Don’t Count on Money (or anything) before it’s in your Hand

So I was out on my bike (the dirt kind, not the pedal kind) a few minutes ago and all of a sudden, the idea for a new blog post struck me – like loosely packed, fresh gravel on a country road (thanks a bunch, whoever did that…) Anyhow, I figured it was high time to blog about something that I feel is very important to consider when accepting/negotiating jobs and counting on ensuing payment, which is not counting on anything until said payment is in your hand. Literally. Below I have highlighted a few words of wisdom that I have gleaned from years in this industry that we call fashion

A little shameless self-promotion: a Valentines ad for the perfume I am the face of, Sexual by Michel Germain

A little shameless self-promotion: a Valentines ad for the perfume I am the face of, Sexual by Michel Germain

1.) Reign in job offer excitement until you are actually on set.

I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket here, and I do realize that sometimes it is hard to suppress elation over a new client or nifty sounding gig. However, it is all too common that a job has been described to me in great detail, financial compensation has been agreed upon and all the other little nitty-gritty details have been pored over and then said job never actually materializes. This is why I avoid discussing details of my work with people close to me (you know who you are and I’m sorry!) until I am physically at the location of the shoot with a camera shoved in my face.

I try to vet out clients through mutual acquaintances or do some independent research to avoid this. In addition, it is often helpful to follow-up with said clients. However, this is often one of those painfully irritating situations that one has no control over…

2.) (If working outside of an agency) prompt clients to pay on site, directly after the job…

…because I have found a direct relation between the amount of time that is allowed to elapse after the shoot increasing and your chances of actually receiving compensation decreasing. Does that make sense? I hope so. Get paid ASAP.

3.) Don’t spend money you haven’t received.

This is one of the biggest bummers of working as in independent contractor. Looking at each month, it’s nice to feel satisfied with the amount of work coming in and it can be easy to spend proportionally. However, I’ve waited literally years for certain clients to pay me (a more common scenario is 45 – 90 days in my experience, but that’s still not exactly cutting it if the mortgage is due next week). In a couple of extremely irksome instances, I have yet to get compensated at all…and if you’re guilty of that and reading this: pay me!!!

Save the drama fo' yo' mama.

Save the drama fo’ yo’ mama.

4.) Save all correspondences between you and your client

I’ve experienced the dreaded scenario where there is a small, how shall we say, conflict between myself and the customer in regards to expected compensation after the job. This has definite potential for drama but can easily be diffused if you are savvy enough to keep all records of conversation between the involved parties leading up to a shoot.

5.) Don’t take anyone’s word for gospel.

It actually bothers me to write this because I sound like a conspirator or some sh#t but do no trust anybody. Well, maybe your best friend and parents and that kind of stuff. But as earnest as somebody sounds over the interwebs or the phone, you really can’t rely on anything until after the fact.

All this being said, a little common sense goes a long way in this business and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Do your homework, ask around and be a little skeptical every now and then and everything should be copacetic.


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Will Work for Store Discount…

…or not.

One thing that I have found is becoming more and more common in this business we call fashion is the preponderance of clients with an affinity for offering…well…nothing in exchange for a model’s services. And by nothing, I mean nothing.

I can almost understand a start-up designer or other such business offering a newbie model a shoot for, say, an outfit. I know that there are a trillion models out there who are dying to see their face in print so maybe it’s easy for the client to justify not paying them. Our “reality tv, facebook-obsessed” culture has contributed to the fact that it’s likely not entirely difficult for them to find someone who is willing to pose just for the sake of garnering a tearsheet and/or real/perceived notoriety. Now, an experienced model probably won’t consider doing the shoot (in my case, it’s just hard to justify the cost of transport and time for something that I have three overstuffed closets full of and a portfolio that is bursting at the seams, quite literally) but at least something is being offered.


After the knee surgery (it’s looking way better these days).
Photo: Thomas Dagg

However, I’m finding far too often that a seasoned model will be approached by a “client” who just “looooooves your look so much; thinks your portfolio is to die for and just knows that your face is exactly what their brand needs to take it to the next level” and then follows up with “well, I can offer a 50 percent discount in my boutique as a form of payment”. I find this attitude particularly irksome when a casting is initially described as “paid” and then this card is played. It is further aggravated by the fact that, of course, the client is always paying for a photographer, hair/mua, printing and distribution costs and so on. If I’m exactly what you need and you feel that I will benefit your brand that much, maybe you should examine making the shoot at least feasible for me to do. Most of us are pretty good at working within budgetary restrictions – you might be surprised.

