Apr 14, 2011

A Model Moment

I don't believe people are interested anymore in seeing a celebrity or final product perfectly coifed and packaged.   It's untouchable, difficult to relate to.   In this new age, people need relationships. They want to be able to watch as someone struggles to emerge into a new identity and bear witness as someone fails and gets back up.  This is why it is so fascinating for me to watch models rise and then disappear.  Where do they go?  What happens to all these girls at the end of their careers?   They are the perfect specimen of beauty, youth, raw talent and energy all wrapped up into a rail thin body just waiting to be snapped, for a photo or worse.  The second you start to notice and become familiar with a new face, she's gone.  Vanished.  It's so beautiful and transient.  

This is my first campaign shot by Mario Testino for Marni in London.  I'm 17. 

There is no safety net in modeling. The agents I worked with did a fantastic job building me as a model and shooting me to the top of the game.  Beyond that initial thrust, I was, for the most part, on my own to figure out how to maintain momentum.  The industry is not set up to sustain a model's career. Agents are typically innundated with new faces that demand an enormous amount of energy and attention to do the same that has already been done with you.  Photographers become bored and want to shoot a new face.  Designers follow the photographer's lead and use the girls that are currently shooting Italian Vogue.  Editors grab the girls who are currently hot and move on to the next when they become luke-warm.  It's like playing Tetris at the highest level, a model must find the relationships that fit with her and connect them before the blocks move upwards.  I struggled to put together a team as quickly as I could.  Nutritionists, trainers, accountants, lawyers... I hustled to learn the ropes while walking the high wire.  The relationships I formed have sustained me the past few years but I too had to give way to new girls as agents, photographers and editors discovered new faces.  All models go through this change.  Some return for a victory lap, most vanish.  

Here's Erin O'Conner, myself and Gisele Bundchen at the beginning of our careers.  Shot by Michael Thompson for French Vogue.  Notice, none of us are posing or moving.  We are all 16 or 17 and have no idea what we're doing at a side circus in the middle of Paris.  But we sure are giving good face! 

The modeling business is different than Hollywood.  You won't see PR agents and handlers and assistants running around backstage at shows making sure girls get the photos they need to maintain their image.  There are no celebrity branders and business men waiting to throw money into building these faces into brands, launching perfume lines, reality tv shows, clothing lines and the like. The fashion industry is a tight knit familial industry that sticks to what it does best, fashion.  Most of the players stay the same.  The models, however, get cycled in and out season after season. If you are lucky, like I was, you'll get to stay and play a little longer.  Fashion is a different game altogether and it takes an incredibly focused and street smart woman to win, even for a season, at it.  Some of the most intelligent women I've ever met have been models.  

These are girls who at the age of 16 or 17 are traveling the world on their own.  They are beautiful and they have the capacity to transform a room with their energy.  T

hey have the ability to morph oddly on film into inspiring images that have nothing really to do with who they are themselves.  They are able to, in an instant, assimilate the clothing, hair, makeup, set and energy of the shoot and focus it back to the camera, to the photographer, and for a moment, completely lose themselves in another reality.  It's incredible to watch. 

Here is an image of myself from a Nichole Farhi campaign shot by Mikael Jansson.  This was after a 3 years of modeling under my belt.  I believe I was 20. 

I wish I could watch these young women who have this ability age and mature and truly hone their talents.  There is much more to a model than a young, beautiful and interesting face.  It takes a certain instinct and intelligence to form the necessary relationships to sustain in a high pressured environment.  

Having survived the pressures and initial cycling of the industry, I am proud when I see a new face stick around for a few seasons.  I know what they are walking through and I know the pressures they are under.  

Which models did you love?  Let's find out what they're doing now!  I'll do the research and post it here.  

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