How to become a Pinup Model – The Truth Behind the Red Lipstick

  I really don’t have an easy way to say any of this, and I feel that it is necessary to write this seeing that I like so many other pinup models have received a slew of emails asking this very question:

 How do I become a Pinup Model.


 Well I will answer this and more, as I break away all of the lights and magic and reveal the truth within.

  So like I said, there is no real easy way to say any of this, because I feel like I am about to tell a bunch of  5 year olds there is no such thing as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I am brashly honest because this is the only way I know how to be, and I have to be blunt with you all.



  Being a Pinup Model or Alt model or whatever you want to call it is not glamorous, at all. You have false idols and ideals of what this world is like, by other models and myself.  I do not model for a living, I do not nor have I NEVER made any real money to survive for a living to pay my bills as a model. I have NEVER been paid for a magazine cover or article. That is correct, you read that right, NEVER PAID, NO REAL MONEY. I have on occasion gotten compensation for modeling over the years, but if you compare it to the cost of upkeep of hair and make-up I would say I am negative a few thousand dollars.


  Anyone can be a model or pinup, and anyone can be a burlesque performer. There are several amazingly talented photographers out there that we have all paid to take photos of us to build our portfolio or make gifts for our significant others. You don’t have to be on the cover of a magazine to be a model. You don’t need a title to be considered beautiful. That is the part that makes me the most frustrated, you need no vindication for any of this, do it because you love it.



  Once you have some amazingly well done photos by one of the many photographers out there you can hire, you can submit them to any magazine that takes those types of photo submissions. Many photographers already have relationships built up with publications and can submit you themselves. Retro Lovely is one of the publications that loves to publish new faces and photographers. Photographer will run you $250 - $450 and up depending on who they are. Makeup and Hair will run you $125.00 and up depending on who you use or if it is included in your photo package. So out of the gate you are starting in the negatives of $375 - $575. For me just to get myself photoshoot ready we are talking 2 - 3 hours, that is time you can never get back.



  Clothing companies are not going to donate or let you borrow free clothes, so be prepared to invest a lot of money in vintage or repro clothing for your shoots if the photographers do not provide clothing. Some girls even make their own clothing, spending hours of work and hundreds of dollars of fabric and trims. I am not even going to discuss how much I have spent on clothing for shoots or projects because it will hurt my feelings to think about it. I rarely ask people for free product without giving them anything special in return as I know how many hours of work goes into each item. 


  Did you know that many Burlesque performers can spend as easily as $10,000.00 on just basic costume components, rhinestones and props. You have to mix your own music, make your own props or hire people to do everything for you, which will cost even more money since you are saving your free time. Dance lessons or training will run you up even more money, and here is the real kicker. You will be LUCKY to even get paid to perform. Many performers will make as little as $75.00 a gig which means you will need to perform 133 times just to cover the cost of that one costume. Not many performers get even remotely as much money as Dita requests per performance.



  I am not a professional model, nor could I call myself one since I don’t make a living doing it. There are always exceptions to the rules of course, and these exceptions have given so many girls false ideas of what this is all like.

"She is also the most famous stripper in America, even if tabloid readers only know her from her marriage to (and divorce from) Marilyn Manson. To her legion of fans -- who include fashion designers, artists, dandies, style aficionados, club kids and fetishists -- she is famous for reviving the burlesque genre of variety show, long after the form was thought to be dead. To her detractors, and they are legion as well, she is famous only for being famous." Taken from Dita's interview with LA Weekly.

  We are often the rule and never the exception. In this case Dita Von Teese has created this exception, for everyone to think if they model, or do burlesque they will be or become like her. But you won’t, no one will, since she is the exception. She started as an exotic dancer, and began doing fetish adult modeling and burlesque pinup work. She even did adult movies aka porn. Now her life changed from me seeing her in small fetish clubs at 15 opening up for Mistress Persephone to being married to Marilyn Manson. When you get that pedestal take full advantage of it. She was smart with her choices and worked everything to her advantage as her career and life progressed. Something you get accustomed to here in California.

"Dita Von Teese feels very lucky she can afford to buy a taxidermied ostrich on eBay, mount it on the living room wall and put a rhinestone collar on it. (That means every time someone comes over she can ask, in a goofy, droll way, "Have you seen my ostrich yet?") And though her ascent was lucky in many ways, in others, luck had nothing to do with it. She is a hard worker." hard work pays off at the end of the day.

  So maybe if you marry a rockstar or like Snooky you get on a reality TV show you can parley your future with these pedestals. Again they are the exception not the rule. Just doing burlesque or pinup modeling you will never gain millions of dollars and millions of fans. You must only do this if you enjoy performing or if you enjoy modeling and that is it. So few people have things of grandeur out of this lifestyle.


  We are all as guilty of giving you an idea of this glamorous lifestyle you may think we lead, but in reality it is far from it. I have a real job, and always have and always will. I work 40-60 hour weeks as a Production Manager.


