Aug 4, 2011

Having A Voice: A Model's Worst Nightmare

They're too thin. 



They're too young. 


They're too fat.  


They're too actressy.


They're too changeling. 


They're too photoshopped. 


They're too exposed.


It's time for the models to define who they are.  I can't wait for the first girl that steps up and says "Suck it industry!  I'm a beautiful woman who knows how to work a camera and create an image and if you can't handle this canvas, step off!" 

I started modeling in the late 90's when the look was very androgynous and angular.  Models were applauded for showing up to shoots in ripped-up jeans, t-shirts and a canvas sack for a purse looking too cool for school.  And then it changed.  The Eastern European influx took over the industry and the girls became a few inches taller and their hips, a few inches smaller.  And I don't have to tell you, people were outraged. We all saw the press blow up and laws were passed to save these girls.  Most of the models I spoke with agreed, it is difficult for us to keep our weight down and we have no idea how we're meant to maintain it beyond age 18.  The new body standard a model must maintain is ridiculous to say the least. 

And we wanted someone to step up and change the industry and make the model body normalized again.  Some people spoke out but nothing changed. What we need are the models to change and then challenge the rest of the industry to keep up with us. 

And then Twitter happened and Facebook Fan Pages and models started being able to put a voice to their face.  Some of them were able to attach their name to their images as well.  I was excited to hear what they had to say! Would all our private conversations about the current standards and environments for working in the industry be tweeted and written about?   

Nope.  Nothing.  ...or in text speak *crickets*

Here's the fear: once a model voices an opinion there's a younger, thinner, newer model willing to take her place. And they typically charge less. Many are grateful for those who have chosen to speak up.  Natalia Vodianova brought so much hope when she shared her story.  

But it's still dark behind the curtain for a lot of these girls on the runways of Victoria's Secret and Dior and they remain silent as it's better to have a little than none at all or so we've all been told.    

But, perhaps, are these girls too young to speak up for themselves?  
I think this is a real problem with models who start off at 14, 15 and 16 years of age.  They may be incredibly intelligent women and mature beyond their years, and I'm not a children's developmental expert, but I would suggest that these girls are too impressionable and too easily persuaded and controllable.  And when you don't experience anything different than being marginalized it's what you come to expect.  

Much like a toddler needing approval from their parents in order to survive, when a young, impressionable girl is thrust into the upper echelons of the fashion business, their main tool of survival is to make sure everyone loves them.  Often times, because a model travels and works alone, this need for approval and acceptance becomes defining to a young woman's emotional development.  There is no one there to protect their best interests.  There are no handlers or parents around to make sure she finds her way. And agents are managing 20+ girls and can't be there to field every curve ball.  The environment creates an emotional arrested development and I think it's very dangerous. 

By way of example, one of my first jobs was for the Louis Vuitton World Cup campaign.  I had no idea what Louis Vuitton was and tried to back out of the job.  I didn't want to model luggage. My agents were aghast. To make matters worse, the week before I had turned down a Dolce Gabbana perfume campaign with Steven Meisel because I had been asked to be comfortable with partial nudity and I wasn't.  My agents were already frustrated with me and I'd only been working for a few months. 

Everyone around me explained what Louis Vuitton was and why I needed to do this job for my career. Even my parent's friends got on the phone. Once I understood that Louis Vuitton does clothing as well, I was able to wrap my head around how to model luggage and handbags.  Yes… when my agents were explaining to me that I would simply have to hold an LV soccer ball, I imagined that's all I would be holding… and wearing.  Naive? Perhaps.  To my defense, I'd only realized a job called a model existed 6 months before this conversation. 

I did the job and afterwards I was asked to stand naked and have my photo taken for the photographers' personal book.  They told me they'd shoot from the waist up.  The makeup artists painted my nipple orange as I stood there feeling uncomfortable and exposed and then we shot the photo.  It was over in 10 minutes. 

Why did I shoot that photo?  I'd been told, these people know what they're doing.  I'd been told, they are the best in the business. I'd been told to let them do their job and help make my career. I was told it would be artistic and beautiful.  No one was there to stop the shoot-within-a-shoot and I didn't know any better to speak up.  I squirmed but eventually was persuaded.  My agents were of course upset when they found out what had happened.  But it was too late.  The photos were already in the can and the photographers had the rights to them.  I didn't know enough to hire a lawyer. I was 18 at the time so I should have been able to take care of myself, right?

The image wasn't pornographic but it happened when it shouldn't have.  After that experience, I became better at speaking up and saying no to shoots that happened after shoots. To avoid the discussion altogether, I often came prepared with an excuse of something I had to do after work so that I wouldn't be asked to stay. 

There must be a more supportive atmosphere for these young models to work in than the one we've currently created. I think that with a more supportive atmosphere, the models will be able to speak up and create a unified voice. Perhaps something much more powerful than the current dialogue about what a model is.  Just be careful, they may make you accept an extra 10 pounds on their frames and a personality to go with it. 

What do you think? 

1 comment:

  1. I am very Happy to know that you are also in Blogger, This post is one of the best posts written for Models! Keep it coming!

    Jogels xxx