What does it take to become a model?

Bushy eyebrows and no fake tan – that’s what Elite model scout Leah Hibbert is looking for in Dundrum Town Centre today


First things first: what are the vital statistics for any aspiring Elite model? Ideally, we’d like girls to be between the ages of 15 and 18 and around 5ft 8in and upwards, to about 6ft. For guys, you’re looking at 16 up to 25 or 26 – there’s a bit more scope there, but they do have to be 5ft 11in or above.

What will you be looking for in Ireland? One of the reasons Ireland is such a key place for us to scout is because the girls and boys have beautiful skin. They often have nice freckles, a lovely skin tone and beautiful blue eyes.

Let’s talk bodies – are there strict criteria aspiring models will have to adhere to? There’s a myth out there that, as a girl, you have to be skinny to be a model – but actually we look for a nice, toned, sporty and athletic figure. That goes for guys as well.

But if a guy is sporty, he’s often muscle-bound; can guys be too buff? Definitely. In the past I’ve scouted someone who was captain of his rugby team, and they’ve had to lose a lot of weight for us to get into modelling. It’s important to fit sample-sized clothing. A 38-inch chest and 32-inch waist are ideal for guys.

What about measurements for girls? For girls it’s not really about measurements, it’s about being in proportion. It’s great if a girl’s legs are longer than her body, for example, but it’s about looking healthy and slender. We’re definitely not looking for anyone who looks underweight or too skinny.

What are modelling dealbreakers for you – characteristics that would immediately knock someone out of the running? There are a lot of things that boys and girls might be worried about that can be solved. I’ve scouted girls and boys in the past who had braces, or skin problems, but these things are fixable. Tattoos on girls can be a dealbreaker.

We’ve seen a lot of model bootcamps and portfolio courses springing up – is there any right way to prepare to be a model? Those bootcamps and small companies, I think, really take advantage of the hope that some of these young girls and boys have. If you have any potential, all you need to do is walk into an agency or send in some snapshots that a friend or family member can take of you. They don’t have to be professional photographs – any industry insider can see your potential.

How should a model turn up to a casting? Come with a bit of mascara, lip balm, groomed eyebrows (but no pencilled-in eyebrows), no fake tan, no bronzer, no fake eyelashes, and absolutely no hair extensions or false nails. For me, eyebrows are really important. Have a look on the agency website, in fashion magazines, do a little research – the best models have big, bushy, natural eyebrows.

But what to wear – should young hopefuls dress to impress? For girls, I recommend something like leggings or skinny jeans with heels to elongate the legs and give a nice posture, and a simple vest. For the guys, a dark pair of jeans with trainers, and just a white T-shirt is a really nice look.

What are your scouting success stories - who can you claim as your own? One of the first girls I scouted when I joined Elite is an Irish girl called Aine O’Gorman. One of her first jobs was the Roberto Cavalli lookbook, which she flew to Milan to shoot, after I scouted her at Oxegen. Since then she’s walked for many designers – Vivienne Westwood, Temperley, Jasper Conran, David Koma. She’s been modelling about a year and a half, so she’s still quite new. The girls tend to make it big after two, two and a half years, so I’m hoping she could be a little star.

Elite will select 24 girls and boys for a week-long model bootcamp in July, with one male and one female winner being offered three-year contracts with Elite Model Management. Today, they will be based in Pembroke District at Dundrum Town Centre and spotters will circulate