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Ruled by the capricious whims of fashion, the best modeling agencies are always on the lookout for new talent, and for an aspiring model, the right agency can make a career.

Signing to a reputable agency can be a gateway to editorial shoots that bolster a model’s portfolio, not to mention catwalk opportunities and ad campaigns. A goldmine can also be lucrative for agencies, which make money by taking a 20% commission on all model earnings, while also charging brands an additional 20% of a model’s fee for each reservation.

Gallery: World’s Highest-Paid Models 2015

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Model spotting stories have become legendary: Kate Moss (2015 earnings: $4.5m) was discovered at JFK airport, while Gisele Bundchen (2015 earnings: $44m) was found in a mall in Brazil. Adriana Lima (earning $9 million in 2015) shot to fame through a Ford modeling contest, and Karlie Kloss (earning $5 million in 2015) was first spotted at a fashion show charity.

Today, the 21 highest-paid models who have earned a total of $147 million are represented by one of four agencies in the United States. More than half of the models are signed to IMG, while Women Management, The Society Management and DNA Models each manage several of the fashion money. -to be elite.

For modelers, Instagram proves profitable

Yet as models vie with movie actresses and TV stars for high-paying beauty contracts and endorsement deals, the appetite for versatile models who can build a following has never been greater. big. Agencies are now widening their eyes, searching for music festivals like Coachella and scrolling Instagram feeds through campaigns like IMG’s @WeLoveYourGenes, which invites aspiring models to hashtag their photos with #WLYG to be considered. .

In the new era of digital scouting, we asked two top agents for five tips on how to sign:

1. Do your research

“The best agencies in the world are universal: you can find them on models.com,” says Chris Gay, managing director of The Society Management. Find out which agency you might aspire to by browsing through their current list and writing down their contact details.

2. Don’t waste money on expensive shoots

“You don’t have to take professional photos,” says Gay, who suggests models send potential agencies honest, amateur shots. “You can send a 60 second video of yourself and it’s as simple as that.”

3. Look natural

“Take the simplest beauty shots, not a lot of makeup or hairstyles, just be yourself,” advises Ivan Bart, president of IMG Models. “We like to see women as natural beauties wearing just a simple t-shirt and a pair of jeans – we can let the industry come up with all the hair, makeup and clothing options.”

4. Cut out the middle man

If a scout hasn’t fallen on you, go see him. “Send images of yourself directly to the agency,” suggests Gay.

5. Be kind

“Successful role models aren’t just an image, they’re people with personality and drive,” Bart says. Model/actress Cara Delevingne, who banked $9 million this year, has no problem sharing goofy photos and videos alongside social advocacy posts with her 19.5 million Instagram followers. “I wouldn’t discourage writing something interesting and compelling [as an Instagram caption]”, concludes Bart. “Social media gives you a voice, so use it to be convincing.”

Full coverage of the highest paid models of 2015