UT-Austin student models navigate the uncertainty of industry

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Charlie Liu | Daily Texan Staff

A model scout told Jane Liu she needed more professional photographs on her Instagram. A few days later, she enlisted her 12-year-old brother to take pictures of her in their hometown of Lubbock, Texas. 

Then, Liu began her modeling journey in May by signing with New York Model Management. 

“During quarantine, I'd always go on photoshoots with my brother,” undeclared freshman Liu said. “My parents have to literally pay him money and force him to do it ... or my dad will be like, ‘You can get something new off Fortnite if you do this.’”

Liu said her online college courses are easier than the ones she took in high school. This gives her the freedom to travel for shoot opportunities and take her friend of 14 years along with her. 

“I'm actually flying to New York Nov. 7 to meet with my agent and some casting people,” Liu said. “I'm just going to build my portfolio there, too. We'll just turn this into a work/fun trip.”

Public relations sophomore Lily Jaques said the modeling industry is fluctuating because of COVID-19. She transferred to UT-Austin from UT-Tyler this fall and said the pandemic and her change in location have left her struggling to find jobs. 

“(There’s) definitely no big castings like they used to have,” Jaques said. “They hire models who are already kind of well-known in the industry, so that makes it tough because there's so many girls out there (for whom) this is their job, and they're not getting paid.”

 

For most models, Jaques said maintaining industry standards for your body and skin is a full-time job. She said this has become increasingly difficult because of the stressors brought on by the pandemic.

“I didn't have (the) motivation to keep my body in check,” Jaques said. “It's almost like there's no end goal in sight, like is this ever gonna end? Am I ever gonna be able to model again?”

Some students pursue modeling as a hobby or a future career path. Marketing junior Sarah Krueger said, for her, modeling is an additional source of income. She said she spends most of her time juggling executive positions in three organizations and working for a marketing firm. 

Modeling agencies she’s worked for in the past continue to offer her job opportunities, but Krueger said she turns them down to stay on top of schoolwork. 

“For me, it's just like another form of income,” Krueger said. “So like, of course my grades are above that.”

While Krueger enjoys modeling, she said her goal is to use the connections she builds to become a marketing manager or creative director. She said she hopes to increase Black representation in the industry.  

“I want to change that narrative in the (modeling) game,” Krueger said. “As a model, I'm the one that gets to see how these companies think and operate and how they use me as a marketing tool. (As) a marketing manager or creative director, I'll be the one in charge of that.”

Although Liu’s parents are in support of her modeling career, she will continue to work through her college classes to have a degree to fall back on. 

“If I'm lucky enough to be able to do it as a full time job, then I definitely think I would,” Liu said. “If I was given that opportunity, I think I would because I love traveling and just how spontaneous the job is.”