This is a description to what I do for a living:


Production Management

 or operations management

Planning, implementation, and control of industrial production processes to ensure smooth and efficient operation. Production management techniques are used in both manufacturing and service industries. Production management responsibilities include the traditional “five M's”: men and women, machines, methods, materials, and money. Managers are expected to maintain an efficient production process with a workforce that can readily adapt to new equipment and schedules. They may use industrial engineering methods, such as time-and-motion studies, to design efficient work methods. They are responsible for managing both physical (raw) materials and information materials (paperwork or electronic documentation). Of their duties involving money, inventory control is the most important. This involves tracking all component parts, work in process, finished goods, packaging materials, and general supplies. The production cycle requires that sales, financial, engineering, and planning departments exchange information—such as sales forecasts, inventory levels, and budgets—until detailed production orders are dispatched by a production-control division. Managers must also monitor operations to ensure that planned output levels, cost levels, and quality objectives are met. See also productivity.


  My career and talents outside of my physical self pay my bills. I balance doing art, make-up, hair, teaching, modeling and my personal life in the few hours I have outside of my job is not an easy task. We all have real jobs, or other talents that allow us to pay for all of our modeling expenses.



  Another example is my friend Masuimi Max, she works out EVERYDAY to maintain her body and form for contortion and modeling. Masuimi has been modeling and performing for over 10 years she began doing fetish modeling, fire breathing and contortion work. Her talents and looks separated her from the rest. She has built her empire on hard work and more hard work. She is much more than just a Pinup Model and travels the world performing at Fetish events. She has also owned and operated her own adult site for several years. There will never be another Masuimi Max, she is the exception not the rule. She does this for a living and is currently in the works on releasing her own line of make-up among other projects. She is the most dedicated model I have ever met and has the most amazing butt I have ever seen because of her dedication.


  This is not a career, this is a hobby, and I can guarantee every “model” either has a real job they don’t or won’t talk about, a husband or man that pays all their bills so they can do this full time until they “make it”.  There are always a few exceptions to the rules, and as time progresses you will see many models break out and start their own businesses or continue their careers, though most of us fade off into the sunset over time.

  So now that you know that Santa Claus is not real and you might think I am an asshole for being so honest with you, just know I am being 100 genuine in my advice to you. Do things because you love them, have a career that you can fall back on or rely on while you peruse your hobby of being a Pinup Model. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t become the next Dita, just be happy with being you.



Views: 105909

Comment by Kitty Nava =^.^= on August 27, 2012 at 11:13am
I love this thank you for being so honest and yes its so true its a hobby! And people should only do it if it makes them happy or feel good =) Real talk thanks so much =^.^=
Comment by Bethany Jane Davies on August 27, 2012 at 12:18pm

What a breath of fresh air and honesty. Well said :)

Comment by Devon Fulford on August 27, 2012 at 1:04pm

Fantastic article; thank you for your candor! I am certain this will be eye-opening information to many! 

Comment by Magri-jade Jackson on August 27, 2012 at 1:14pm

I'm suprised people are stupid enough to think you can make money from it unless your 16 and not snapped up yet, even then it won't be long until your shelf life is up! Pinup for hobby is absoulutly great, I love spending my money on all these items so it's nice to be able to take some pix....:) Get some good pics in before I loose it completely, show the kids!! xx

Comment by Jen Overbye on August 27, 2012 at 1:55pm

very well written,loved it!

Comment by Desilu on August 27, 2012 at 7:05pm

I second all of the above comments - honesty & reality is the only way to make sure no one gets hurt by unrealistic dreams and hopes. Don't get me wrong - dreaming & hoping is one of the ways we all make it through life (and mundane, degrading and/or hellish jobs), but being realistic & honest about the circumstances around that dream are absolutely important. Thanks Micheline - it is much appreciated. And thanks for sharing your day job - it's interesting to know what we all do outside of this site (like in our discussion). It is revealing and surprising to find out where all of our talents lie, as well as dispel the myths and lies that we're all a bunch of airheaded, make-up & clothing-obsessed "girls..." - we're all talented and individual and diverse and a whole lot of other things that most people would be surprised to learn. <3<3 xoxo =) Jenn

Comment by Nikki Napalm on August 27, 2012 at 10:35pm

Good article.  You touched on a lot of valid points, but you didn't really address the title, which was how to become a pin-up model.  The article should be titled "The Truth on Pin-Up Modeling: It Won't Make You Famous, It Will Make You Broke." LOL :) Not to hijack your thread, but here are some pointers I can offer to women who read this and were thinking they were going to find information on how to start pin-up modeling.

Prep work before you actually schedule a shoot:

1.  Get a account!  And if you want to do it right, get together about $200-$500.  The model the person in this whole mix that is going to be spending the most money out of everyone involved.  Just a fair warning: You will most likely never make a dime off of any photoshoot or magazine you are involved in.

2.  You'll need nice photos to upload to your account, nobody wants to see photos you took in your bathroom with a point-and-shoot camera.  Try a digital photography class at your local college to get a free photo shoot from a student.  Just go in and say you're available to model for any projects they might have.  If this doesn't work, your $200-$500 is going to come in handy.

