Modeling in a Virtual World by Cathy Heaton

We find ourselves in uncharted territory and living through an extremely significant time right now. A time that will be recorded in the history books. It is up to us to decide how we want to be portrayed. I certainly want this time to be recorded as one in which we overcame adversity, where humanity reigned supreme and victory over the Corona Virus was ours as a collective worldwide. There are many things to be grateful for during this time, including our families, health, food in our bellies and a roof over our heads. Whilst those are the most important, there are also things that have kept us sane and able to continue to earn a living during what would otherwise be a complete disaster for small businesses. I am grateful for technology. Our new buzz words, which will no doubt feature in the Oxford Dictionary in the near future, will most certainly be Zoom, Netflix, Instagram Live, Upskill, Remote Learning, Virtual Classes and the list goes on.

ACE Models International is one of the modeling academies that has already begun reinventing the way they teach modeling, deportment and etiquette with weekly Zoom meetings and Instagram Live with specialists in the industry. As the leading modeling academy in South Africa it was essential that their growth and quality of service not be too greatly impacted. Their directors, models and parents recognize that this time can be used to grow one’s skills and career. Joani Johnson, CEO of ACE Models International and the prestigious Mrs South Africa pageant and women empowerment programme, believes that the modeling industry is taking an exciting turn. She has enjoyed the challenge of creating a virtual modeling curriculum for ACE Models International. “We certainly have been pushed out of our comfort zones and have had to quickly reinvent ourselves. As an industry we are able to create exciting content from the comfort of our own homes. Models need to consider how they can add value to brands through creating online content. Our ACE Models branches have been hosting weekly Zoom classes and we have created video tutorials to assist with the online learning. Learning everything you need to know about the modeling industry has never been easier with classes and tutorials available on your phone or laptop.”

“It is not only modeling academies that will need to evolve but we will be seeing traditional modeling agencies changing too”, says Cindy Nell-Roberts, former Miss SA and Director of ACE Models International. Cindy believes that models need to upskill themselves and start to brand themselves as a business. “It is not enough to simply be beautiful anymore, one has to be multitalented and able to manage your own accounts, be well spoken and be able to do your own hair and makeup. This is not to say that professionals won’t be needed on production sets anymore but whilst models are at home they should start practising taking good ‘Polaroid’ images of themselves at home. Models need a plain wall, good lighting and a decent camera or a good phone camera. Search Pinterest and Google for posing and styling ideas and start building a portfolio of our own online. Companies are definitely still going to need models but they will have to relook traditional advertising methods. Possibly moving from television advertising to advertising on You Tube and with Instagram Influencers. As soon as the Lockdown ban starts to lift and courier companies can operate again, clothing companies could deliver clothing to an influencer to demonstrate how the items could be paired in different ways for instance. There are so many brands that can take advantage of the time people have at home baking, doing makeup, fixing their cars, gardening and enjoying family time to mention a few. Influencers are not new to marketing professionals but there are some fresh faces making a name for themselves during this time. It’s actually quite an exciting time for models to make their mark and remember that virtual content creation is key right now.” says Cindy.

Self-Tape Castings are being requested by agencies with relatable models showing how they are coping during lockdown. I have received two ‘self-tape casting’ requests in the past week and both with little notice, which is very common in the industry. They are fun to do albeit time consuming but much easier than having to sit in a physical casting for hours, attend call backs and shoot days. The payment offered is decent too.

As with modeling academies and agencies, beauty pageants have had to readjust their sails and navigate these uncharted waters. I spoke to Wayne Stafford who has been in the pageantry industry for over 20 years and Director of Miss Regal International SA and Miss Regal Teen SA. He had feels that it will take time to see the true impact the lockdown is having on the pageant industry. However pageants that have had to put their events on hold need to look at which aspects of their pageant can be hosted online, such as the Miss Photogenic and Public Choice voting sections of their pageant. “The Miss Regal and Miss Regal Teen will go live with the Miss Photogenic section of the pageants next week”, says Wayne.

Joani Johnson adds that we are going to see more real and relatable women becoming successful beauty queens. “We will be looking for women that inspire others to become role models within their communities. Those that step up during the lockdown to assist others will be more inspiring and have more influence than celebrities going forward. Now more than ever we want to see authentic, genuine women becoming role models. Our very our Mrs South Africa, Jacqueline Ferns will be involved in an initiative with the Women4Women Foundation delivering food to unprivileged communities next week.“

All industries need to not only relook how they do business and how they reach their potential market, but also what value they can bring to their market. As consumers we will be looking for value from the brands we invest in and relate to us. Brands will need to look for new faces and voice online that will help them market their brands during these unprecedented times. So come on models, show them what you have got! Don’t see this time as a pause but rather an opportunity.

My website is

My Instagram is @cathyheatonsa

My Ace models instagram is @acemodels_jhbnorth

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