Even though we may view modeling as a high-paying, prestigious profession, the truth is that few models earn a sustainable living from their work. Often, fashion models must finance their travels and photoshoots to pursue their dream career.
This is particularly true at the world’s most famous modeling agencies, where even top models borrow large amounts of money from industry representatives to cover travel, lodging, and food expenses.
Here are five successful fashion models who still (relatably) struggle with debt.
1. Ekaterina Ozhiganova
Ekaterina Ozhiganova, who immigrated from Russia to pursue her modeling dreams, soon found herself racking up high costs from fashion shoots and industry events. Although rides to meet photographers were charged to her agency’s account, Ozhiganova found herself struggling to pay for hotel stays and travel to shoots.
Ozhiganova counters the perception that models earn sustainable incomes. In fact, she believes that most top models will ultimately owe as much as they earn over the course of their careers.
2. Jenna Sauers
A well-known model who has worked for one of the most prestigious agencies in the world, Jenna Sauers discovered early in her career that she was deeply in debt to her representatives. She was making thousands of dollars per gig as a professional model. Unfortunately, Sauers also found that she needed to pay for her own travel and accommodations for her work.
Sauer no longer works as a model, but she still owes her former agency thousands of dollars. Because she used credit cards to finance her travel expenses, Sauer is also significantly indebted to multiple banks.
In Sauer’s view, models who hope to get ahead in the fashion world must now either accept even the smallest jobs or take a second job outside of the fashion world. Some models have even sought payday advances online when they found themselves low on funds between paychecks. Clearly, pursuing a fashion modeling career can be risky, and talent never guarantees success.
3. Kelly Mittendorf
While working in some of the fashion industry’s most coveted jobs, Kelly Mittendorf was surprised to find herself bearing the brunt of her standard modeling expenses. Mittendorf’s agency covered plane tickets and fashion shoot accommodation costs upfront. In the end, however, Mittendorf’s agency billed these expenses to her personal account, which left her with a significant amount of debt. Modeling may seem like a fantasy, but as Mittendorf proves, sometimes there’s no happy ending for models’ bank accounts!
4. Leanne Maskell
Having strolled the most famous catwalks in the world, well-known model Leanne Maskell believed that a career in the fashion industry would one day provide her with a comfortable living. Instead, Maskell ended up owing her agency thousands of dollars.
Like other models, Maskell found herself accruing large debts while completing standard modeling gigs, like photoshoots and fashion shows. In the hope of succeeding in the industry, Maskell accepted significant funding from her agency to cover her basic expenses. Maskell is expected to pay her loan back, though, even if she stops modeling. Talk about loan sharks!
5. Crystal Renn
For successful model Crystal Renn, life in the fashion industry initially seemed like a dream come true. As Renn soon discovered, however, the modeling industry often pays models a small stipend (or doesn’t pay them at all) in order to reduce expenses for shoots and fashion shows. According to Renn, even the top magazines refuse to pay models for their time.
Like many models, Renn went into debt to fund her career.
For years, she financed her modeling career with loans from her agency, which has made her more selective about the jobs that she will take. Sadly, Renn knows firsthand that that the pursuit of a modeling career requires taking on large amounts of debt.
Even though modeling may seem like a glamorous way to earn money, models are forced to pick up their own travel costs and photoshoot fees, which can easily lead them into loads of debt. So the next time you dream about modeling to pay off your student loans, remember that the modeling industry could push you further into debt instead of becoming a profitable career.
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