Getting Your ‘Look’ Right, Part 2: Matching Your Essence to Your Marketing

Last week we discussed how important it is to know your essence—the amazing qualities you already effortlessly exude—so that you can trust that you are enough and know what kind of “character” people will experience when you’re just being you.

Next, we have to match your marketing to your essence. Here’s where we run into a lot of trouble. Take your physical appearance, for example. The way we dress and style ourselves can often be random, thoughtless, or even a direct contradiction to our natural essence. That’s because many of us use or construct our look as a personal statement against or to the world, or to hide, or show off, or as a defensive reaction, or to try to be something we may want to be but just isn’t true to who we are.

It’s easy to see this in some extreme, but common examples, like actors styling and marketing themselves like 20-somethings when they’re clearly in their mid-30s or older. But this kind of confusing marketing also applies within niche looks as well. Like, if you’re a biker but your essence is that of a big teddy bear—kind, sweet, caring, etc.—then it’s not necessarily that you shouldn’t dress or style yourself like a biker, but at least have some headshots with you smiling or with warm looks, not just all like a hard-ass, biker dude. If you’re goth, or punk, or gorgeous, the same applies; not just brooding or attitude-y or sultry if your essence is sweet, or funny, or shy. In other words, whatever your essence is, your look and marketing should proudly communicate that, not obfuscate it.

Then, there are the unintentional issues. Some of you have colored your hair weird, or it’s a bad cut, or you over-pluck your eyebrows, or never fixed your teeth, or are carrying too much weight for no good reason, or wear too much makeup, or apply it weird, etc. It’s hard to see ourselves and these kinds of issues objectively. So, you may want to consult with a good personal stylist or an image consultant who works with actors, and, if you do, tell him or her that you want them to be totally honest, no matter what. There may be things you’ve taken for granted for years that he/she will point out as working against you. A top-tier headshot photographer may be able to help you with this as part of his or her pre-production as well.

Next, when determining what roles you’d play, you’ve got to accept what your age category is, and many of you are going to fight me on this, but it’s my personal experience that you’ve got to stick with a five-year age range. I’m 34. I may look younger than my age, so, at most, I want to market myself for roles of characters who are 30–35. You put me next to a 25-year-old or a 40-year-old, and I just don’t look as 25 or 40 as they do, so it doesn’t serve me to market myself as their age category.

So, what kinds of roles do men in their early 30s play? Young professionals, dads, doctors, peak-career athletes, workers, friends, neighbors, boyfriends, etc. Then, as I say in my book, you’re going to fall into one of three hotness meter categories: model-types (Hottie McHottersons), or generally attractive (AKA “aspirational,” as in hot but not too hot) for leading men and women, and character types (insert your own non-offensive explicative example here).

Knowing which hotness bucket you’re in helps you choose even more specifically appropriate role types for you within role categories. Character types won’t have a lot of luck submitting themselves for the “hot construction worker guy”roles any more than model types would submitting themselves for the “chubby, construction worker guy”role.

All of this plays into your headshots. Headshots are not glamour shots. The goal of a headshot shoot is to capture you clearly, on a good day, and capture your essence, not to just look “hot.” It’s so casting will instantly know how to use you.

The point is this: You’ve got to be honest with yourself, get feedback from those around you, identify your essence, age category, and associated roles, design or refine your look so that it’s the strongest and clearest it can be with respect to those roles, and then capture that in great headshots.

Otherwise, you run the risk of getting poor results and never understanding why. If you want to work for other people’s projects, you’ve got to make it easy for them to know how to use you. Of course you are more than your look. But we are working in a visual art form. On top of that, we’re telling stories. Your look and essence impact our stories, so it has to factor into our decisions.

But it works the other way, too. Just a great look isn’t enough. You still have to be able to act. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s only about a look. Once you’ve got it together, you’ll be in the pool with other actors who’ve got solid, clear marketing as well. And at that point, it’s all about who is the right fit for the story the clients are trying to tell, to the best of their judgment.

Remember, you yourself are the product you are trying to sell, so it’s essential that you put serious and strategic thought into the entire package. Know your essence and then craft a look and marketing that works with your essence in the kinds of roles those in your age category play.

You’ll be seen and perceived as you really are, and that’s a wonderful thing, because you’re (probably) really cool and casting will know how to use you.

Until next week…