"This is a world in which lawsuits fly as frequently as the models do from city to city, agency to agency, magazine to magazine, boyfriend to boyfriend. Loyalty is nonexistent. Betrayal is everywhere. But what else do you expect from a world that caters to envy and lust?"
So says Michael Gross, author of the book Model ' an in-depth look at the world of modeling. Such is our impression of modeling, that it is a place where cutthroat hedonism rules. And perhaps, to a point, it is ' just like many other professions. The acting, banking, and lawyer worlds have the same reputation. Like virtually any profession there is an indie side, and moral watchdogs frequent every avenue of life nowadays, but that is a different article. High-stakes businesses are just that, and it is no surprise what goes on around those who struggle and don't make it. A question that poses more interest is: how far does this go? Just like how we'd very much like to know if every banker, including the self-proclaimed virtuous ones at the top, are also corrupt, are even supermodels, the queens of fashion, part of this horrid game? From what I can find, the answer is no.
Like most people in the highest positions of industries, supermodels have interesting backstories and a certain fundamental aspect of their personality which allow them to endure; that, I think ' enduring ' is one of the main traits of a supermodel (of course enduring, in the fashion world, is a lot shorter of a time span). Waris Dirie, to take the most extreme example, was part of a nomadic tribe in Somalia until she ran away to London to escape an arranged marriage. By chance the photographer Terence Donovan saw her and convinced her to try modeling, and now, in addition to having a decade and more of top model history, she does quite a bit of humanitarian work in Africa.
Most of these superwomen started around fifteen to nineteen and most did so by either being discovered by someone from the fashion industry or from a contest joined at the behest of a friend. Gia Carangi summed it up when she said "I didn't build into a model, I just sort of became one". Perhaps the nonchalance boosted their success. Fashion's driving force is the search to devour the Next New Thing, and the exceptionally pretty faces of supermodels allow them to jump right into the industry without compromising their personalities, which agents cultivate to sell magazines with that certain flair. Being a Personality is part of being a supermodel; it is precisely what brings them to that position.
Contrary to the image of dumb mannequin creatures creaking down a runway, many supermodels have intelligence. Christy Turlington and Lily Cole, for example, Went to New York University and Cambridge, England, respectively. Cindy Crawford, a high school valedictorian, won a scholarship to study chemical engineering. Many of these supermodels dropped out to pursue modeling, but I think that shows smartness and character. What idiot would stay in college when millions of dollars and a life of fame and excitement lie waiting on a rose-lined path? Finish college later! (Which, by the way, Turlington did. No student debt there!)
Modeling, though not viewed as the most difficult of careers, requires talent beyond good bone structure. Take the classic "looking sexy" motif of most supermodel shoots. You can say "They're just standing there, pouting their faces! That's so easy!", but have you, man or woman, actually tried to look sexy, or interesting, or contemplative, or like you're having a great time, in a photograph? I'm sure just a little thought brings up images of horrible pictures of you with friends, dressed up somewhere, trying to look as beautiful as possible for a picture so that you have at least one good one for posterity. I'm sure, like myself, that they came out just, so, awful. Especially with the advent of Gia Carangi's fireball personality, supermodels are expected to act more in their photos to display emotion ' not just clothes. Supermodels don't just sell fashion, they sell the stories behind the fashion as well, and that takes acting. Think back to any Levi's billboard you've seen. It's rarely a girl standing in front of a whiteboard with jeans; it's them driving a car through the desert, or running down a hill in the distance while it rains, off to do some life-affirming action (check out Levi's "Go Forth" campaign). I suspect also that it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain yourself in a world which encourages drugs, affairs, and flippant desires. Though not difficult in everyday life, it likely becomes a near-heroic effort to keep yourself on top of things with a host of gremlins at your feet, trying to feed you drugs and sleep with you at every corner, every moment of the day. Being normal becomes part of the job.
In such a developed age of media, everyone seems to cross over into other avenues. Cindy Crawford created her own Modeling agency, Tyra Banks has her own shows, and Heidi Klum hosts Project Runway. The supermodel moniker has changed a bit, meaning more so a very famous person who has done at least a few high-profile modeling shoots. Take Hermione Granger ' that is, Emma Watson. Though she started as an actress, she has done some proper modeling for Burberry and Lancome to stunning success.
shows a new breed of model and a new viewpoint on fashion, one that is kind and self-aware. She has partnered previously with the fair trade fashion brand People Tree as a creative adviser, saying "I think young people like me are becoming increasingly aware of the humanitarian issues surrounding fast fashion and want to make good choices, but there aren't many options out there." She says she views fashion as "a great way to empower people". In an age where everyone can know everyone's dirty secrets all the time, and where accountability is quite high, supermodels and the biz are changing to be ever more ethical and welcoming. I suppose, then, that heroin chic and blase sexiness are out ' responsible beauty is in.