This subject comes up often. An aspiring model who is 5′ 7″ (170 cm) or shorter ask about modeling agency representation and is told that she is too short. People from both sides chime in making all kinds of bold claims and some just outright make up lies to support their claims.
Let’s deconstruct this and try to bring some understanding to the volatile subject.
Why is height brought up so often as a barrier to professional modeling?
Height is an objective measurable criterion by which models are measured. Often, there are other factors at play with the person asking the question which are not addressed. Since unsolicited critiques are discouraged and often subjective, the easiest thing to do is to point out height as a barrier. Along with height, other criteria exist. Location, age, body measurements, face symmetry, and the right look are all important criteria to consider. Pointing out height without mentioning all other requirements leads the model asking the question to focus on that single requirement and defend it by citing all kinds of exceptions to minimum height requirements. The fact is that being tall does not make someone a shoe in for modeling. So even if that model somehow overcame the height issue, all the other issues still has to be dealt with.
Let’s dispel some common statements
All professional models have to be 5′ 8″ (173 cm) or taller to get signed by an agency. This is false. There are different kinds of agencies. 5′ 8″ (173 cm) is the minimum for fashion agencies. Major agencies in major markets will set this minimum for commercial models too because commercial models are often fashion models. There is no need to have a roster of tall models for fashion and another roster for 5′ 6″ (168 cm) to 5′ 8″ (173 cm) models. Tall models can do both and there is no shortage of tall models so tall models have the advantage of being flexible.
There are commercial/lifestyle agencies. They often will list a minimum height requirement of 5’7″ (170 cm) or 5′ 8″ (173 cm) but will often sign shorter models, particularly Asian models in the appropriate market.