The Dubai-based model agency Bareface has established an academy focused on etiquette and deportment classes, with the aim of boosting the confidence of aspiring models.
Dubai model agency Bareface launches etiquette academy
"Body odour and bad breath are no-nos that can lose you jobs," says Brazilian-born Alessandra Cardoso, the teacher of the newly launched modelling courses available at Dubai-based agency Bareface.
"I make a point of telling my students that having excellent personal hygiene, being waxed and smelling great are vital in this business. I educate them about nutrition, too, as I can't have models who are starving. There must be life in their eyes," she adds.
Cardoso's candid advice, which stems from her years on the inside, is being put to good use moulding the next generation of UAE-based models at the recently opened Bareface Academy.
"I modelled for 12 years," she says, "and I explain to the class everything they need to know about the function of agencies, bookers, the correct attitude to have and why it's so important to remain professional at all times.
"The teenagers, in particular, also need to be taught how to walk the catwalk from scratch because many of them haven't worn heels before. The trick is to train them how to glide and float down the runway, not bounce or swing their arms inelegantly."
Twelve aspiring models, ranging in age from 13 to 30, have just completed Cardoso's intensive three-month training: learning every aspect of the competitive business, from how to conduct themselves in castings to understanding what a photographer wants.
Ewa Sepiolo, a 15-year-old course graduate, won a modelling competition in Harper's Bazaar last October and now has international career ambitions. "Alessandra made me walk the runway and do half-turns, blindfolded! She said if I could do that, I could walk any catwalk - despite all the distractions and bright lights there might be.
"I feel I performed well and she taught me a lot, from skincare to exercise and deportment. I definitely have more confidence now."
Music to Cardoso's ears, from a star pupil she tips for the top. "The main objective is to build confidence and to educate students that this business is not a joke," she says. "Some come in and may think modelling is just a big party without realising how much work is involved. They don't consider the long days, that they'll probably be holding the same poses for hours and will be part of a big team - [who] will be pulling at them all day, complaining and criticising."
The secret, says Cardoso, is to keep a level head and the client happy. Though you may be decked out in a puce polyester pantsuit - wear it with a smile, is her recommendation.
Another aspect Cardoso worked hard to overcome with her group is what she deems harmful stereotypes perpetuated in the media.
"Teenagers can often feel inadequate and there are plenty of misconceptions out there," she says. "Yes, it's true that some agencies prefer really skinny models because the camera can add pounds - but many European agencies are now enforcing minimum percentage of body fat. I teach students that 'plus-size' and 'petite markets' are also big business - so it's not all about size zero."
Cardoso firmly believes that curves are set to make a comeback, marking a welcome return to the 1980s, which saw such supermodels as Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford rule the catwalk.
Weight perhaps wasn't such a consideration for one of two gentlemen attending the Academy's first term, but looking and acting your best were key takeaways from the course, says Vimal Vijayan, a 27-year-old Dubai resident.
"The training was really great and I now know how to groom myself and pose correctly," says the Indian entrepreneur. "Alessandra was really on us and it was great to be challenged."
Vijayan fervently hopes the hard work will pay off and lead one day to global recognition. "I am very passionate about modelling and I've done a lot of TV commercials and adverts now," he says. "My dream is to be famous the world over - maybe as an Asian supermodel."
Twelve-week modelling courses at the Bareface Academy cost Dh5,000. For more information about the new timetable, which starts on Thursday, go to www.bareface.com or email email@example.com