 3.  Limber up/stretch when you wake up and go to bed or take a yoga class.  That will help you hit extreme poses that feel like you're extending your body real far but look normal on camera.  Also, take a lot of pictures of yourself and know what your best faces are, and what angles do and most importantly DON'T work for you.  It's important to really know your body and how it moves.  Realize that you are in control of it.

4.  Watch fashion shows, look at magazines, practice faces in the mirror, try different makeup looks that you normally wouldn't, mess around with fake hair/extensions/wigs/etc. Watch YouTube hair and makeup tutorials and PRACTICE on yourself as you watch.

5.  Compile a playlist with music that makes you feel powerful or dramatic and play that during a shoot and bring your laptop with you so you can play your music on location.


6.  Learn some basic photography terminology and about lights, lenses, etc.


7.  Join a gym and figure out what classes or workout machines work best for you.  Try to do a mix of cardio, stretch and strength training, as well as make use of the pool, spa, sauna and steamroom for your tired little muscles.  Keep a steady routine or commit to certain nights a week.  Getting a gym buddy helps.  If you can't make it to the gym, commit to at least 150 sit-ups/crunches a night, and 20 squats, plus your stretching.


8. Talk to people all the time.  Network, all the time.  It's good to have business cards, or just a pen and paper in your purse.  Use your account instead of your facebook address, it's sort of like your online portfolio.  There are photographers, hairstylists, makeup artists, clothing designers, etc EVERYWHERE who are just breaking into the business and they all want to work for free.


9.  Shop for wardrobe: online, thrift stores, resale shops, etc.  Buy any interesting articles of clothing that "jump" out at you.  Even if you could never see yourself wearing it in public, get it, because you can probably use it for a shoot.  Start collecting props; thrift stores and eBay are the best.  After awhile your closet will start to look like a costume shop; this is good.


10.  If you feel like need to lose a few extra pounds to feel comfortable in your own skin, there are several ways to do it.  Just make sure you are burning more calories than you are consuming every day.  Diets work for some people, but you can always just cut an 'extra' kind of thing out of your diet that you tend to eat a lot of.  Soda, chocolate, bagels, butter, whatever...and replace it with a green vegetable like broccoli, romaine lettuce with a fresh lemon dressing, or green beans.  So basically, every time you are gonna drink a soda, eat something green instead.  You'll see a difference right away.  And start drinking a ton of water; water bottles are a good way to keep track of how much water you drank that day.  2-3 bottles is a good goal.  Make sure to recycle, lol.

The most important thing, girls:


Don't let skeezy photogs trick you into thinking you are going to a professional photoshoot when they are really "GWCs" or "Guys with camera".  There are weirdos out there that call themselves photographers that AREN'T.  They will totally message you on model mayhem and get you to come to their "studio" (their living room with some sheets and flood lights from home depot set up) and ask you to pose as take pictures with their point-n-shoot camera that they got at Walmart.  They can slowly but surely get you to strip down to nothing.  These dudes totally get off on it, so be careful; use your intuition and common sense.  Look at their model mayhem portfolio pictures and if they are MOSTLY of naked/half naked women, don't even respond to them.  It's not worth the risk.

After you've done all 10 steps, there are two paths you can follow.  The slow path to "well-known-ness" or the fast track.  The fast track is where your $200-$500 comes in.

Fast track: If you are just starting out and want professional photos, you are going to have to pay a photographer.  No matter how bomb you think you are at doing your own hair and makeup, I also HIGHLY recommend getting a professional hair and makeup artist included in your package...if I could go back to the beginning of my career and do this, I would have.  Hire the best of the best: Rick Miller, Roy Varga, Vestige Photography, Gunslinger Photography, Tim Hunter, Marilee Caruso...I could go on and on.  Your money will be well worth spent.  You can use your photos to create business cards and submit to magazines like Retro Lovely, Drive In, etc.  Once you start to get published, higher quality photographers will notice you and possibly ask you to shoot (for free!)!  The more high quality photographers you are able to afford and work with, the more publications you will be featured in, and the more well known you will become.

Slow path: If you are broke but still want experience, look for "TFP or TFCD" shoots, that means "time for print", or basically, everyone works for free and you still get the digital files or actual 8x10 print outs of the 3-5 best shots for your portfolio.  Usually the concept, outfits, accessories and styling, (how you put everything together) are up to you if you are not working with a fashion designer.  The location and equipment are up to the photographer.  If they aren't bringing an assistant, you should; the assistants always come in handy.  The more experience you get, the more creative control you have over your photoshoots, and the more higher quality photographers will want to work with you (for free!).  And so the cycle continues!

<3 Nikki Napalm

Comment by ash bash pena on August 28, 2012 at 2:03pm
Never reveal the secret ! ha!
Comment by Jessica Ayn Lucas on August 30, 2012 at 10:41am
I would LOVE to be a Pinup model just because of how much I would enjoy the process of it all! All the work and creativity that would go into it would be so exciting and rewarding.. no money or fame needed at all. I really love and appreciate your bluntness!
Comment by Patricia Rodriguez on August 30, 2012 at 6:18pm

Thanks for the honesty! Its a relief to read honest opinions.


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