The Dark Side of Modeling

I think I know why people may want to be a model.

The veneer of being extraordinarily beautiful, garnering loads of attention, making oodles of money, being showered with free clothes, and rubbing elbows with fashion big shots sounds appealing.

And they’re partly right. Being a successful high fashion model brings with it a jet set lifestyle of glamour. So what’s the problem?

“Only 2% of NYFW’s models were Hispanic or Latino.” Image: S Baker via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The recently concluded Fall-Winter 2013 collections at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) continues to perpetuate the myth that white skin is something to aspire to. For example, although our latest census puts the Hispanic or Latino population at 16.7%, only 2% of NYFW’s models were Hispanic or Latino. If fashion wants a glimpse into the future consequences of ignoring this growing segment of our population, it should take a good, hard look at the Republican party.

High fashion is aspirational. The looks that stomp down the runway are very rarely replicated in real-life because most of them are unattainable and impractical. They serve as an idea – the mink-lined leather sandals at Celine? Maybe they’ll revive Birkenstocks this summer. The tweed briefs worn bare-legged at Marc Jacobs? Maybe next fall will extend the current winter shorts over tights look. So, if high fashion is aspirational, what does this teach us about the models who wear the runway looks? We may not be tall, thin, and white; but we should try as hard as we can to look tall, thin, and white.

Home schoolers use backpacks? Image: PictureYouth via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

While fashion continues to perpetuate a near mythical and racist beauty standard, perhaps the most destructive facet of high fashion modeling is the use of child models. In 2012, the influential Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) issued guidelines encouraging designers to only use models 16 years and up. However, many designers have ignored this very lenient guideline.

The narrow hips, small breasts, and stick-thin body frame continues to be chic. And who has this body type? Mostly teenage girls – 13, 14, 15 year olds. As a result of the designers’ vanity, these young girls are subjected to withering scrutiny about their looks during their most vulnerable and formative years and manipulated into sexually suggestive poses and clothing. Some of fashion’s top photographers, most notably Terry Richardson, are notorious womanizers who often coerce models into sexual favors in return for work.

“Fashion doesn’t blink an eye at sending child models into this very dark and adult world.” Image: Jason Hargrove via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Yet, fashion doesn’t blink an eye at sending child models into this very dark and adult world.

So why would anyone want to be a model in a racist industry that exploits children? In its current state, I don’t know. But there’s hope. My hope is that Christians will take an interest in fashion, become players in the industry, and refuse to allow the current treatment of models to continue.

About Lauren Rambo

Lauren Rambo is a wife, mom, and redheaded stepchild living in Louisville, Kentucky. She blogs at South by Style.

  • http://kettinger.blogspot.com Jason Kettinger

    Before you take a veiled shot at the Republican Party as being racist, (geez, I love that one) maybe you’d do well to read a history book. Sheesh. We are the anti-racism party. And it didn’t serve your essay at all.

  • Sarah

    I usually like the posts on here but this one really fell flat. Nothing new to say, biased opinions, and just totally unnecessary.

  • Richard Clark

    @Jason – I think Lauren was merely alluding to the fact that they have had an immigration platform that speaks over the heads of immigrants, and treats illegal immigrants as intruders rather than human beings. This has been acknowledged even within the republican party at this point.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2012/11/the-naked-racism-of-an-obama-america/ Alan

    Or even more basically: the GOP ignored the Hispanic and Latino vote and are now paying for it. No ones claiming they were racist, just that they overlooked a major, growing demographic.

  • S. L. Whitesell

    Eh, it’s questionable whether anything short of adopting liberal principles on redistributionary welfare would have turned many votes. All the talk about “natural conservatives” was pretty shallow. I’m not denying that there are some messaging and policy lessons for the GOP with respect to the Hispanic vote, but too much was made too quickly out of exit poll data.

    But it’s certainly true that the large Hispanic population is a fact with which both politicians and marketing folks need to acknowledge.

    Richard – if we get border-intruders who aren’t human beings, I vote for shoot on sight!

  • http://kettinger.blogspot.com Jason Kettinger

    Yes, I attribute the poll data to, “Mittens Sucks.” The things that Republican John Kerry chose to be “severely conservative” on were stupid, draconian things. (Immigration, NDAA)

  • Richard Clark

    hahaha these comments are hilarious

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Even My Little Pony acknowledges the dark side of modeling. I refer to the first season MLP:FIM episode “Green Isn’t Your Color”, where Fluttershy (the painfully shy pegasus) goes through a short-lived modeling career. It is obvious in the show that she is being exploited and burned out, as well as driving a wedge of jealousy between her and her friend Rarity (the unicorn fashionista who’s been trying to break into the industry as a designer). And it seems obvious that she would have been discarded after they burned her out.

    A later fan-produced original song & music video (“Picture Perfect Pony”) elaborated on this at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDdL4z5qfr4 — listen carefully to the lyrics.

  • Pingback: Scouting for Anorexic Models Is A (Horrific) Real Thing That Happens


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