The answer is yes. Yes, you can. But it won’t be as simple as that yes sounds so it’s advisable to keep your expectations in check.

When you look at the modelling industry in the past from a global view, it seems elitist and exclusionary. The people in the pages of glossy magazines, large billboards, television ads, and fashion runways almost look unreal.

However, while we still have a long way to go, we’ve come far from only seeing people who don’t mirror how we look in real life. The standards of beauty have become inclusive and diversified. Today, you can open your preferred media channels and see a person that looks exactly like you.

The marginalised groups are shown in authentic ways these days. Black, Latina, and Coloured women don their afros, while Muslim women are in their hijabs. And we’re also seeing LGBTQ+ leading modelling campaigns.

The opportunities are opening and SA is one of the countries that offers many of these. It’s not a walk in the park – a lot of work goes into it. Not everyone becomes successful at modelling. But for those willing to try it out and see if it can work for them, there are things to keep in mind in preparation.

First, understand that there are many types of modelling. The most inclusive one is commercial modelling.

Commercial models advertise a wide range of products. This is anything from household items, food items, pharmaceuticals, travel destinations, and more. Commercial models are not restricted to age, weight and height. This is unlike the models that we associate with fashion or makeup we see in women’s magazines who are usually tall and slim, or fitness models who have to look toned.

While commercial models are not required to have modelling skills, they are advised to take modelling classes to get an understanding of auditions and working on set.

How do you start? I got the expert opinions from models who have been doing it for years. Abongwe Qokela and Tracey-Che King are both content creators and models who have worked with various local brands.

They explain that commercial models work on various platforms such as television, newspapers, and billboards. Sometimes commercial models feature in movies and music videos.

As with all modelling, a commercial model needs an agency representative to be able to book jobs. The first step to finding an agency is taking professional-looking photos. You don’t have to pay a professional photographer for these. You can take them using your smartphone if it takes quality photos.

The second step is searching for agencies in your city. You can do this on any search engine you use, and on social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are the best places to start. Once you have selected a few agencies that you think might help you. Call them or email them, informing them of your interests. Submit photos on your email. From here, you can start working on your own social media platforms by posting content that reflects your interests in modelling. Then wait to hear from the agencies. You might have to do follow-ups to make sure they received your submissions.

All the big cities in SA have many agencies, and most of them are on social media. Looking through their social media platforms will give you an idea of the kind of work they do.

“With the rise of social media – especially Instagram – the modelling industry has changed quite a bit. You could be scouted using an agency’s hashtag or be contacted by a brand to be part of their campaign,” says Tracey-Che.

“If you’re lucky enough to get an interview with an agent or agency, be sure to ask lots of questions so that you are able to make an informed decision about your career,” she adds.

Abongwe says most of the work that the agency can help you with is building character and confidence.

Companies then approach the agencies looking for particular models – eg “I want a young guy, aged between 20 and 30, who can play the flute”, or “We are looking for athletic young women who can play soccer.” And then agencies look at who fits this bill on their books, and call them in for an audition. Auditions are time-consuming, and you spend a lot of time hanging around, and even after that, only a few people get lucky. You have to be resilient, as you will inevitably have to face rejections.

However, all that said, it can be a great part-time career for students. “As a student, you can be quite flexible with your time. So, it’s the perfect way to make extra pocket money that could fund your studies,” says Tracey-Che.

“Many models I know are students. You don’t always have to be full time in this business,” adds Abongwe.

How do commercial models earn a salary? Well, the more you get booked for gigs, the more money you make.

“The downside is that sometimes clients can take up to ninety days to pay you. Your agency also takes a cut of your earnings, and so does the taxman,” Tracey-Che says.

Success in this industry involves many things. But the basics are being accessible at all times, either via calls or email. You need to have good time management skills. This is because going to castings can be time-consuming and sometimes take place at odd times of the day.

“You can wait for the director, but the director should never wait for you,” emphasises Abongwe.

Furthermore, you’ll need to have a thick skin, as you’ll face rejection on a daily basis. You’ll need to take care of yourself, and your health. You’ll need to be on time.

Abongwe and Tracy-Che agree that you’ll also need to have a positive attitude. This is because clients love to work with models who bring positive energy on set.

“You have to have a social media presence. And having skills like running, dancing, acting, and singing can work in your favour. Lastly, have fun while doing it.”

So, if you’re inspired to start this journey, do your research. Find an agency and find out exactly what this could mean for you.


Tell us: what do you think of modelling as a part-time job?