Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Model

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Model

Overview: The career of a model can look very different depending on the type of modeling they do and the level of their success. Most modeling falls into two categories: editorial (magazine spreads in higher-end magazines, fashion catwalks, high-end makeup ads, etc.) and commercial (catalogs, print ads for non-fashion products, commercials, and even showroom work where they work with the fashion designers as a form for the clothing being made). Models who are editorial often have a very distinctive look (something different or striking) and are often quite tall and adhere to very specific weight and age ranges. They also will clearly display their personality to prospective agents and clients in their look, but are expected to be flexible and unopinionated—to do as they are told. Those in commercial modeling may have a variety of sizes and heights, be of different ages, and would have more of a “girl (or boy) next door” appeal because commercial modeling is more about the product than the model.

Most models do not make a living wage and only model part time or have another job to supplement their income. The hours are very long and demanding, and it isn’t uncommon for an editorial model to be paid for their time with a lunch or a gift of clothing rather than a cash payment if they are in the building stages of their career where they are striving to build a portfolio and gain recognition. Those who are at the top of the editorial modeling world can make millions, but this is the exception, not the rule. Commercial modeling can be more lucrative including residuals from commercials, but neither avenue comes with job security or medical benefits unless the model is in high demand. The competition is very high and the industry is saturated with criticism and rejection, so having a strong mindset and being determined is crucial.

Typically modeling starts in the teens and goes into the early twenties in editorial modeling, but a greater range is common in commercial because it is more about what a specific brand is looking for as a match for their product, catalog, or commercial. Models may also only use one of their features, such as a hand (jewelry, skincare products, accessories) or foot (shoes, socks, accessories) rather than their whole body.

Much of a model’s time is spent off-camera waiting for interviews, going to castings or auditions, fittings, spending time in hair and makeup, going to the gym, and rushing between appointments. Because the industry has a huge power imbalance, there is a lot of additional pressure on models. Some may deal with inappropriate touching, sexual advances, and pressure to have sex. Because modeling can look very different depending on the type of work being done and the success level of the model it’s important to do your research for this type of character.

Necessary Training: Models may take classes to become more comfortable with the business (understanding how casting and callbacks work, fittings, dealing with criticism, the role of agents, the importance of building a name, how to create a strong portfolio, working with photographers, etc.), but it isn’t a requirement. Maintaining strong hygiene, maintaining good health, and controlling one’s weight are all key for this profession.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A knack for languages, a knack for making money, a way with animals, charm, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, making people laugh, mimicking, multitasking, parkour, photographic memory, promotion, strong breath control, super strength, swift-footedness

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, adventurous, ambitious, bold, centered, charming, confident, cooperative, creative, diplomatic, disciplined, discreet, easygoing, empathetic, extroverted, flamboyant, focused, friendly, funny, imaginative, independent, industrious, intelligent, mature, meticulous, obedient, observant, organized, passionate, patient, persistent, persuasive, professional, sensual, sophisticated, talented, thrifty, tolerant, uninhibited

NEGATIVE: perfectionist, subservient, workaholic

Sources of Friction:

Untrustworthy agents, being taken advantage of as a minor in the industry (exploitation), people in positions of power using intimidation and threats to get what they want, pressure to have sex or allow sexual advances, struggling to pay one’s bills, the pressure to maintain an unhealthy weight causing eating disorders, being worn down by criticism and suffering from anxiety and depression, a health crisis due to the stress and strain of work but not having medical coverage and so going into debt, clients who refuse to pay in a reasonable amount of time and having to chase down payment, having one’s hair damaged by over-processing in hair and makeup prep, struggling to make ends meet due to low pay, one’s look being cast aside for a fresher look in a fickle industry, difficulty forming relationships or making time for family and friends because one’s work and exercise & hygiene routines take us so much time

People They Might Interact With: Agents, other models, model advocates or parents (for underage models), photographers, designers, high level executives (clients and VIPs) from different companies, celebrities, journalists, artists, delivery people, hair and makeup artists, clothing stylists, assistants and consultants

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Esteem and Recognition: So much emphasis on the physical appearance can cause esteem issues. Criticism from professionals, models comparing themselves to others, and the constant focus on physique can negatively impact the way they view themselves
  • Love and Belonging: Very attractive people often struggle to know if people interested in them are only there because of their looks. This can lead to relationship issues and difficulty opening up to others.
  • Safety and Security: Modes who are highly visible are easily recognizable to the Average Joe and can become targets for stalkers and other unstable individuals
  • Physiological Needs: When body image issues become serious enough to birth mental disorders like bulimia and anorexia, the person’s very life may become endangered.

Common Work-Related Settings: Ballroom, black-tie event, hair salon, waiting room

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: 

  • Models have historically been presented as superficial and vapid, to the point of this stereotype becoming a trope. Make sure your model, like every other character, is well-rounded and multi-dimensional.
  • Models in fiction are almost always female. And while female models outnumber their male counterparts in the real world, there are enough male models to make this a viable option for male characters.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, an online library packed with powerful tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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