How to Become a Model, According to the VP of LA Models

Having worked as a model in France, Germany, England and all over Asia for 27 years, Karine Roman knows the ins and outs of the fashion industry. Through trial and error and years of figuring things out on her own she became a pro in terms of understanding what kinds of clients, jobs and poses worked for her personally. Although Karine was ultimately able to lead an incredibly successful career, she recognizes how unprepared and uninformed she was upon initially entering the industry at a young age, which is why she launched LA Models’ Model Camp upon becoming the agency’s New Faces Director and Vice President. “The fashion industry is a very unusual world that has a lot of stigma surrounding it— it doesn’t always have the greatest reputation,” says Karine. “It’s very important to me to guide their younger girls and figure out a way to give them as much information about our business as possible.”

Spanning the course of a weekend, the modeling camp provides workshops, panel discussions and classes to individuals who have been signed to LA Models’ “New Faces” board that will help prepare them to enter the industry. “We have skincare lessons, posing lessons, a runway class, and a talk about how to use social media effectively and safely—we cover all kinds of things,” explains Karine. “We also bring in older girls that have traveled the world to give them advice and an overview of the entire business.” It’s also an opportunity for the fresh faces to amp up their portfolios—LA Models brings in a team of makeup artists, hair stylists and photographers and conducts a test shoot with every single attendee.

The best part? “I’m pretty proud to say that I don’t charge a dime,” she says. “Model Camp is meant solely to benefit the girls, which is extremely important to me. Modeling classes and schools exist all over the world and charge a fortune and they don’t always do a proper job. I want to support our young models and help them out, I don’t want to take away from them. That’s not my philosophy.”

Below, Karine talks with Teen Vogue about the importance of social media in today’s modeling industry, what aspiring models can do to get noticed and how the current fashion landscape is helping to redefine the stereotypical model.

Teen Vogue: What are the main things you hope Model Camp provides for its attendees?

Karine Roman: It’s meant to educate them as much as possible about our field but it’s also a way for them to meet other kids who are going through the same things. I think it’s important for them to create a bond with one another and have other people they can relate to. In this business, I feel like no one builds a foundation for young models so I want to create that support system for them. I also want them to learn to be comfortable with who they are and not compare themselves to others. Each model has a different type of body or look or client—one might be runway girl, one might be a swimsuit girl. Each girl has a special and unique path and you you have no idea about any of this when you start. Model Camp will help them understand all of this.

TV: One of Model Camp’s workshops is about social media and its role in today’s modeling and fashion worlds. Is it basically imperative for models to have an online presence?

KR: Social media is really important. When our clients request models nowadays they always check their social media accounts and followers. However, because the girls that attend model camp are between 13 and 17 years old, we focus first and foremost on how they can use social media in a way that’s safe. We give them guidance on what to post and how to use caution with direct messages. But yes, social media is definitely now a part of our business. There is absolutely no way around it.

TV: What can new models post in order to stand out from the crowd?

KR: They have to learn to show their personality, their hobbies, the essence of who they truly are. All you need to do is to be you, you cannot become something that you’re not. One of our younger models once asked me what she needed to be posting—she simply had to grasp that what makes her so special is her. She loves to read books and she’s a very smart young lady—she doesn’t have to be this cuckoo girl or this outgoing person if it’s not who she is. Modeling now is not only about the way you look, it’s about the person you are, your interests, what you care for—it’s about your story.

TV: A lot of today’s most successful models like Kendall, Bella and Gigi have very similar social media aesthetics and take a similar approach to what they’re posting. Have you noticed young models trying to emanate that?

KR: Pretty much every model follows those girls and gets inspired by them. I think the ones that really stand out are the ones that create their own content and have a uniquely creative aspect to them. Salem Mitchell is the perfect example of a young woman who has a voice and has something to say and express. Newer models have to learn that to become relevant in our business they need to voice their story—that being pretty is just not going to cut it, it’s not enough nowadays.

TV: What can aspiring models do to get noticed by agencies?

KR: We find girls in so many ways. We have people that just show up to our weekly open call at the agency. You can also go to the Instagram account we co-manage with New York Models called WeScoutUSA and send us submissions there. You can do the same thing through our scouting email, We really check every single submission we receive. And of course, I scout everywhere I go. I scout at the supermarket, in the street, in restaurants, you name it. I cannot help myself. My children would tell you that it’s a disease.

TV: What do you look for?

KR: A few years ago I would have had to tell you that you needed to be between 5’ 8” and 5’ 11” and be a clothing size two or four, on average. Now, honestly everything goes—it has a lot more to do now with your personality and what you have to offer. It’s fantastic that the modeling industry is finally becoming healthier and more of a representation of the normal world.

TV: How does LA Models hope to continue to push the fashion and modeling industries towards becoming even more inclusive and diverse?

KR: Honestly, it starts with our clients. Fashion companies are finally understanding that they’re much more appealing when they work with models that everyone can relate to versus just the blonde blue-eyed girl. They’re realizing through the broadening of their markets and their increased revenue that being more open-minded and down to earth in terms of casting allows them to reach a much bigger map. It’s fantastic and really important and I really hope it continues in this direction.