The Pros And Cons Of Being A Hand Model

You've seen my hands many times before, but not my face. And I'm OK with that.
Publish date:
August 27, 2013
manicures, celebrities, skin, hands, aging, modeling, photos, hand models

When I first told my mom that I was going to try hand modeling, she said, "That'd be great if you could start doing hand jobs!"

I've been a professional hand model for almost 10 years. I've done TV commercials and countless print shoots. But my favorite jobs are definitely the beauty shoots.

I've been a cover girl for NAILS magazine four times, and I was on the packaging for a popular brand's line of French manicure kits for a while. I've had manicures by nail techs whose level of artistry was only rivaled by their day rate, and who would do my nails in between pop stars and famous actress. I also shot with a famous director for some very, very expensive handbags, and once I got to wear a diamond that was roughly the size of a quarter.

I got started with a referral to a modeling agency that specializes in parts. (You may correctly infer that there are people out there who are, in fact, Professional Asses.) There was no way I could walk into any reputable modeling agency, as I am 5'2" and usually look like a bike messenger. I signed with the parts agency, paid to have some test photographs taken so that I had a little portfolio, and went on as many go-sees as I could. I figured I would probably, eventually, make back the money I'd spent on the spec photos, and I'd at least get a few good stories out of it.

Hand modeling can be, but is not always (or even usually), lucrative. One of my agent's first questions to me was, "Do you have another job?" Generally, we don't get residuals for TV, and print shoots are almost always a buyout.

Sure, there are those who make gobs of liquid cash, but hand modeling on that level is usually an impediment to one's lifestyle. I have the natural grace of a charging bull. To be at the top of your game, you have to be crazy-extra-gingerly careful about everything you do with your hands. I'm a professional, but it's not my whole life.

Do I care? Not really! Once I was Tina Fey's hand double, and I got to meet Martin Scorsese, too! You can't put a price on that. Plus, when you factor in that I basically leave any gig sporting a $1500 manicure, the experience pays for itself. That, and the fact that I can write off the cost of mani/pedis all year long.

Hand modeling can actually be grueling work. I'm sure regular modeling has some decidedly unglamorous moments, but to get the best camera angles sometimes I have to be a downright contortionist. I did a TV shoot for a digital camera where I literally had to lie on my back and straddle a c-clamp for several hours.

Also unlike regular modeling, I really only look good from the shoulder down. Sometimes only on one side. I recently did a shoot for an alcoholic beverage with a famous actress who turned out to be English (guess away!) where for six hours I balanced precariously on an apple box, or a very small platform, under hot lights in a stuffy warehouse in the armpit of the San Fernando Valley--and it turned out I was eight weeks pregnant. I was sweating buckets and looked like utter crap, but my left arm looked impeccable. When the makeup people would come and do touchups, they would hover and fret over the English actress and give her bottled water through a straw, and then just quickly powder me from the crook of my elbow down.

In a backhanded way (sorry), the anonymity works out to be better for the longevity of my career. Yes, hands age, but not nearly as fast as most models.

Plus, you know, PhotoShop.