How to Become a Plus Size Model | Advice on Casting, Portfolio & Agency with Hayley Herms

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Hayley Herms is a plus size model from Los Angeles, whose online course, “How to Become a Plus Size Model: A Course For The Aspiring Plus Size Model” really helped me up my modeling game – and land plus size modeling contracts in Utah and New York City!

Yours truly for plus BKLYN

Hayley’s course has helped me a ton (also: I also consulted on the structure of the course!), and I’ve interviewed Hayley below on her work, the course and what’s next for the multi-talented star!

BH: How did you get your start in modeling?

HH: I started getting into modeling through child acting! I got discovered off of MySpace by a photographer for EdHardy from my acting headshots. I was 12 in 7th grade, but she thought I was 20! Next thing you know, I’m at a photoshoot for EdHardy and I absolutely fell in love with modeling – I felt like an absolute chameleon. Over 10 years later, it’s still one of my passions and full-time career!!  

BH: I love that! What is a common misconception about modeling, besides how hard it is?

I think a big misconception about modeling is that all it requires is a “pretty face.” You can be what society thinks of as the most beautiful girl and still not know how to model (which I have seen on set before)!

You can be what society thinks of as the most beautiful girl and still not know how to model

Modeling is like a sport, it takes more than just a pretty face and striking a pose – it takes practice to make perfect and its a real craft you have to work on and exercise like a muscle. It takes a lot of self discipline, determination, persistence, and motivation to work in this industry.

Hayley Herms for Ashley Nell Tipton

BH: OMG it is DEFINITELY like a sport. I am *exhausted* after a shoot. Speaking of photoshoots and landing projects, do you think it’s necessary for plus size models to have an agent?  What are a few pros/cons?

HH: I definitely don’t think it’s necessary for plus size models to have an agent in 2020. I am currently signed to 4 agencies and I still book 75% of my work and income on jobs/shoots I find myself!

However, I definitely think there are pros to being signed with agency such as working with reputable clients, greater exposure, larger pay, work is found for you! But with pros there are cons to think about such as more competition, they take a % of the profit, contract restrictions, grooming up keep, and other things that add up over time.

I go into depth on how to vet and and an agency . (or agent) in my course, “How to Become a Plus Size Model: A Course For The Aspiring Plus Size Model” because there are a LOT of things to consider.

BH: Let’s talk about investing in education. I find that a lot of folks think they can just “learn everything from Google” which definitely hasn’t been true for my work in fashion.

What training did you have to invest in for yourself for modeling?  Have you hired coaches? Or has coaching and performance instruction from other industries helped you?

HH: I started modeling before the age of social media so at that time it was all about building your physical portfolio book and not your Instagram lol. I would spend hours online looking for photographers, hair and make up to collaborate with.

When I started to drive at 16, I would go all around Southern California or even San Diego to have plus size model meets ups to make more connections and networking. I will say, I think a large portion of my success is due to networking! 

Hayley Herms for Hooked App

I grew up a performer/artist, going to a performing arts academy on the weekend in between acting and dance classes so I definitely think just having a hand in all different pots of the entertainment industry has been super helpful not only developing the way I move as a model, but also convey emotions across a screen. As a kid, I always saved all my money for voice lessons, acting classes/coaches, performance classes, interview training, and more – I knew I was going to be and wanted to be a star at a young age and somehow knew, my best investments were in myself/career!!

Going back to the “modeling is like a sport,” great athletes have coaches – and creative professionals do as well!

BH: How much do you spend a year on training/coaching/voice lessons/etc?

HH: I basically invest any extra income back into my career essentially. You may think WOW that’s a ton of money, but I usually have always seen a return on my investments and 9/10 out I make more money than I spend so it’s always worth investing in yourself and goals if you’re serious! 

Some of what I do is in trade (ie social media marketing in trade for other services, etc).

I want to be real about the investment I make in myself, so I’ve shared details below. Keep in mind these are expenses for someone well into their career!

  • Voice Lessons $50-100/hr each week
  • Training sessions $50-60/hr each week
  • Dance/performance coaching $50-100/hr each week
Street style shoot in NYC

“Grooming” Costs

Also to note, modeling especially with an agency, I always have grooming fees because by contract I’m required to keep myself “upkep.t”

So manicure/pedicures bi-weekly at $45, eyebrows once a month $18, facial once a month $80 and other items such as make up for auditions and skincare.

Hayley Herms for Ashley Nell Tipton

Portfolio Shoots

I do one portfolio shoot every year (if you color your hair or fluctuate weight a lot I recommend doing two) and spend about $500 – $800 on the shoot between photographer, HMUA, location, clothes, and other details.

Comp Cards

$50-100 on comp cards for my agencies, and this fee double or triples for me because I have 4 different agencies.

Social Media Team & Legal Fees

Every single month I pay my social media team $630 and sometimes more if there are special projects in the works. I pay about $300 in website fees annually. Entertainment lawyer fees whether it be for modeling, songwriting, singing, etc. run me about $2,100 – $8,000 annually.

