I created a thread asking about what it is like to work as a professional model (it got archived when I am away):
Everyone says something different. A guy talks about how he lives comfortably as a model yet another guy says that what he is saying is bullshit and far from reality. A retoucher talks about how it is hard to truly make a career out of modelling. Who should I listen to? Who is telling the truth?
So is it comfortably to make a living and live comfortably as a model? The links posted in that archived thread tend to be about how models earn close to nothing as their agents collect a lot of their money and some models don't get paid in catwalks/trial photoshoots.
I would say that the real modeling industry is not particularly exploitative. Rather, there are disreputable types that take advantage of noobs, telling them they need to pay for glamor shots, modeling lessons and so forth.
News articles usually look for sensationalism, so they often find a few cases of something that's outrageous and present it as the common issue.
There are a lot of different cases, it depends of each one... Also, the most logic approach is that it's hard to find a career in modeling unless you're preselected. Nevertheless, I think it may be hard.
In your case, you should prbably start doing it for free with freelance photographers and then try to use those pics to get a modeling agency's attention.
By the way, I know a lot of girls that so modeling for fun, just for the ego boost and the pics. They do it for free (so do a lot of people) on the side of what they usually do.
You shouldn't put all your career hopes on modeling, work, study or something and try getting into it at the same time. It's not like it will occupy all of your time anyways, considering that a photoshoot takes around 3 hours and can be scheduled...