This month is the 21st anniversary of my introduction to fashion modelling, an introduction that would take me to every continent, give me the ability to live all around the world, and cringe as I appeared in more cheesy ads than anybody would ever want to be in.
And on this auspicious anniversary, I wanted to shed some light on the three myths of modelling that I always get asked about.
As a model, you get to keep the clothes, don’t you?
No, you don’t.
In 20 years of modelling, I’ve kept two items – a pair of jeans so tight that the blood flow to my legs was severely restricted, and another pair of jeans I wore underwater for a three-day shoot, after which the client held them up and said, “Well, these jeans are wrecked. You want them?”
I looked at her, said yes, and snatched them out of her hands. Free stuff is free stuff.
But no, typically models don’t get to keep the clothes. On most shoots, you’re wearing the samples from the collection, meaning they have to be worn by other models to promote the line, so there’s no way the client is letting you keep them.
Or the stylist has “pulled” the clothes – meaning they’ve temporarily borrowed the clothes for the photo shoot and must return them to the store at their own cost. So they absolutely don’t want you to keep anything.
Now you’re probably thinking, “But I follow Gigi Hadid on Instagram and she snags free clothes 24/7!” Yeah, maybe supermodels get free clothes, but regular models who make up the bulk of the industry rarely score free stuff.
Don’t all models have eating disorders?
While this is a horrific part of the industry and there are plenty of models who pursue unhealthy diets to achieve an unachievable vision of what is beautiful, not all models have eating disorders.
First, to be a model, you need a few things – tall, slender, have a look deemed attractive by the most recent copy of Italian Vogue. What some people miss is that a lot of models are naturally skinny. That’s why they were selected in the first place.
In 2006, Madrid banned underweight models, meaning models under a healthy body mass index (BMI) of 18. My girlfriend at the time and a lot of her friends were under that BMI, and none of them had any problem devouring food. They were just tall, skinny people.
This said, people should understand that everyone has a different body type, and trying to be as skinny as people who are genetically predisposed to it is definitely a recipe for an eating disorder.
Towards the end of my modelling career, unrealistic body standards that women had dealt with for decades had been passed onto the men. It was no longer good enough to have a six pack. Guys had to have an eight pack, and muscles visible in their midsection where no one even knew there were muscles.
I found out firsthand that some guys could naturally maintain that, and others – like myself – would have to starve into shape, which wasn’t going to happen. Food is life – literally.
But hey, sorry about this, but aren’t models stupid? Ha ha ha, sorry.
OK, I’m calling this a myth. Stick with me here.
Models aren’t necessarily stupid, in that they’re not innately less intelligent than people in any other industry. But modelling creates a set of conditions to make people appear stupid.
First off, the brain is a muscle. To keep it sharp, you need to use it. You’re not going to get much argument from me that modelling is pretty much a mindless job. Toward the end of my career, anytime I shot a catalogue, I literally found myself falling asleep on set, in front of the lights as the camera clicked. It was just uber-boring.
Planning, problem solving, creativity – none of it really happens when you’re modelling. Your agent plans your agenda, the creative director/photographer/client poses you, and the biggest problem to solve is how you’re going to fit in gym sessions with partying. There’s not a lot of cognitive action happening for a model.
Second, modelling – for all it’s negatives – can hyper-inflate one’s self esteem, or inject models with the idea that if you want to get things done, you have to put yourself out there Which is great. The problem is, models don’t have any discernible skill set, so when they get out there and do it, it is usually hilarious for other people to see.
So you get the cliché of the model turned horrible actor, bad painter, wannabe rock star, or even horrible novel writer (that’s me). Unfit cognitively but overconfident about their ability to succeed are conditions that set up models for failure.
But as time has passed, I’ve seen many models who embarrassed themselves early on put together nice careers later.
So there it is, three myths I’ve had to shoot down numerous times over. Do you have any myths about modelling you need addressing? If you do, I’m happy to tackle them. Because answering questions about modelling is easier to do than researching real content.