HOW TO BECOME A FITNESS MODEL
TOPICS WE WILL COVER
I am Stephanie and I am an Arizona-based fitness lover. I have a Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy, a Bachelors degree in Health Science, and I am a Certified STOTT Pilates Instructor. I am also a freelance health & fitness writer, online health & wellness coach, and published international fitness model.
I started Beautiful to the Core in 2012 right after moving across the country from Florida to Arizona. I was new to the area and had some extra time on my hands so I turned to fitness. My husband introduced me to the world of weightlifting and converted me from a cardio bunny to a lifter. Thank God because I was all skin and bones and not a whole lotta muscle. As my passion for strength training developed I became interested in Bikini Competitions. So we decided to try out a bodybuilding show together. I enjoyed competing because it kept me motivated, dedicated, and got me lean. However I realized it was not realistic to live that way. I desired for something more. A healthy lifestyle I could maintain year-round and a body I could love year-round with less ups and downs. A little later I did my first fitness photo shoot. I had a blast! I still got to show off my hard work but without the stage spray tan, without dropping too low in body fat, and without the pressure of comparing myself to other girls. I was able to be myself and have fun instead of trying to fit into a mold the judges were looking for! So from there, a new passion of mine was born: Fitness Modeling.
While I still offer competition tips as I am forever grateful for that experience that changed my life, I now focus more of my time on modeling and helping other women reach their goals through online health & wellness coaching. My competition tips can be found in the Bikini Competition Prep Guide and periodically on my social media accounts. So as a result of my new focus, I want to share my fitness modeling experience. With over 16 publications to my name, I consider myself experienced. So I want to teach you how to break into the fitness industry as well. It is my opportunity to give back and I am grateful for the chance to inspire & teach you.
As of today, I have been published in the following Magazines:
You too can make this dream a reality.
PREPARE YOUR MIND
First let’s learn about the fitness industry.
Here are the top things to be aware of first:
Now let’s look at common categories of fitness modeling:
Which one or two interest you the most?
Next determine your “why”. Why venture into the fitness modeling world? To make a name for yourself, to connect with a larger audience, to enhance your resume, and to inspire others. Those sound good to me. Do not let it be for selfish reasons.
In the fitness modeling industry, there are many opportunities and many open doors. How each of us experienced fitness models got into the industry differs. You either get noticed or you make yourself noticed.
Ways to get noticed:
Ways to make yourself noticed:
Common fitness model agencies:
For me personally, I made myself noticed through email submissions and working with well-known photographers in the industry. Continue reading to learn more about my path to success later.
So let’s review what we have covered so far:
#1 Pick a category
#2 Pick a way to get noticed or make yourself noticed
#3 Decide if you need agency help to get there
Now that we have the basics down, it is time to learn more about YOU. I am a huge believer in writing goals. Without a specific destination, how can you get directions to where you are going? So write down 3 of your personal goals. Be specific about which magazines you want to be in so you can gear your plans towards them.
Lastly in preparing your mind, it is always good to follow the people who inspire you. Follow their journeys and learn from their stories. With social media, we have easy access into each others lives, so take advantage of it!
Here are some of the top fitness models in the industry who I follow and find inspiration in:
PREPARE YOUR BUSINESS
Whether you want to be noticed at shows/expos, apply to modeling agencies, or simply email publications, you will need a few business items ready first.
They include: cover letter, resume, pitch, portfolio/photos, article ideas, article samples, website link and established social media accounts. We will cover each in detail below.
Cover Letter or Pitch
It should be one paragraph long and addressed it to one specific person. Do not address it “to whom it may concern”. Include what makes you unique and different. Share your story (including challenges and resolutions). How can you make their job easier? Keep it short and sweet.
I cannot give an example because you want it to be unique, catchy, & personalized.
It should be one-page and one-sided. Include your:
Portfolio / Attached Photos
You are applying to be a model so you must send them photos of yourself. If you have none, then this is when you may have to make an initial investment to hire a professional photographer, pay for it on your own, and build your portfolio. There should be a headshot and a body shot. They should not be overdone or photoshopped. Since you are focusing on fitness modeling, you should definitely also include a fitness-related photo in fitness attire or bikini. Remember, fitness not sexy. You could also send past Tearsheets if you have past publication experience.
Simply being a pretty face and body is not enough to be hired these days. Company executives and Magazine Editors get tons of emails daily of pretty models. They can easily ignore those emails. What makes it harder to ignore though is a model who also offers content: free content. It is like saying, “here is an article of no cost or time to you!” They are much more likely to respond and be open to working with you if you can offer them an article as well. Especially a well-written and intelligent article. So with that said, have a couple article topics in mind to pitch to them. Then if they say they like one, you can write a draft for them.
