48, greying, mum, model and badass
You might wonder who the fish I am and I get it, your parents must have also told you not to talk to strangers. My name, that I cherish as it is a great ice breaker (even if it tends to attract pervs), is Venus Apovo.
I was born, raised and lived in France, mostly Paris, for 38 years until I moved to London in 2012. I know, a lot of people ask me why move from Paris to London? For me there is no better city than London, even after Brexit. I love this city, as it brings me the freedom that I need to evolve peacefully and so far it has been an amazing journey.
I was not planning on becoming a model, at all. Being photographed was definitely not in my professional life plans. I never really had professional plans, I lost faith in the 9 to 5 way too young. I always had to adapt to make money, I did not have any career plans when I was a kid, I was too busy trying to simply live, survive.
Modelling really started around 18 years ago when I decided to accompany my sister to a casting because I am an overprotective big sister. She had been scouted in the streets of Paris for a Dove commercial. You must remember their Real Beauty Campaign. I actually got the job instead of my sister, the woman has a dancer body and they wanted less muscles and more cellulite! I had just had a baby, I was perfect. I remember flying to London from Quebec (where I had an awesome holiday!) and having a great time shooting this commercial. The team was great, the result fantastic and above all avant-garde. Showing real women in a commercial was just the beginning and I was part of it. I was super proud.
After this, I went back to my life in Paris, with my partner and my daughter. I would have liked to do more but Paris is not as open as London. So, I thought about it but it did not happen. I returned to my Executive Assistant job, being a partner and mother. I was doing ok.
Between this first experience and today, 18 years have passed. I had another daughter, had a tumultuous corporate life, got 2 masters, one in communication and the other in management and sustainable development, had the perfect suburban life with my partner and the kids until it was not that perfect anymore. So, in 2012 it all ended, I left France and moved with my daughters in London with a 6 month budget to settle down and make it happen, not knowing what life had in store for me.
First 2 years were scary, challenging, draining but I felt so free, I overcame it all. I got a job, part-time, so I could deal with the school pick ups, managed to buy a shared ownership 2 bedroom flat in our preferred area so I did not move the girls too much and never gave up. Money was very tight at the beginning and I was scared to have to go back to France or end up homeless in London. After 2 years I started to breath, the girls were thriving, I was more stable, London was home.
In 2014, aged 41, I was at last ready to take care of myself and I wanted to do something that would break my single mother 9 to 5 boring life. So I started working on films as an extra. I registered on WeGotPop that provides extra work and I found myself on my first set, huge, It was The Force Awakens. I am not a Star Wars fan but even I was impressed, it was simply awesome. I cannot disclose any set secrets as I cannot afford being sued but, I saw it all. From this first experience, I went from set to set, big and smaller productions, films, commercials, music videos. For a while watching a film with my daughters was more like "Where is Wally", trying to spot me. I did this for 3 years on top of working part time and taking care of my girls. After 3 exhausting but amazing years I ended my extra frenzy with another Star Wars, Solo, and I didn't know it yet but I was on my way to becoming a model.
What I like with modelling is the diverse range of people you meet. You meet a lot of models, actors, inspiring actors, musicians, retired people, all kind. I had the chance to meet, in 2017, on the set of "fighting for my family"my now friend and mentor Antony Fitzgerald, I call him Tony, and other nicknames that I will not disclose here. Tony, @antonyfitzgerald1964 is a male mature model, who took me under his genuine and gentle wings. That is how my modelling journey started, because this guy told me I had potential, to which I answered with a doubtful lift of eyebrows and a WTF expression on my face.
Tony was born and bred in London. He studied at St Andrews University and after a career in PR and marketing, he found himself unemployed around his 50's. He decided to become a model and built his career, his brand, and is now a very very busy male mature model nationally and internationally, the guy is simply everywhere. I make it sound easy, it wasn't. Tony never took no for an answer and overcame all the challenges that mature models usually face, convinced the professionals that a mature model and a black mature model is as good as any other to promote their brands. Now, he is teaching me the same and I couldn't have wished for a better guide.
The aspiring model toolbox:
First, I would advise that you ask yourself what you want out of this. Modelling means exposing yourself to the outside world, your face and body is used to promote products, brands and you really have to be ready to be part of it. What do you want out of it and how do you want to be seen is a question you should ask before starting. Now I am writing this blog, I took some time to understand what I am talking about, I was swept into modelling and did not always have the time to understand what modelling really is.
