, Beverly International’s No NonSense Newsletter”. He said “Good”! What a great day that was.
So, now we get to the not so great end result. I came home, and like any guy in their twenties living on cloud nine, I started telling everyone that the M&F with me on the cover would be out any month now. One month went by, then another, and another, and another… Well, that’s when I realized why they term these Cover Shoots as “Cover Try’s”! Man, I felt stupid! That’s a quick lesson on “why you should be HUMBLE”!!
Lesson #1: BE HUMBLE.
Feel good about what you are doing if you get the opportunity, and let it be a nice surprise if your photo gets published. Don’t expect it.
I’ve been to L.A., New York and Miami about 20 times now, and at most just 60-70% of the work has actually has been used. But, the real reason to be humble is just because you did a photo shoot, you are no better than anyone else. It’s a freaking picture for goodness sakes. Yeah, it feels good to see your work pay off on the font of a magazine or product ad (especially walking through a checkout line at a grocery store), but again, it’s just a picture—and once you do it a few times, you’ll realize that. So, don’t wait until you’re burned a few times before you become humble—be humble from the beginning.
Lesson #2: BE IN SHAPE YEAR ROUND.
You don’t have to stage ready, but you need to be able to get to 5-6% within a week or two—because that’s about how much time you will have after they call you! Now here comes the Beverly pitch, right!
Well, it’s what I do, have done, and will continue to do, so listen up. In order to stay that lean year round and keep, or in fact, gain lean mass, you MUST consistently train, keep your diet clean, and never miss your supplements. I’ve said this before, but I have to repeat it, “the difference of me on Beverly Supplements and off Beverly supplements with everything else being the same is about 10lbs of lean muscle”. And for me that’s the difference of me being on the cover of Muscle and Fitness, or Men’s Health!! And, guess what. I ain’t (yes, I said ain’t) ever going to be on the cover of Men’s Health, or Men’s Fitness—Why? Because first of all I don’t want to get that small, and secondly, for the past 3 years, they have used ONLY celebrities for their covers. And the last time I checked, I ain’t (love that word) a celebrity.
On a serious note, it is imperative if you wish to stay lean and still build muscle, to never miss your 5 Ultra 40’s and 5 Mass Aminos with each meal, or your Creatine Select and Glutamine Select cocktail before and during your workout, or your 7-Keto prior to your workout, or your Muscle Synergy. And it is imperative that you consistently get 5-6 meals, and as we all know, 2-3 of them have to be the highest quality meal replacement possible. And for me it’s UMP or Ultra Size. I have just added Density to my daily regime and I’ll report on that in a future article.
So, so far we learned lesson one: Be Humble, and Lesson 2: Stay lean year round by training consistently, clean diet, and Beverly Supplements.
Now, on to more logistic stuff! What to bring, how to prepare, what to expect, and hopefully everything else that can take most of the guesswork out…
Clothing: When it comes to clothing, always communicate with whoever booked you. Ask them what clothing you will need to bring. For some magazines, they will have all the clothing for you, from shoes and socks, to shorts and shirt. But, others will want you to have your own clothing. So, NEVER be afraid to ask. By asking it relays that you care and want to be prepared.
Make-up: Yes, bring make-up. Find a bronzing powder about one shade darker than your skin tone. Bring an under eye concealer about one shade lighter than your bronzer. I’m not a make-up artist (man, I can’t believe I’m giving tips on make-up), but you DO need it. Those lights are very bright and you will look washed out without it. Now, depending on who and what you are shooting for, they may have a professional make-up artist for you. But, if they don’t, don’t feel embarrassed to apply your own. They expect it! So, bring a small mirror, and just apply it while the photographer is setting up his or her equipment. Be sure to blend it well into your neckline.
Razor and shaving cream: I always show up with some growth (facial hair). I let the creative coordinator or the photographer decide. About half the time they like it and say leave it, the other half they want me to shave it. Right when I show up at the shoot after saying hi and meeting everyone, I ask “Clean face or rough”? If they want it clean, I go straight to the bathroom and shave it before any make-up is applied.
Tan: Be pretty tan. Don’t get as dark as you do for a bodybuilding or figure show, but do show up with a nice tan. Remember, you will be under lights, and since we are talking fitness modeling, you will be showcasing your body. A tan helps show more of the conditioning that they want to see.
Oil: I always bring it. They usually have it, but a few times they didn’t and were very happy I had it. Remember, it’s not just your face and body that gets you asked back. It’s also how prepared you are, along with your personality.
Hair product: Again, ask before hand. Sometimes they want you coming with your hair already styled as it was in the picture that they saw you in, or they may ask that you come to the shoot with absolutely no product in your hair so the hair stylist can do her thing! Especially for the female model, the hair stylist will be your “best friend”. Don’t make her or him upset by arguing about how you want your hair. I was on a shoot before where they did the guy’s hair, he went into the bathroom and changed it up because he wanted it more “spiky”, and when the hairstylist saw it they actually got into a shouting match. I’m telling you, this guy was like the “Brad Pitt” of modeling, but I’ve yet to see his face in a magazine ever. The shoot lasted 10 hours that day, but they told him after the first few hours that they were finished with him.