This section only applies if you already have past articles published. If you do, you could attach a PDF of past articles so they can get an idea of your quality of work.
If you are associated with an existing website or blog that is related to fitness, then include the link at the bottom so they can get more insight into what you are all about!
Established Social Media Accounts
Lastly, include links to your social media accounts. These days, your social media following plays a factor in your application. Before you link to them, make sure it is content they would want to see.
PREPARE FOR COMMUNICATION
If you have decided to make your step into the industry through competitions, shows, or expos then your communication will be verbal. You will need to be your own personal marketer. Be friendly yet professional. Have business cards on you at all times. Make quality connections over quantity.
However, if you have decided to make your step into the industry through email communication like I did, then the rest of this section is for you. It is time to research each magazine you are interested in. Pretend like you are going to sit down in an interview with them. You want to know as much as possible. I did so by going to Barnes & Noble. I grabbed copies of each magazine I was interested in. I took note of what style of model they were looking for, what poses were common, and what body type they liked. Then I flipped open the magazine to find out who the staff were. There are many different roles in a magazine. So you want to learn their names and who to contact.
Roles within a magazine:
Who you should contact:
Make a chart of magazines and contact info. Then go thru that list and mark the ones you actually want to connect with and feel you would be a good fit for. Make a column that allows you to keep track of the date of each email you send them. One column is not enough. Most magazines will not respond to the first email you send. In fact, you may need to email them 10+ times to finally get a response. The most important thing I learned is to never give up until they say “no.” No response means try again. The editors probably receive hundreds of emails per day. So just keep trying. A kind way to check-in again by email is to say “I know you are really busy and I do not mean to bother you, but have you had a chance to look at my article ideas yet?”
Now that your chart is ready, it is time to put your plan into action. I would try contacting by email first. Then keep LinkedIn in mind as back-up. This is a very good tool for establishing professional connections. Use the tips we discussed in the previous section about cover letter, resume, pitch, ideas, etc.
PREPARE A SHOOT PLAN
So one of two things has happened. Either you have decided to pay for your own photo shoot to build your fitness modeling portfolio OR you have been booked to shoot with a photographer by a company/publication.
If the first is true for you, then you need a photographer who is well-known in the fitness industry. Just picking a standard family photographer will not do.
Popular Fitness Photographers to research:
However, if the second example is true and you have been hired, then your photographer has already been chosen for you.
Either way, there are some things to prepare before the big day. You do not want to show up unprepared. You will need to prepare your physical image as well as your plan of action. This means look good and act the part.
First research the photographer you are working with. Look at their past work. Read reviews. Learn their background. Ask them how many edits you get for what you are paying for. Ask how long it will take to get the proofs back. They will help you with creative image and posing ideas.
As a model, you need to have a creative image of your own as well. My biggest advice is be OVER-PREPARED. What look are you going for (bikini, sporty, dressy, casual)? What setting do you want to be in (outdoors, indoors, white backdrop)? What props do you want to use (weights, yoga mat, water bottle, plates/dishes, food, etc)? What accessories do you want to wear (jewelry, shoes)? What poses do you want to do? What attitude do you want to have (smiling, fun, serious, hard working)? Have an image in your head and communicate this with your photographer so they can help you achieve that.
Now that you have an image prepared, here is a packing list for shoot day:
One more thing to keep in mind is your hair and makeup. You can do this on your own if you are talented in those areas. Hair and makeup should be larger and more pronounced for a photo shoot. In my opinion, hiring hair and makeup stylists is worth it. If you are paying hundreds to have the best photographer shoot you but your hair and makeup are lackluster, the images will not come out the way you want. So do some research and find a hair and makeup artist that is well-versed in working with models. You can try Yelp or ask your photographer for suggestions.
Here’s a quick video of the Behind-the-Scenes from one of my photoshoots. Notice I have a bunch of outfit options on the table to choose from. The photographer will set-up a large white backdrop most likely with several different lights. They may have an assistant with them who is very helpful with light adjustments and fixing hair flaws. You’ll notice I make tiny changes between each shot, whether that be a change in my smile, the angle of my face, my pose, or my stance. Hopefully you feel more comfortable with what to expect after watching this!
PREPARE YOUR STYLES
I love love love fashion. So whenever I book a photo shoot, I am thrilled because I get to be creative and bring my vision for that shoot to life. That involves planning, shopping, and styling. So below I will discuss the things to consider before making your outfit decisions.
Fashion to highlight your best assets: What is your best body part? In my opinion, mine is my legs. So for most of my photoshoots I choose shorts instead of capris or pants. If yours is your shoulders, then for sure wear a sports bra or tank top instead of long-sleeved. If yours is your abs, then be sure to wear a sport bra or a crop top.
