What is a lingerie model?
Lingerie models are predominantly female-presenting and -identifying models who are hired for campaigns showcasing bras and undergarments. Work can range from appearing on the runway for events like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty shows to being featured on a brand’s YouTube commercial to posing for the photographs you see of women featured on undergarment boxes at Target. Other popular brands that sell or manufacture lingerie products include Lascana, Eres, Cosabella, Eberjey, and H&M.
Martez Saporta-Rothuysen, a former model and owner of the South Africa–based MMM agency, says that to become a lingerie model, one must practice “confidence, commitment, and hard work.”
It’s a full-time, often lucrative profession that requires dedication in all facets of your life. Diet and fitness are of course priorities, as is general mental, physical, and emotional health. Each model is unique, so you should know what you bring to the table and what angles work best for you; practice in the mirror at home. It’s also a field that, given the assignments at hand, requires models to know how to advocate for themselves, set boundaries, and help enforce safety protocols on and off set.
“Your body is the focus at all times,” Saporta-Rothuysen says. “You need to work out in order to be in top condition. Learn which angles work best for your body and how to pose to showcase the lingerie tastefully.”
Saporta-Rothuysen suggests beginning with homework and self-education. “A model should study lingerie model shoots. Carefully see what the models are doing in the various shots. Learn which agencies or companies will be a good fit for you,” she advises.
There are other ways to break into the industry. Instead of just dreaming about doing this type of work, be proactive and find lingerie-modeling groups online. This can be a great way to learn about the industry, make connections with other models and photographers to help build your portfolio, and be active on social media. You can also get the names of agents in your area who represent lingerie models and reach out to them through submission forms on their websites. This isn’t the kind of profession that falls into your lap; you have to advocate for yourself and put yourself out there to be seen.
The main thing required of lingerie models is their physical presence. You have to prioritize your physical health and appearance more than the average person, because in this particular professional space, that’s where the value lies. In the past, a lingerie model usually had to have sample size dimensions, meaning the model needed to fit into a size 34 bra with a B or C cup, and have a 24" waist and a 34" hip. That’s not necessarily the case anymore.
Allee Newhoff, director of Front Management, says that “normally, the higher-end clients prefer lingerie models to be over 5'8" with a 34C [bra size and] a bit bigger hips. However, as diversity and embracing body positivity have become mainstream in modeling, curvy models are also very much in demand in all shapes and sizes.”
Before going into a new job, it’s important for the model to connect with their agent or the person who booked them to find out what they will be asked to do during the shoot and to make sure they will be comfortable working on the project. You’ll be shooting with all types of other models on any given day. To help the model feel more comfortable during a shoot, the set will often be closed to everyone but essential workers.
Like with all modeling, there’s no set amount you will earn for each session. However, it is customary for agencies to charge additional fees for a lingerie job. Newhoff says that her lingerie models make time-and-a-half per hour. Depending on the client, calibre of their portfolio, and day rate, her models can earn $3,500 and up.
In 2021, Business Insider India ranked the world’s highest-paid models, with Gisele Bündchen landing in the top spot at $44 million per year. Her beauty and fragrance contracts with brands like Chanel and Carolina Herrera are lucrative, as are her entrepreneurial efforts designing her own shoes. Adriana Lima and Cara Delevingne rounded out the list’s top three, earning $9 million annually for working with brands like Marc Jacobs, Maybelline, and Vogue Eyewear, and DKNY and Burberry, respectively.
If you want to pursue lingerie modeling as a full-time career and work for the world’s biggest campaigns, then yes, you will want to live in a major market.
With its distinctive locations and lighting, Southern Florida is better known for swimwear shoots than lingerie. That said, most lingerie shoots take place in studios, so you can find this type of modeling work in many areas, even in smaller markets.
Like with any type of modeling, models can find work on their own. But especially for those getting started in the industry, it is best to have an agent, who will know what fees a model should receive, negotiate on their behalf, make sure they are working on a legitimate project, and ensure that they get paid.
Search online, and ask friends to recommend agencies they like. Most have a section of their website where models can submit their photos for potential representation. These photos don’t need to be professional; you can upload simple digital shots. Most agencies will ask for one tight shot (from your chest to the top of your head), a photo showing your body type, and a list of your physical stats and social media links.
Melodie Vaxelaire modeling H&M lingerie Courtesy H&M
Saporta-Rothuysen says that doing research before the shoot is key. “Check if anyone you know has worked with them, and try to find reviews,” she advises. “If they list clients, contact them and query if they have worked with said photographer or client. Be vigilant. Don’t meet new clients on your own. If something sounds too good to be true or you feel uneasy, listen to your inner voice.”
Newhoff says she tells her lingerie models to embrace the skin they’re in and try to feel good in their body. Healthy eating, fitness, and self-care are important for mental health, as well.