How To Start a Petite Modeling Career

Forget about being “too short” to model and focus on your drive to become a petite model. The fashion and model industry is changing and your height should not limit you from doing what you love. I am a 5’3” petite model with over 5 years of experience and I have compiled a list on how you can start your career. 

Here are 7 steps that will guide you into jumpstarting your petite modeling career: 

  1. Experience, Experience, Experience

I personally believe that getting as much experience as possible is key in starting your modeling career. This experience doesn’t have to be paid work or agency sponsored. Collaborations or test shoots will help you create a strong basis for the rest of your career. Although many brands/companies still have height requirements, it is pivotal to build a strong portfolio and by doing various types of shoots you will generate more attention. 

The perfect way to do this is by DMing photographers via Instagram. Introduce yourself and tell them something genuine while engaging interest. Showing appreciation for their work, style, etc. goes a long way. Then ask them politely if they would be interested in collaborating with you. Do not expect anything in return and set a goal to message as many people as possible until you get a “yes,” Do not be afraid of rejection. Rinse and repeat. 

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2. Building a Strong Portfolio

The strength of a portfolio will increase your chances of being seen, heard, and considered when looking for an agency. While you are gaining experience, focus on what your portfolio looks like and do your research on the agencies that you have considered. This means going to several modeling agencies websites and study their model portfolios and see what yours is missing. Ideally, you want to have variety in fields such as, commercial, fitness, lifestyle, and fashion. 

Generally, agencies prefer crisp studio and outdoors images with natural makeup and poses ranging from standing, sitting on a stool, on the floor. Do not forget to include photos of you smiling!

Shot by Chris Langford | MUA Sarah Khan

Shot by Chris Langford | MUA Sarah Khan

3. Get Your Digitals Taken 

Once you have built up your experience and are actively working on strengthening your portfolio, it is time to get your digitals taken and submit them to agencies. Digitals, or polaroids, are snapshots of yourself in form-fitting clothes with little to no makeup and natural hair. I personally prefer to take digitals with absolutely no makeup because a lot of agencies prefer them. Digitals are taken against a plain, preferably white, wall with natural light. These are commonly taken with a professional camera or with your phone. 

Here is a short list of types of photos that you will need:

Closeup smiling and not smiling

3/4 body shot

Profile shot

Front full body shot

Back full body shot

Since you have been already collaborating and building a professional relationship with photographers, you can ask them to help you take these photos. If they are not willing to do so, you can ask someone else to help you out. 

To find examples of what these images should look like, search “model agency digitals.”

Ksenia Pro Photo

Ksenia Pro Photo

4. Take Your Measurements 

This one can be tricky for some. I am very aware of the body image issues most of us face on a daily basis, but in no way do I ever let my insecurities stop me from following my dreams. Models come in all shapes and sizes and there is no perfect number that will get you signed. 

So now that we have gotten that straightened out, lets focus on what is important: knowing your height, bust, waist, hip, and shoe size.

Most people know their height and shoe size so I will not be explaining this. 

  • Bust size: measure the fullest part of your bust. 

  • Waist size: measure at the smallest part, right below your ribcage. I tend to relax my belly when I measure my waist so that it is a realistic measurement. 

  • Hip size: measure at the widest part of your hips with your feet together.  

5. Creating Your Comp Cards

What is a comp card? It is similar to a business card, but catered for models. Early on in my career, I didn’t think this was important. But after numerous open calls and casting, I quickly realized these are essential.  Comp cards are the only way you can leave something with a casting director or agent for them to remember what you look like and who you are. It is important to leave an impression while on these calls! 

Comp cards are double sided and are 8.5’’ x 5.5’’. On one side you will include your headshot, name and contact info, and on the other side, you can include four professional photos, and list your measurements at the bottom. There are various ways of organizing your comp card so Googleing templates may help here. 

6. Applying To Agencies Online

Thanks to the Internet, it has never been easier to be discovered by agencies. You can literally be seen by hundreds of agents without stepping foot outside your home. My advice here, is to apply to every single agency that you possible can and feel comfortable doing. Ignore the height requirement, ditch the insecurities and expectations, and JUST DO IT. Apply to various agencies that focus on talent, lifestyle, parts, fit, fitness, and of course fashion. Don’t limit yourself to agencies that are close to you (if you’re comfortable with a little travel). You may be surprised who gives you that “yes.” 

Finding agencies to apply to is incredibly easy. Example: Google: “ Talent agency in New York.” Click on an agency, click on “be discovered” or “become a model” and boom. The prompts are usually asking for your measurements, portfolios, and/or experience. And since you’ve been following these steps, you’ll have all of this ready to go! 

7. Attend Open Calls 

Some agencies still accept walk ins, which are called “open calls”. These are held on specific dates for anyone to show up. This route is better at exposing yourself in person and getting the agencies to get a feel for who you are. 

Agencies will usually post on their website the dates for their open calls under “contact us”, “get discovered” or something similar. 

If they are not holding open calls, then submit online and proceed to the next agency.  

When you attend an open call, it is important to bring your portfolio and comp card with you. It took a number of open calls for me to realize how important it was to come prepared. We are fighting against the grain by being petite models, so the best way we can prove our potential is to provide real images that show our talent.

Attending Open Calls in Los Angeles

Attending Open Calls in Los Angeles

After completing these 7 steps, if you have the drive and the talent, you should be able to get signed to an agency and begin your career as a professional petite model. But remember, it is a numbers game. Meaning that you have to apply and reapply to as many agencies until you get a “yes.” Every story is different, but from my personal experience I believe this is a solid generalized guideline on becoming a petite model. 

One last thing: Completing this whole process can take several months, if not years! So please be patient and enjoy the ride!!