There are different categories of modelling: Fashion, Catwalk, Lingerie, Commercial, Fitness, Parts, Fit, Glamour and more. Now things have changed, the industry is opening to a more diverse and realistic representation of who can be a model. That is why, I say why not. Now let me be honest with you, the hardest for me is to get Fashion, Editorial jobs as those are the categories where old habits die hard but it is also changing and mature models, male and female are becoming part of the picture and not in a tokenised way anymore. That is my biggest challenge as I want to be part of it. Fashion and editorial are the mirror of modelling so I need to be seen there.
Now, I would advise to start with at least the below as I did try to get information on the net at first but it is discouraging:
Have a mentor: either someone you know who is modelling or network on social media and do not hesitate to ask questions.
You need a good phone with plenty of storage
Unlimited data. Ideally you need to be able to do everything on the go
A good computer
Start with polaroids: all you need is your phone that hopefully makes good photos, no need for professional photos
Wear a white or black fitted vest (or short sleeves T-shirt)
Fitted jeans that shows your silhouette, blue or black
You can wear heels or not (barefoot) I chose to show both versions
Choose a plain background at home
Make sure you have good light
Then take shots:
Face (no smile and slight smile, show a little teeth but don't go all gums smiling)
both half profiles (make sure your hair does not obstruct your face)
both full length profiles
close shots of your hands both sides
A good portfolio that shows you in different clothes, facial expressions, settings. Show your personality, depending on what you are aiming for, show you can do it all or at least what you are aiming for; you have to be versatile. Show off any creative skills you have that could help your career. You are a musician, a chef. If you are expert in a sport, say it. If you can skate, rollerblade or even spin a pen on your thumb, let the world know. You will need to update your portfolio at least annually. Connect with photographers on social media, go on their website and check their work; a good photo is worth the money and will bring you work. You can also answer to photographers that are asking for models for TFP, Time for Photos, you pose for them for free and they provide you with a number of photos that you can add to your portfolio. That's a win win and the best way to update your portfolio without breaking the bank.
Join modelling groups on social media, there are plenty offering jobs, TFPs etc. a great way to network
Once you have your polaroids and portfolio, approach modelling agencies. Never pay to get signed with a modelling agency, if they ask you for money, stay away. When they sign you and you get your first job, they will take a commission that you will have discussed before. They will take a commission varying from 15% to 30% and more for some. Unless you are signed with a very successful agency, and that does not even guaranty work, I would recommend not to sign exclusive contracts as it means you can only get work from this agency. Only go for non-exclusive contracts as it means you can sign up in as many agencies as you want and get more work, unless it is a premium agency but that does not guarantee work. A very important thing is do not take No for rejection. Some agencies will say no because you have not worked enough to show them your full potential or simply just because the person at the end of the email did not see your potential. I tend to resend my application every 3 months to my No agencies and I ended getting yeses from some with new photos and more examples of my work. So persevere and never take it personally.
I use a lot https://www.starnow.co.uk/venusapovo on which I have my account that I keep updated at all times. Agencies use it, casting directors, professional that are looking for models, new faces etc. I got some great jobs from it that added good value to my experience and portfolio.
An Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/venus_a_officiel/ is mandatory, there is no way you can start modelling without one. This is the best way to show your portfolio, your work to your agencies, a wider audience, connect with photographers, professionals. Great way to network with other models too.
A Facebook account is very useful as well, whether you are using your private one or have a specific one dedicated to modelling. Not my case, I use my FB account for private and professional posts but I do not private post that much so I guess my account is more professional than private now. You just have to find the right balance so professionals get to see what you are doing.
You know that in terms of social media everything is possible so use whatever app works for you. I realise it is a lot of advice and I will give you more monthly. Believe me, I was lucky I had Tony to guide me because some things are not obvious when you begin and he saved me a lot of time. I will keep the toolbox updated along the way of my own experience but with the above you can definitely start efficiently. Another thing that was useful to me were my kids, for once! Seriously, I didn't have an Instagram account and I had none or vey little interest in social media. My girls guide me through it all with very valuable advice and I can proudly say that when it comes to using my phone, computer and Instagram, there is no more technical panic. I had to become independent as now self tapes are the new casting, you need to know how to edit, get the best light and produce the best casting in your tiny living room, and I am now a queen at it.
Now, if you want to know how I ended up being a full time mature model, how I did it, how I am doing, what I expect next and what my goals are, stay tuned!
See my behind the scene with Hannah Couzens for https://www.learnwithhannah.com/