Now, you might be thinking “Aw, come on Kate. Don’t be so hard on these poor start up clients”. I can assure you, I understand their plight. But I can safely say that even a limited budget is better than store credit (in my opinion, anyway). Discounts don’t pay my mortgage or put food in my bulldog’s mouths, yanno what I’m saying? And when I’m basically being asked to spend money in order to work (because you will have to shell out at the designer’s boutique in order to get that fifty percent off) it becomes a little pointless to proceed with the shoot. And sometimes, just sometimes, these are not “small, independent clients” who are offering no rates in exchange for your services. But that’s another issue entirely…




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Let’s Not Waste Each Other’s Time

As some of you lovely readers know, I recently underwent some surgery wherein I basically received a brand spankin’ new right knee, and as a result, I’ve been a bit under the weather for the past few weeks. So before the Hydromorphone fully sinks in, I shall kick off this blog post.

What some people outside of the industry may be surprised to learn is that there exists a phenomenon called “pre-shoot meetings” (or phone calls) that every professional photo subject I know regards wearily. In short, this ritual consists of the photographer suggesting that he (and in my experience it is always a he but I really don’t mean to generalize) and the model in question “meet up” as a way of “breaking the ice” and “highlighting expectations” (although I’ve heard it put much less eloquently) before a shoot. In theory, I suppose, the model sees it as a casting of sorts. That is how I justified the few meetings or calls I subjected myself to, at least.

In reality, by and large, this meeting/phone conversation consists of said photographer bragging about his accomplishments, bad-mouthing every other photographer in their respective city, yammering about their car/dog/penthouse/ex-girlfriend, and specifying why their artistic vision is so mystical and special…before going back to bragging about past accomplishments. And ex-girlfriends (always models).

"Afrika" editorial by Ed Huang

“Afrika” editorial by Ed Huang

Below is a run-down of a pre-shoot meeting that I had the “pleasure” of attending many years ago (how I lament this experience, but it does make great fodder for my blog, now doesn’t it?) I swear on all that is holy, this anecdote is 115 percent true.

Photographer: rushes into hipster coffee shop of his choosing several minutes after the agreed upon meeting time. Looks around cooly for someone resembling my pictures. Notices me and saunters over. Does not remove oversized aviator sunglasses. Air kisses ensue. Sits down. Orders a large, skinny vanilla latte with extra foam. Still does not remove sunglasses. Plunks fancy BMW key ring on table with fancy BMW keys attached. Right. In. Front. Of. My. Nose. BMW symbol facing up. Always.

Me: “Drive a BMW, do ya?” (trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to contain sarcasm)

Photographer: (looks sheepish and snatches keys away, jamming them into the pocket of his 7 For All Mankind jeans) “Heh heh. Yep”.

Me: “So…the shoot?” (referring to the supposed reason why we are together in the first place)

Photographer: “So what do you know about me? (no pause) I suppose you’ve heard of my work for _______. Well, that was commissioned by ________. They are very important people. Like, THE most important people in the French fashion industry. They ONLY work with me now. The owner, _______? Well, he drives a BMW as well. Although not as nice as mine because of _______. You’ve heard of ________? Well, I discovered her. I MADE her career….” (conversation goes on…and on…and on. And by conversation, I mean me half-listening to him explaining why the entire fashion industry revolves around him and why everyone I have ever worked with in the past can’t hold a candle to his talent and charisma).

Me: “I have a really long drive home and it’s approaching rush hour…”

Him: “Oh of course!” (proceeds to talk for another 45 minutes, ignoring subtleties like me glancing at the time, shifting my feet, attempting to get up, etc. Finally claps his well-jewelled hands upon the table and states loudly enough for the three surrounding tables to hear “Well, I’ve got an important engagement at 5 pm. I’m really sorry my dear, but I will have to leave you now”.

Little to no actual discussion of “the shoot” he was supposedly hiring me for actually took place, no matter how many times I tried to steer the conversation in that direction. Was I perhaps a bit naive? Of course. I would never agree to such a meeting (or phone call) anymore.

So what is the lesson that I learned? If you don’t want to be trapped on the phone or at a coffee-house for hours upon hours with a Chatty Cathy whose favourite subject is he, himself and him, always send all pertinent details via email. Offer polariods, references – whatever the other party requires to make them feel comfortable. Offer to call, if truly necessary, but set limitations from the get-go, like stating that you are between engagements and only have ten minutes to discuss the shoot. Because really…what details need to be discussed that take more than ten minutes?

The problem with these solutions is that the pre-shoot meeting initiator (ie. photographer) has never, in any case that myself or a colleague has experienced, actually been serious about hiring for a shoot in the first place. This is evidenced by the vague terms that are used to describe the potential “shoot” and by a total lack of all pertinent details. So why would the photographer bother? I figure it comes down to ego stroking and the opportunity to hear themselves talk about their favourite subject to what they feel is a captive and impressionable audience.

