Modeling. When the career comes to mind, you may think of a job that takes no effort and contributes nothing to society. We think of models as self-obsessed, unintelligent, superficial, fake, bland––the list goes on. I know I have been guilty of looking down upon these women for their choice of career path––a career that seems utterly one-dimensional. However, after taking a closer look at models and their industry, my initial stance has very much shifted. Modeling is a hard job––one that takes immense amounts of effort and sacrifice that many of us do not take into account when we disparage models.
First of all, I want to acknowledge that the modeling industry is in no way flawless. While the industry is improving, it still has many weaknesses including a lack of racial diversity, a limited range of body types and pervasive sexual harassment. Many famous models have made ignorant choices, like Kendall Jenner with her infamous Pepsi ad. However, missteps like Jenner’s should not take away from the amount of work that goes into being a model, particularly for women who don’t come from famous backgrounds. Waking up at 3 a.m. for a 10-hour shoot, working out twice a day, sticking to a rigorous diet, booking advertisements and studying photographers are just a few of the many things these women have to do. While the job may seem shallow, there is no denying that it requires a substantial amount of work.
Models also need to have an incredible amount of confidence in and comfort with their bodies. They have to know every crevice of their bodies, as well as how a camera will capture them. They have to know the style and taste of the photographer who is shooting them. They need to know how the photographer is going to shoot them, with what kind of lighting and which poses they will need to prepare and perform. They need to be comfortable with being on display, their bodies vulnerable to ridicule and examination by any number of people: the photographer, makeup artists, designers, magazine editors, agents. Yes, the industry and its treatment of models may be flawed, but the amount of work these women have to put in shouldn’t be ignored.
Models also have to be very independent.They have to be comfortable traveling abroad to meet strangers, being forced all the while to exude elegance even while sleep deprived. Models don’t just lay around wearing designer clothing, flying on private jets, and partying at elite clubs. They are also doing a great deal of work to support themselves, and it just so happens that the perks of working in the fashion industry are a little bit more glamorous than perks in other industries.
It’s also important to note that modeling can be one of the few paths to financial independence for many young women. In countries where higher education is not easily attainable, or where women are expected to marry and raise children, modeling can be a route to self-sufficiency.
Sure, parts of the modeling industry are absurd and shallow. But to say that modeling isn’t “real work” and that it’s a silly career demonstrates ignorance of what being a model truly entails. While there is no denying the glamour inherent to the industry, there is also no denying the work, dedication and ambition it takes to be a successful model.