Visine: Get rid of the red! All that flying, spending the night in a foreign hotel, make-up gets in your eye—you name it and I’m telling you that you will need visine. Don’t forget it.
Hair: Chances are that before anyone flies you anywhere, they will want to see a very recent picture. Once you send it, and they give you the “OK” for the job, do not go cutting your hair. They want you as you were in that picture. So, bring the hair with you that you showed in the picture.
Body Hair: Get rid of it. Shave it the night before the shoot. In fact, you need to keep it shaved the weeks prior so you tan better. And, then the night before, give one last clean shave to your entire body—that includes underarms too (ever see underarm hair on a fitness cover model?). Remember, body hair hides the conditioning you’ve worked for.
Vaseline: You will get nervous, especially if you are new model, and your mouth will get dry—especially under those hot lights. So, be ready to apply a little Vaseline to your upper lip/top teeth (Otherwise, your smile could resemble Jim Carry’s when he’s trying to be funny)
Clear deodorant: You don’t want to have body odor, and believe me, after 10 hours of flexing for the camera, if you’re not wearing deodorant, you’ll have it. But, no one wants to see white powder, especially if one of the poses consists of you having your arms up! Find a clear deodorant that works for you.
Jewelry: Don’t wear it. I’ve always worn my wedding ring, and they’ve been fine with that. But, my advice is to show up jewelry free.
Sleep: Get enough. It can be tempting to go out especially in a new city. Don’t! This is your one chance. Remember, if they don’t like what they see, you won’t get called back for work a second time. Lack of sleep will show—not only in your eyes, but your face color, and even in your smile—they even call it a “tired smile”! I can remember one time when my plane was delayed five hours. I got into L.A. at 2:00 a.m. and the shoot was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Needless to say, I’ve never seen that work used in a magazine yet!
Yourself: Yes, bring yourself, only. Never bring an entourage. They will be asked to leave, and you won’t be asked back. Now, this is sort of funny that I’m telling you this, and my wife, Heidi was at my last Muscle and Fitness shoot! But, I had really gotten to know these people over the past eight years, and it was actually the idea of the Creative Coordinator to have her stop by for the shoot. In fact, I said “No, because I know how unprofessional that is”, but she insisted and told me that she knows that Heidi and I have been married for 10+ years (actually 11+!) and that they mostly worry about jealous girlfriends or boyfriends showing up and not being able to deal with seeing their significant other with a model of the opposite sex. So, needless to say, Heidi and I had an awesome trip in L.A this January!
Personality: THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT! Don’t try and be something you’re not. I HATE when the other model wants to talk about every freaking thing they have done from other magazines, and commercials, blah, blah, blah. And no one on the set wants to hear it either. Remember, be humble, but have fun. Never be afraid to ask questions, and let them know you are a novice, but are excited! They’ll appreciate that more than you boasting about stuff that no one really cares about. In fact, forget about yourself, and ask the photographer, or the hair stylist, or the makeup artist about themselves. It’s so neat to hear the famous people that some of these photographers have shot before.
Now that you have all this information, you might be wondering How can I be found”?
Here are some tips:
Find a good photographer who is experienced in shooting fitness models. Ask to see his work. If a number of his photos have been used in magazines or product ads, the more likely you’ll be happy with the end results.
Display your pictures. You can’t be found if people don’t see you! Send the pics to agents who represent models and magazines. Look on the inside of the magazine cover for someone with the title “creative coordinator, or photo editor, and send photos to both! I’ve gotten most of my work myself, but when I have worked through an agency I have been paid more.
Compete in some of larger shows, and Compete, Compete, and Compete. If its fitness modeling you aspire for, then use bodybuilding or figure competitions as a platform to be seen at your best. Get in shows like the Northern Kentucky where winners are often displayed on Beverly’s website and/or their No Nonsense Newsletter! Remember, I was found by competing! And just a personal FYI… I used bodybuilding too as a platform, but man, do I miss competing. Maybe the 2009 Northern! I won my class in ’05, but my goal was to win the overall, and that was the last year I competed (Ok, do I sound like I have the “bug” again to get back on stage!).
Lastly, I want to talk about compensation – to set your expectations straight. Don’t ever expect to get rich by fitness modeling. It pays a very small fraction of what the top fashion models make. I mean a fraction! And it really is like the Wild West. I did a calendar shoot for another supplement company (I’ve told you in past articles I truly don’t have a contract with Beverly!) and made thousands for a two-day shoot. And, on the completed 12-page calendar, you see a small profile of my face on one page. They basically didn’t even use me. But, then I’ll go do a cover for a magazine, and literally lose money when you take into consideration what they paid me and subtract what I lose when I take a day off of my day job! It really does blow me away. And, some of these magazines will tell you “take it or leave it”! So, be ready for that. It wasn’t until this past year that I have turned away work due to this.
Let me wrap this up by telling you that you only live once. So, go for it if that is what you want. It’s a long process, believe me. Surround yourself with people who will help you too. I can remember one of the first times I visited Beverly, and Sandy told me “You know one day you are going to make it big in this industry. You can do what you want, Brian”. How awesome is she?! I mean, how many people go out of their way to give a nice compliment and help build someone’s confidence!
I hope this helps answer some of those questions I’ve gotten repeatedly over the years. Good luck, and always have fun in process.