Philly model, actress and writer Cassie Hepler, pictured in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, had no easy road building her career. (Stephanie Poth Photography)

Would you work for free?

 

Thousands of aspiring models and actresses are expected to do this every day, hoping for that big break while building their portfolios. However, asking professionals with years of experience under their belt (ahem) is the biggest insult ever. We’ve paid our dues and expect compensation for years of struggle and strife.

 

I frequently daydreamed about being a model in my teens while pouring through fashion magazines. While at Penn State for journalism and dabbling in acting classes, a photographer reached out to see if I wanted to model based on my Friendster profile picture, and offered to pay me, and later set me up on OneModelPlace.

 

After college, I kept chasing the modeling/acting dream. But see, the problem is, as a 5-foot-8 woman and a size 8-10 (depending on the week), I am considered plus-size or, as I like to say, normal size in real life. East Coast models’ plus-size starts around a size 8, while on the West Coast it’s a lot larger. "Plus" doesn’t mean fat – it means you are still in shape with weight evenly distributed but curvy.

 

After moving to Philly, I modeled part time with the help of a new DIY modeling/acting website, ModelMayhem. My modeling jobs increased tenfold, I got some indie films under my belt (and some ridiculous videos of me as Alice in Wonderland getting slimed), and I went searching for representation.

The Wilhelmina model agency in New York City called me, but I was too broke to go. Agency after agency expressed interest but didn’t offer work. I joined Mike Lemon Casting because who doesn’t belong to them? The only thing they secured for me was a makeup study on QVC. There was one chain-smoking agent in a power wheelchair who added me to his roster, but it was over when I submitted bathing suit shots, and he pretty much called my stomach fat, and I explained to him I had severe scoliosis.

So my DIY work increased. I secured an acting gig with Amtrak after doing some pinup work. I continue to work with amateurs and professionals alike, just like any other aspiring actress or model. You have to keep constantly updating, creating and working. Some models go on tours throughout cities all over the U.S. and Europe to keep chasing the dream. It’s a hustle.

And to some, success is being published in Hustler or Playboy. Hometown rumors had it that I posed for Penthouse and had two children with my infertile high school ex. Who knew? I actually know the lead Playboy photographer and could work for them easily. But is that a goal of mine? Hell no. I don’t need photo documentation of my gynecological exams, thanks.

Next time you see an Instagram or Facebook “model” or “actress,” feel free to ask them their credentials. Hopefully it will be longer than a list of selfies.

Learn more at http://www.cassiehepler.com.