Fashion to compliment the background: Where will you be shooting? If it is an outdoor photo shoot, the background will likely be busy. So stick to solid, bright colors. If it is an indoor photo shoot in front of a white background, then you have a little more freedom to choose patterns. However, in my opinion solids tend to shoot better in general.
Fashion to compliment the attitude: What message are you trying to convey thru the shoot? Is it meant to be fun and bubbly? Then I would choose bright/fun colors! Is it meant to show you working out intensely and sweating at the gym? Then I would choose darker colors and cuts that show more sweaty skin.
So overall, there are a few outfit options in the fitness modeling world: workout clothes, swimsuit, or lifestyle.
For shopping, I have a few favorite companies I use for photo shoot outfits. They are good quality and popular among fitness models:
A quick note before we move on about maintaining self respect in the fitness modeling industry:
When I do fitness photo shoots, I try to portray myself as a professional with the image of health & happiness. I want people to look up to me and see me as a positive influence. I want to be seen for who I truly am. I keep those things in mind when deciding on the shoot location, props, outfits, poses, etc.
Here is the problem: There is a fine line between sexy & classy in the female fitness industry. All over the web and social media I see pictures of women that are not-so-classy (in my opinion). Posing sexy, wearing lingerie for fitness shoots, or putting the spotlight on their “assets”. There has been an over-sexualization of women in fitness lately.
What I don’t understand is why. If your goal is to gain a male following then go ahead! If you feel like it represents you then go ahead! We all have our own policies and thoughts on what is okay.
Me complaining will not change anything. Instead, I just want to shine a light on this problem. That is all. If you are like the majority of us women in the fitness industry, and your goal is to coach, train, or blog to other females… then what is the point in marketing toward men?
My point: Consider your target audience. When the fitness photo is meant to inspire and motivate other women, is it really necessary to wear lingerie? What is wrong with wearing shorts and a sports bra? Or a bikini? What is wrong with posing in the gym instead of on a bed?
Today I encourage you to just think about these things before you start building your brand and making your mark in the fitness industry. Have some self respect. Take pride in yourself and in your body. 🙂
PREPARE YOUR BODY
The most important step in preparing for a photo shoot is preparing your body. Develop a workout program to guide you in order to prepare for your photo shoot. And what goes hand-in-hand with your workouts? Nutrition. Follow whatever plan you need to achieve your physique goals for the shoot.
Here is a list of other things to do to physically prepare for your photo shoot:
Another thing you can work on far in advance is your posing. Practice your poses prior to showing up for the shoot so you feel more comfortable in your skin. Try practicing in front of the mirror or taking pictures/videos to find your best angles.
I have put together a Fitness Model Pinterest board for you. Follow it by clicking the image below:
If you would like help with your Training & Nutrition for Photoshoot prep, checkout our 1-on-1 coaching program or our “The Beautiful to the Core Body [12 week program] Ebook. It is perfect for a 12-week lean out to prepare for your shoot. It includes training, nutrition, supplements, and FB community group access.
PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE
Once your photo shoot is complete, the waiting period begins. Waiting for the booked shoot to be published (it may take up to a year) or waiting for magazines to reply to your emails and book you. Once again, my biggest tip is to never give up. Check-in with your connections often. And once you have a successful modeling gig/publication, be sure to send out Thank You’s to the people who helped you get there! Like the editor, photographer, makeup artist, hair stylist, etc.
Make a reminder in your calendar to check-in with them again in 6 months to a year. See if they are in need of any more content or photo’s for future issues. Keeping that line of communication open is crucial to booking more gigs for years to come.
A crucial part of building your future is learning from your past. Learn from your successes and mistakes. If you landed a gig, remember the process so that way you can try it with another company/publication. If you do not like one of your outfit choices for a shoot because it did not photograph well, remember that for future styling decisions.
I hope you learned a lot from this guide to becoming a fitness model. It is difficult to make just one to-do list for everyone interested in modeling because (like I said before) we all enter the industry different ways. See what works for you and what best aligns with your goals.
In general, my take-home message to working in this industry is to BE PATIENT and NEVER GIVE UP. It involves a lot of waiting, un-answered emails, and rejection. But if this is truly what you want to do, then it will be well worth the wait.
APPENDIX – CONSULTATIONS
Sometimes you need an extra set of eyes to look over the product you are trying to sell before you go and pitch it! That is why it is great to have a professional with experience review it first to get a second opinion. Would you sell baked goods before having someone else do a taste test first? No. So that is why I feel it is important to have a mentor or person who can make sure you are on track. If you would like a consultation with me, I provide fitness model portfolio reviews online. Once purchased, you will email me:
I will review those items and respond within two business days with my in-depth critique.