I am in no way discounting actual casting calls or phone calls to firm up details of a real job. I can be quite social (sometimes so social that memory loss ensues, but I digress…) and am unafraid of the telephone. However, there is an obvious difference between these legitimate discussions and a superfluous “pre shoot meeting” or phone call that lasts the entire afternoon…for a shoot that doesn’t exist.

Near as I can figure, ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

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Dear Kate…I Really Wanna Model…

Happy 2014, yo!

As a precursor to composing this post, I would like to mention that my lovely, albeit clumsy dog stepped on my laptop’s keyboard yesterday and rendered it slightly useless. As a result, I am avoiding the use of the letter “m” as mmmmmuch as possible because that key is currently not attached to said keyboard by anything more than hopes and dreams. I also mention this as an attempt to garner sympathy from anyone reading this.

Anyhoo, a few years ago, I heard about a fairly successful Canadian model who was charging newbies by the minute for advice re. the industry. I remember thinking at the time that she was being a bit of a d*nk because, hey, shouldn’t we all be out to help one another? It’s a tough, dirty business. If we don’t support one another, who is going to support us? Well, fast forward a bit to my current situation…I now know exactly how that other girl felt and I am heavily contemplating doing the same.

Gratuitous picture insert of some of my work for Ecksand

Gratuitous picture insert of some of my work for Ecksand

I get a fairly staggering amount of private messages from would-be models of all ages and types, male and female, every week. They started trickling in around 2009 or ’10 and now it’s pretty much a constant flow. Now, if these messages were based on reality, were legitimate/warranted and at the very frikkin’ least sounded grateful you wouldn’t be reading this right now. But alas…you are. So what’s the problem? It’s the piss-poor attitude and warped sense of reality that the majority of these people exhibit.

Example A:

Unsolicited Message on Bookface:  “I’m determined to be the next [insert famous model’s name here] and nothing is going to stop me! Can you hook me up with a/your/the best agency? Also, tell me exactly what to do in order to achieve this.”

Kate: “[Insert basic formalities]. I would like to help you but I need some information first. What is your current height/size? I could then recommend a few decent agencies for you to look into in order to check out when their open call days are. Then you can find out the agent’s opinion firsthand, as I don’t know what they are specifically looking for but I do know their basic requirements. Thanks.”

Bookface: “I’m 5’2″. I know you think that’s too short but I don’t care. I’m determined to make this my career and nothing will stop me. Can’t you just get me into an agency? I don’t know what an open call is and I would rather skip all that stuff”.

Kate: “Good luck”.

Bookface: “So when can I sign with your agency?”

Bookface: “I don’t want to have to deal with all of that. Can you just get me signed with your agency? They will pay for me to travel everywhere, right?”

Bookface: “I don’t have any money at the moment and I really want to start making money modeling because I know how good the money is. I just need to get signed”.

Sadly shaking my head...

Sadly shaking my head…

Example B:

Random e-mail from a complete stranger: “Hi Kate. Love your work; you’re so awesome. I was wondering if you could answer some questions for me…[insert list of questions twelve paragraphs long].”

Kate: [Spends thirty or more minutes answering questions succinctly and politely]

Random e-mailer: [nothing]

Kate: Uh…you’re welcome?

You may think that these are exaggerated for the purpose of entertainment but I swear on all that is holy they aren’t the least bit contrived or, sadly, rare. I don’t mind helping the odd person out who legitimately appreciates and understands the advice that I am imparting upon them. However, those lovely people are the exception and, frankly, I would rather be doing a lot of other things, like snowmobiling or drinking vodka, than answering self-righteous and entitled inquiries. Unless I’m being paid, as it were.

So in closing, if you don’t know much about the business and fancy yourself savvy enough to be the next Tyson Beckford, please also be savvy enough to educate yourself…but if you’re reading this right now then you’re off to a good start. I reckon.

Wings on top, sukkah!


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On Height and the Industry

Upon meeting people for the first (or second…or third) time, one of the things that rarely escapes mention is my height – or abundance thereof. If said person is not aware that I model, comments will generally be made that I should (model). If the individual knows that I do this, they will make exclamatory remarks about how much of an asset my height is.

Now, let it be noted for the record that I DO NOT, NOT appreciate these comments. In fact, the opposite is true. *Thank you to all of the lovely people who make mention of it and appreciate my gangly attributes.* The point of this blog, rather, is to dispel some myths about height relating to the modeling industry.

In my experience, it has rarely, if ever, been beneficial to be over 5’9″. I am about half an inch shy of 6′ (5’11.5″ as my agency says). I know this because a doctor measured me about two months ago. Is it possible to be over 20 years old and female and still growing? Anyway, I digress…

NO ONE is taller than Chuck Norris.

NO ONE is taller than Chuck Norris.

