By Jessica Frost

For a young model just starting out in her career the industry can seem like an impenetrable bubble. The mantra ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ feels truer than true.

That’s why a little bit of support and guidance from industry professionals is the perfect kick start into the industry that will turn those awkward castings into great opportunities.

I was lucky enough to get to be a fly on the wall for half of the day’s sessions at Sydney Model Development (damn my emails for pulling me away early!) but half a day was enough to get to see just how influential the day could be on a young model.

The day-long session gives young models the opportunity to ask those questions they’ve always had about the industry and leave with the basic skills to developing a sustainable career. Between learning about the importance of a great portfolio and scribbling down a list of must-have drugstore beauty products that was being shared by a pro makeup artist, I caught up with the founders Mel and Emily to chat more about the great work they’re doing.young model

So Emily and Mel, how did you two meet? And can you each give us a little about your backgrounds in the fashion and modelling industries.

Mel and I both met working for an ecommerce company called Mysale in 2011. Mel was a photographer at the company and Emily is the Studio Manager.


I’m a freelance photographer from Sydney and I’ve been shooting fashion for around 6 years now. I started off my career working in the studio where I met Emily. Working in a studio environment really helped me to quickly learn about light, and as a photographer, light is everything. I started shooting a lot of model portfolios and realised that I love coaching new models and helping them feel confident in their own skin.


I have been at Mysale for 6 and a half years and manage a team of studio assistants, photographers and graphic designers in Australia’s most efficient, high volume ecommerce studio. We shoot between 1 & 4 models every day doing catalogue and lifestyle shots for the ecommerce sites. Over my time at Mysale, I have cast over 1000 models and work with all the top agencies and freelance models in Sydney. 

And tell us, how did the idea for Sydney Model Development come about and what are your main goals for the business?

Working together 5 days a week & often getting mistaken for sisters, we talked about anything and everything. We were often saying things like ‘That model would be great if only they knew this…’ or ‘That person has so much potential but made a terrible impression!’ and things along those lines.

We realised that there are a lot of young models that get swept up in the industry without much guidance, experience or advice about anything.

Unfortunately, a lot of young models get taken advantage of by agents or clients because they simply don’t know what to expect. This is especially true for freelance models.

We also think that there are so many preconceptions about modelling & what is defined as ‘successful’ but there’s so much diversity and so much opportunity for models willing to work hard!

We wanted to share our joint ‘client-side’ experience with as many young models as possible to help give them an edge in such a competitive industry!young model

You have some really talented industry professionals feature at your workshops, how do you choose the right people to be mentoring your models?

We’re really lucky to have amazing industry mentors at our workshops! We always try to pick mentors who have experience in the industry and who we think have wonderful tips and messages for our young models.

We’re lucky enough to work with amazing makeup artists who teach the young girls about skincare & personal grooming and also teach them how to achieve a really natural basic makeup look which is so important in the industry. The girls are given individual advice and taught how to use their own products. Young models often can’t afford the top of the range products, so it’s great for them to learn how they can achieve the best results with affordable products.

We also have the gorgeous Natalie Meeuwissen who joins us for the Runway Tutorial section of our workshops. Nat has worked locally and internationally with her modelling and in particular, runway. She’s been with us since our very first workshop and teaches the young models a range of runway techniques to give them a really strong runway walk.

We always have another model mentor at our workshops to chat with us about Jobs, Castings, Agencies, Freelancing, working overseas, and everything in between. This is a great opportunity for our young models to ask any questions, hear experience and stories from our mentors and learn how to stand out from the pack.

We’re so lucky to have had Jordan Simek (AusNTM Season 10) in two of our workshops this year. Jordie has been incredible and so inspiring for our young models in the way that she celebrates diversity & confidence in the industry.  Other amazing mentors we’ve had include Vitoria Triboni (AusNTM Season 10), Tammy Soljanic, Yasmin Baildon, Isabelle Impala, and Charlie Austin. All of these girls have so much experience in the modelling industry to share with the young models that attend our workshops. We are always grateful for how open and honest they are and how generous they are for sharing their life experiences at our workshops.

If you had to choose just one piece of advice to share with our readers about how to get their break in the industry, what would it be?

We love to say ‘No one does YOU better than you’ in our workshops. We really want all young models to realise that the thing that sets them apart from everybody else is their individuality. Recognising, embracing and celebrating what makes them different to everyone else is the absolutely key. We want everyone to be the best, healthiest and confident version of themselves.

What do you think are the most important things to remember as a new model in the industry?

– People will say ‘no’ you need to learn to take feedback, build resilience and grow stronger.

– Always be prepared – jobs and castings always come up at the last minute!

– Put yourself out there and network. You’ll be amazed how important word-of-mouth & recommendations are in the industry. Impressions are key – you never know where the next job is coming from.young model