Why Does Everyone Want to be a Model?
The fashion industry's model mystery is becoming HISTORY. Adiós to the seasoned pros, and hello to a constant slew of fresh faces. Every moment I focus my eyes, unplug my ears and zip my lips, I recognize the flood of anxious faces; I sense their piercing thirst; and I resist the urge to comment on their eagerness to enter the fashion industry expecting to become the next top fiercest "this person," or "that person's" biggest, baddest -- yes you've guessed it --- MODEL.
The overpopulation of models in our second decade of the 21st century would have been unimaginable to the fashion industry during the '60s, '70s, '80s, and even the '90s of the 20th century. In the earlier years, professional fashion models (especially those of color) were a rarity, and regulation was ruled by a recognizable system of reverence and respect. Now there is an overflow of Naomi Campbells and Kate Mosses with EVERYBODY seemingly motivated by no less than reality TV and ubiquitous smartphone apps for social media.
[Photo: PAUL MASSEY / Rex USA / Courtesy Everett Collection (l-r) Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Christy Turlington walk for Versace Autumn/ Winter Fashion show Milan, 1991.]
With the rise in reality TV shows such as Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model and social media platforms such as Instagram adding the most fuel to the fire, the fashion industry is barfing bitterness at the excess of anxious, self-taught hopefuls flooding the market. What our beloved model wannabes haven't taught themselves is that there is far more to becoming a reputable model than being the cutest in your school, mauling a photographer to snap you in your favorite #OOTD (outfits of the day) and entangling yourself in an endless surge of social media hype; these aren't even close to the basics. Modeling is known as an art, a craft -- a craft where the model is comparable to pure clay, or even children's Play-Doh. Comparable to clay, a model's inner beauty should be molded, developed and preserved, in order to showcase natural attributes and qualities rather than drowning his/her beloved followers with selfie's, shameless self-promotion, and hashtags as high as heaven. But that's not what our "20k-follower" page owners want to hear -- no!
Excitingly, there's been an overall boost to the fashion industry with shows like Lifetime's Project Runway inspiring every needle and threading knitter to be the next Ralph Lauren or Alexander McQueen. Thank the Lord! This means an increase in runway jobs, showroom gigs, print ads and advertising campaigns -- Hallelujah! (Turns out not every fashion-related reality TV show is a detriment to the industry, after all.) But, is it enough to sustain and bring a balance to our industry? And you would think, wouldn't our industry want more objects of color, beauty and distinction piercing its dark, bumbling world? Yes, I do, but if there aren't an equivalent amount of "professional" outlets for us to succeed, it simply compares to an unemployment rate.
Edward Enninful, British fashion stylist and current fashion and style director of W Magazine, recently launched an Instagram modeling contest, promising some lucky winner an official shoot for W Magazine. "I'm looking to discover a new-face model on Instagram", Enninful declared using his Instagram page (@edward_enninful), pounding in over 25,000 entries with his special hashtag #EdwinEnninfulScouts. It made me wonder, has the fashion world begun to decline against its own will, forced to embrace the new schemes of these social and digital platforms? Or are they merely outsourcing the casting process to a budding new generation of time-saving technology?
Before I could sit here and rant like a modeling industry know-it-all, I asked Devyn Abdullah, a N.Y.C.-based fashion model, and season one winner of Naomi Campbell's The Face, her views:
I feel as if the internet, media, and definitely reality TV changed modeling... It was a rare world, and now can't be replaced. There's never ever going to be another Naomi Campbell, there's never ever gonna' be another trinity group. Those women [Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell] can book any job.
The way society is set-up now, the longevity in terms of being a successful model has been robbed from us. But reality TV is a catch 22 because it brings opportunity to anyone and everyone."
-- Devyn Abdullah, season one winner, Naomi Campbell's The Face.
[Photo: Fabio Iona / Indigitalimages.com. Model Devyn Abdullah walks for Pamella Roland SS14 during Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week]
A world of Catch-22s -- there are tons of working, experienced models now entering the reality TV world to boost their careers, such as The Real Housewives of Atlanta's Cynthia Bailey, a former supermodel-turned-reality-star, while others have used their reality TV credentials to launch top-notch modeling careers, such as Keeping Up With The Kardasian's Kylie Jenner, a former reality-TV star and soon-to-be supermodel. But as for Devyn, this reality show winner feels as if press, media and television endeavors are overly publicizing the secrecy that built this fashion industry, thus downgrading "modeling" from an actual career option to merely just an amusement. Working with Naomi Campbell on a reality TV show may be a dream for some, but ultimately, the saturation is causing this industry to crash, lose its value, and become a playground for all.
The Meredith Vieira Show
Lavishing upon quotes, next comes the beloved, supermodel herself, Naomi Campbell when she appeared on NBC's The Meredith Vieira Show. Her statement followed host Meredith Vieira's questioning of the new wave of "insta-girls" -- girls who instantly become top models by using Instagram as a platform- in comparison to Naomi's more traditional start over 25 years ago.
It's amazing, I mean good luck to them, I just feel my generation of women, like Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Claudia [Schiffer] we had to earn our stripes and take our stepping-stones to get to where we have gotten to accomplish what we have achieved to this date.
Naomi then continued,
I kind of feel like, 'My God,' it's like we've worked so hard and we are still working at it. Then it just comes like that for them, but I sometimes believe, easy come, easy go. So, I am actually grateful for the way that I had my career. I wouldn't want it any other way, so that's for them, this is [for] me.
What if Naomi Campbell would have made her debut in 2006, when shows like America's Next Top Model and websites like ModelMayhem and Myspace began making their impact on the modeling industry, as opposed to 1986, when she graced the covers of Elle and Vogue magazines? Her household name would be unheard of and the beauty and distinction that highlighted her rise to the top, well, would have clearly been over-looked.
Is there hope for the art and business of modeling?
Perhaps the establishment of a legitimate fashion industry union, equivalent to the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) will be the dawn of a new professional era for modeling -- qualified models would gain professional status only after booking a set number of high-end jobs or gaining representation with a legitimate agency. Yet, by the time a retired Fashion executive has the time to initiate and put into place this genius idea, our pro models could be at a sad booking rate of one job per year. Their money would be used up from auditioning for reality shows and such, the only way it seems a "working model" gets press these days.
Couldn't this be a marvelous post-white-house initiative for our ever so fabulous first lady? I couldn't imagine the fashionable Michelle Obama allowing our industry to suffer and remain imbalanced after the impact of her White House Fashion Education Workshop. With all of the influence that she's garnered within the fashion industry, can the political world save the modeling world? Can a life-changing new wave of fashion legislation be enough to flush away every grey area plaguing the modeling industry's accreditation system?
One thing's for sure, the modeling industry is crashing, and quickly losing its value.
This article was originally published on The Triumphant Scoop.