The modeling industry has always been an industry that exists in the duality of being a sector within the shaping of culture, whilst also disregarded by those considered in the academic world. Those who do hold value to the industry see models as a walking canvas for designers to show their art and the shaping of pop culture within our society. For others, the idea of modeling is quite pointless as they make assumptions on the industry and just see it as an outlet for “pretty privilege”. Regardless of one’s personal view the industry of modeling, much like issues that that are present in other industries, the existence of oppression and racism is highly present.
As a young child, the prospect of joining the industry was a viable aspiration in my mind. To me, it seemed like an easy route for a job as I would simply work as a walking canvas. However, in almost every stage of the industry, from the agencies to the clients that hire the models, there is clear discrimination towards diversity, and quite openly stated from the professionals who judge the qualification of the models.
I recently saw a video (placed below)on racism in the modeling industry released by Vogue, as it interviewed models and their experiences within the industry giving a clearer insight.
It seems that as the whole prospect of modeling, one’s visual appearance is the currency to a model’s success. For far too long, the demand for Eurocentric, size 00 models were the only representations in demand. What’s even more shocking is the lack of filter that is within the industry, as people being belittled for their appearance is a common occurrence.
It seems quite ironic that Vogue released this video speaking on racism and privilege, as they are one of the biggest known magazines that implement very slim representations within their own company. Anna Wintour, who is the editor in chief of Vogue Magazine has been facing backlash, as she fails to represent more diversity internally. She has been a big figure within the industry since 1988, yet has been called out on multiple occasions on the inherent racism she lacks to acknowledge both behind magazine through those who work for her and in front of the camera.
Some brands have begun to be more inclusive, yet the overarching attitude of the industry marginalizes any model who deters from the cookie cutter facade, unless the model is already well known within the industry or has a significant following.
Halima Aden, a model who was one of the first accepted into the industry as a woman wearing a Hijab has recently quit as model because of the lack of curtesy the industry provided for her religion. Even when brands would depict her head covered, most of the time it wasn’t a hijab or did not cover enough. Much like her, it is too common hearing about the experience of models who are not treated the same than blueprint model. From the shoots not being able to do the hair of black models, to blatant commentary made by those who work in the industry (i.e backhanded compliments).
It’s quite disappointing that an industry that is meant to represent our society’s culture of art and beauty is shrouded in toxicity. That’s not to say that the industry has not evolved and gotten more inclusive, because it definitely has. But it’s not enough. As superficial the industry may seem from an outside perspective, the existence of the constant imagery of the fashion world is inescapable. From social media to the billboards displayed on the streets, the imagery influences both inadvertent subjects and those who seek it. Without the representation of people of all body types, people of color, all religions, LQBTQ+, and people with disabilities, impressional viewers will lack to feel inclusive in their own society, even more so than it already is. When a model does fit those descriptions it shouldn’t be praised as a means for “paving the road” for their identity but as a push for normality.