You finally got yourself an agent . . . good for you. That's nine-tenths of the battle. It's sometimes said that if you're serious about modeling, you should pack your bags and go straight to New York, and that's partly true. New York City is the U.S. jump-off point for the modeling world's Grand Tour, and most supermodels live in the Big Apple for at least part of the year. That doesn't mean, however, that a couple of years in Miami or L.A. are gonna kill your career. Hard work, charm, connections and luck all play a part in where you end up. No matter where you're based, if you sign with a big agency that's based in New York (as most of them are), there's a good chance that you'll end up there. But also keep in mind that there is still a demand for models in secondary markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

So as you get ready to embark on your career, keep the following points in mind:

  • Be prepared to spend your mornings schlepping burgers at McDonald's. Well all right, maybe it won't be that bad, but the fact is that most models (even at the higher levels) need a supplemental job to pay the bills. In addition to that, the average model can't expect her career to last more than eight years, so don't skip college! Parties, money in pocket, and a busy schedule make it very tempting to bypass the standard education route, but if you get hit by a bus and one leg becomes 8 inches shorter than the other, your modeling career will be in the toilet and you'll be stupid. So stay in school. Linda Evangelista may be earning millions a year well into her thirties, but you probably won't. Make sure you have contingency plans in place.

  • The actual work is never quite as romantic as the dream. Think endless hours in airports, rushing from appointment to appointment, shoots that seem to drag on forever, and chaffed thighs from changing into eighty different swimsuits in two hours. Yes, there's a lot of great partying. (For some strange reason models seem to get invited out a lot.) But there's an obvious potential downside to unlimited fun: the collapse of your career and a stint in the Betty Ford Clinic.

  • If your agency uses a contract, take the trouble to have your own lawyer look at it before you sign. Also, find out what unions you may be required to join, and whether or not you are free to sideline at a different agency. Consult an accountant about which receipts you should be saving, and keep careful track of the money you earn. A little attention to business now will save you many headaches later on.

And those are the essentials. Memorize them, get out there, and take your own personal shot at runway nirvana. The 21st century needs a new face - it could be yours. Be smart, be brave, and be beautiful.