Other Expenses

Now I have an in home recording studio to help save and make me money, but before I was spending THOUSANDS on beats, producers, studio time, mixing and mastering, engineers, and more. There’s other miscellaneous things that add up too such as incase I need PR coaching, my assistant that I pay $15/hr, an occasional vlog editor, or just things you don’t expect.

Hayley Herms for PREMME

BH: What is the #1 mistake new plus size models make when trying to break into the industry?

HH: The #1 mistake I personally see with aspiring plus size models trying to break into the industry is that they think they can put in 3 months of work, take one portfolio shoot with no minimal experience and somehow land multiple agencies and book every national campaign.

I deeply encourage new plus size models to allow yourself to take the time to build a quality portfolio with multiple shoots to show diversity, collaborate with photographers in the beginning till you build and are strong in your poses and facials, put yourself out there to open agency calls (even if you’re not ready) to simply just ask them for their feedback – you can’t be afraid of rejection in this industry!

Check out the course here!

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your modeling career. Have patience and know practice makes perfect.

BH: I think that is so critical! I have been on casting teams for brand shoots, and I’ve seen people vow to never “audition again” because they weren’t cast. And it was like their 3rd audition!

I think this is a good segue into discussing your course. Why did you decide to create this course?

HH: Two reasons:

First Reason: ONLINE Modeling Course

I decided to create this course because an online modeling course (taught by someone with 10+ years of experience) doesn’t exist! Los Angeles and NYC have a lot of modeling opportunities, but I know people making full-time incomes in all sorts of cities and states in the USA!! I want people to know they can make headway into the industry and don’t need to move ASAP!

BTS of a photoshoot

Second Reason: WHO IS SERIOUS?!

The other reason is that I constantly get asked for tips on plus size modeling on my social media channels. Multiple times a day.

I would take A LOT much time (sometimes hours) and tell people tips and tricks of how they could become a plus size model just to have them blow me off or tell me it sounded “too hard.”

That’s when I realized, I needed to put together a class for people who were SERIOUS about making plus size modeling their full time dream/career.

Hayley Herms for Tunnel Vision

Having a course enables me to focus on people who are serious, and it has saved me a lot of time! I can focus on my students and direct inquiries to the course.

The key to creative work is investing in yourself.

Who is this course NOT for?  What types of people shouldn’t take it?

HH: This course is for people who are serious about auditioning as a plus size model, who have a growth mindset and are ready to put in WORK.

It is not for people who feel entitled or like they should already be getting cast in major campaigns. If you’re not open to receiving critique or feedback (or looking to get better at taking critique) modeling is NOT for you.

Also! You don’t need to be an extrovert to take the course!

BH: What topic in the course are you most passionate about?  Put another way, what topic do you wish you had had a tutorial on when you started?

It’s hard to pick because the entire course is like my baby, but the topic that I’m most passionate about in my course is a tie between Agency & Auditions and Planning your Portfolio & Organizing a Photoshoot!

I love being resourceful and organized and being able to share that with others, because dropping knowledge and helping others is my favorite thing to do.

Agency & Auditions: Walking into your first casting call or agency can be scary, so I take my students through how these events run. I also teach them the kind of “professional cues” they can send out to agencies and brands.

Planning your Portfolio & Organizing a Photoshoot: I love this class, because these two topics go hand-in-hand. To build your portfolio you’re going to need to understand how to plan shoots. How to coordinate a team of people, create a concept, etc.

I also dive deep into the types of images you need to have to have a portfolio that shows your range, and targets your dream brand clients. Wanting to model for a big department store catalogue is different than an edgy high fashion photoshoot.

Ecommerce photoshoot

Setting Expectations

I think those two classes really set you up for success and what to expect from not only agencies, but brands and photographers as well as utilizing resources you probably didn’t know you already had so you can decide which direction in the modeling world is right for you!  

BH: Something I really loved from the course was your encouragement! Why do you go out of your way to be positive and uplifting?

HH: We all need it! It’s always scary to pursue our dreams and goals, but the hardest part is showing up. Show up for yourself and take the leap of faith no matter what your dreams or goals may be and you’re halfway there! 

Photographer: Jessica Hinkle

BH: LOVE THAT! Let’s switch gears and talk about your work a bit more!

What’s your dream photoshoot // a photoshoot you’ve been dreaming about?

HH: My dream photoshoot may sound cliche, but I would love to have a huge spread in and on the cover of Vogue. I’d love a beautiful shoot probably somewhere in France very stylistic and I dream of wearing vintage Alexander McQueen!  

BH: YESSSS! Manifesting this!! What photographer(s) would you love to work with but haven’t?

I would love to work with Lydia Hudgens, Savannah Ruedy, and David LaChapelle! 

BH: Great picks! What magazine would you love to be a cover girl for? 

Definitely would love to be on the cover of US Vogue and Cosmo! 

What 3 new brands would you love to work with in 2020?

In 2020 I would love to work with CHROMAT, Christian Siriano, and ASOS! 

Thank you for the interview, Hayley!

If you’d like to read more about Hayley’s course, you can find details here. Also feel free to send her questions about the course via Instagram DM or email!

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