What's the Median Income for a Fashion Model in the U.S.?


Take a wild guess: How much do you think fashion models make? It’s one of those professions that unless you know someone, or work in the biz, there’s not a lot of information out there to have a good view into. Judging by models’ perceived glamour and high society status, not to mention the cut-throat competition they deal with, you might think it’s a lot. I think I did. Which is why this line from a TNR review of the new book Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model struck me as amazing:

The median income across America in 2009 for a model was $27,330—income that includes no benefits.

The book is by Ashley Mears, a former fashion model and current Boston University sociologist. From the TNR review, written by Chloe Schama, here are some other insights into the strange world of fashion model economics:

  • The average magazine shoot pays about $100 a day. For appearing on the cover of Vogue a model gets an additional $300.
  • Payment for walking in a Fashion Week show in London is $500.
  • The super sought-after “high-end campaign”—for a fragrance or some other luxury good pays, on average, about $100,000.
  • The question of what makes a good model is prone to the greatest illogic and shrouded by the most impermeable mystery. A distinct “editorial” look is one that, in Mears’s words sits “on the border between beautiful and ugly.”

Dan Farnst

There are so many types of models out there who work in one or more of so many areas it's pretty impossible to make any sense out of what a median income means. And certainly there are a lot of models who don't have the look and personality to get all the free drinks and entry to glamorous events. The business has made us think that that's the way it is for any model but there is a small handful who represent that type and they're mostly scattered around NY, Paris and a few other locations. The overall look of a model's work drops off drastically when you leave the world of high fashion. That's not only due to the look of the model but also how much talent today's limited budgets can buy when it comes to all the others involved in a shoot including the photographer. My sister was a model in the early 80's and her best year was around 300k. That was rarely heard of back then but she wasn't a household name. She certainly worked with household names including Brooke Shields, Paulina, etc. She was based out of NY and went from Elite, to Willy, to Ford through her 10 year career. But think of all the models who do runway shows in malls for $15/hour. You'd have to do a LOT of those to make more than the stated median.

I live in NYC and it's pretty easy to spot a model. Many are tall and very, very lanky to the point of being unattractive. You mention the word model in this city and everybody's eyes light up but the fact is when you factor in the fact that some people photograph much better than they look in person (not just because of light and make up but also because of the difference between a live person in 3d and a flat photo) and the fact that there are so few with what I would guess the average man would consider an aesthetically attractive body, there just aren't that many overall attractive models.

Of course, I'm getting away from the income issue but if you want a tall skinny 18 year old girl with no hips and no breasts, a NYC model is for you (and a LOT of them smoke, to boot)


Tonton W

Fashion model = Professional narcissist

robyn ann goldstein

The question is who is the narcissist here? I don't mean to be rude, but everyone really involved in this investigation thus far was merely doing their job i.e., the job they volunteered for of making it possible to demonstrate the true value of honesty and integrity when it comes to the potential for Social Science to encompass all of the sciences. So I guess, you have your work cut out for you now, too. Go read previous blogs under my name and figure it out in your own words. Then you too can claim some real immortality for yourself. Otherwise, a cheap shot!

Louise LeMans

When was the last time a legit model appeared on the cover of Vogue and not a celeb?


That's actually higher than I expected. I'd figure there'd be a ton of competition in the low ranks for the chance to make it big, ala sports players, with lots of models settling for low paying gigs trying to "get noticed". Though this may only be amount professional models, not those working other jobs while trying to break it.

robyn ann goldstein

fyi. I did not start this. Wanted to wait to publish when finished. A friend of mind squeeled. I fought for my honor (as in right) as any healthy individual scientist would and should. Guess he knew me better than I did myself. I did not need to break in. The problem was of breaking the mold that was preventing all the sciences (and perhaps you too) from moving foreward. I do suggest you look up my name and follow the "line" or "path" of reasoning.