The point is, clients in Canada generally would like female models to be about 5’9″. There are a few reasons I have detected over the years for this. One is that designer sample sizes simply are not produced for females in the 6′ range. Another is that if you are working with a male model, they are rarely taller than you (again, this is coming from my experience) and then the photographer will need to place them on a phone book or you in bare feet…or both. And sometimes that’ll ruin a full body shot, yanno? The same logic applies to working with other female models. There is a marked difference between someone who is 5’9″ and someone who is 2 -3″ taller. That’s generally not the esthetic that a photographer or client wants for group shots…and then you get into the use of bare feet, creative posing or phone books.

Over the years, I have amassed a dirty pile of nicknames that run the gamut from “Spider Monkey” to “String Bean” and been likened to a bad weed. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. But now you all know why it’s not the super coolest thing to be as tall as I am – in the Canadian modeling industry.

Photo: Babak Hair: Palma Anshilevich

Photo: Babak
Hair: Palma Anshilevich





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First Post of 2013 – Ice Pilots, Yo

So it’s May…and it’s also my first blog post of 2013. And what of it?

You may recall a post I wrote back in March of 2012 about traveling to Yellowknife to shoot an episode of Ice Pilots NWT with my dear pal Mikey McBryan and company. It was a tremendous time and the race results are in! Check out the full episode here: I said “cumbersome”. Hehe.

Thanks again to all my fabulous friends (old and new) up in Yellowknife as well as the terrific photographers, wardrobe stylists, hair/makeup artists, etc. who supplied their work for the episode. And a special shout out to all of the amazing and truly dedicated staff who work on this awesome show. Its absolutely best reality series ever made! Watch it!

Talk soon.

April 29, 2013 231

Every post needs an accompanying picture

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Ten Things You Don’t Know About Me…

…And probably don’t care about anyway.

Working on set has provided me ample opportunity to get to know all sorts of things about the other people present. The modeling industry is (amoung other things) a fascinating world and one of the aspects I enjoy the most about it is getting a rare cross-section look into the lives of others, as one often finds themselves becoming rather intimate with the people on set fairly quickly.

I really, really enjoyed him, despite my decidedly sour expression.

I really, really enjoyed him, despite my decidedly sour expression.

I have yet to decide if this is due to the personalities that are attracted to this lifestyle or whether it can be attributed to the fact that conversation naturally flows when someone’s hands are all up in your business and their face is about two inches from your own as they apply, with painstaking precision, my black winged eyeliner. I think it’s a combination of both.

So, without further ado, here is a list of ten facts about me that people in the biz often find shocking and/or interesting when revealed.

1.) I apprenticed to be a marine mechanic and continue to work with my hands constantly. Embarrassingly, this is usually revealed when the perma-grease on my hands is made apparent.

2.) I don’t live in a city and I never will. This has had its ups and downs over my career as a model: on one hand I can pull work from different markets as I live within commuting distance of a few cities, but on the other hand, it’s rarely (if ever) practical for me to drive all the way into the city to attend a random casting or fitting. I fully accept the positives and negatives of my living situation.

iphone set 1136

3.) I will never, ever say no to a coffee.

4.) I have a few tattoos but they are (kind of) well hidden. If, for some reason, they are revealed during the shoot and the photographer/editor leaves them in the final shot I always smile. Although I never expect this is the least.


Recent work for Oil and Sugar – can you spot the tat?

5.) I ride a motorcycle almost everywhere when I’m around home. In fact, I’m still riding on the warmer days and will continue to do so until it becomes dangerous or until I can drive my snowmobile instead.

6.) I have an older brother and a younger sister and they are not involved in any way, shape or form with the modeling industry. In fact, we don’t discuss it back home. Ever, really.

7.) One of my main passions in life is travel. Usually the people I meet in this industry are also really into discussing this subject and have traveled extensively themselves, so that makes for plenty of interesting conversation. I was thinking about the work/travel connection yesterday because a friend asked me whether I travel mostly for work or for fun. I realized that the answer is both, and that I am pretty damn lucky to have a job that allows me to do so.

If there's one thing I love, it's Germany in the winter.

If there’s one thing I love, it’s Germany in the winter.

8.) I used to be a fairly high-level snowboarder and badminton player but had to give it up due to a torn ACL/MCL/LCL that is still awaiting surgery. I have definitely plans to get back into competitive snowboarding when said surgery finally materializes.

9.) I once ran for Miss Canada. I really, truly only did it for the $10,000 in scholarship money that the winner received. Unfortunately, I have nothing particularly good to say about the competition itself (although I hear that it has since changed for the better) but many (not all) of the other girls were truly fabulous individuals and I remember that part fondly.

10.) I grew up/currently live on the lake and could never not be on a body of water. I gravitate towards it wherever I go.


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