Picture Perfect Life.
Picture Perfect Narrative.
These are the images perceived towards models in the fashion industry and are expected to be upheld by them. We tend to think their job is easy: they just have to pose and look good for the camera, disregarding the pain and work they have to endure underneath that perfection being captured by the camera.
Chloë Moretz on the cover of Teen Vogue's December 2011 issue
The Issue With The Modeling Industry
It's all the same. When you crack open a runway show, or a magazine, the same types of models are shown: tall, skinny - and white - models. But what about the rest of the "different" models (short, disabled, plus-sized, colored skin) who are striving to be represented in the media? What about those models who keep getting shot down by agencies and brands, hindering their chances of making it big and becoming a beacon of hope for individuals who look like them?
The modeling world continues to remain a very hegemonic industry without a window of opportunities for various different individuals who come from all different walks of life.
A runway show featuring all white and skinny models
Associated Racial Issues
By doing this, not only does the industry continue to be mainly white - as it emphasizes Eurocentric features that are often the key characteristics associated with models - and thus lacks the representation of other ethnically and racially diverse individuals in the world, but it also indirectly promotes anorexia - and skin bleaching - towards a lot of its consumers, breeding whole other issues about body positivity and acceptance within our societies.
Although taking its mainly racially hegemonic component into consideration, it should also be noted the modeling industry has taken some inclusive steps (as was detailed in a previous article) to becoming a more diversified industry with representation for other individuals, it's often to the extent of race, discounting various different characteristics within an individual (body type, height, disabled). Therefore, one cannot really attest to the fact that the modeling industry is moving as progressively as it keeps on claiming; it is still a very toxic realm with a very intricate toxicity stemming from how models - regardless of skin color - should present themselves: lean.
"So many women are having to compromise their physical and often mental health for the advancement of their careers. The boundaries of what a model should be are too black and white, leaving little or no room for error or individuality" - Emily Butcher.
Promoting Unhealthy Goals
Promoting body anorexia and unhealthy body eating habits as a result of mandating what models ought to look like if they want the prosperity of having established a name for themselves, the modeling industry not only enforces the pressure of having to be thin among its models, but also its consumers as their eyes are being adjusted to a seemingly normalized "beauty standard" of what they should look like.
Take model Emily Davies, for example, who felt the unnecessary and very harsh pressure from the modeling industry about having to stay thin and "fit" if she wanted to continue pursing her career in the modeling industry, that she ultimately developed mental health issues and had to leave the industry because she got too thin.
"They told me to cut out potatoes and not even go for jogs and to just do yoga, because 'jogging bulks you up.' Even when I was a size 6, I had comments on shoots about being 'the bigger girl' and to be 'careful not to break the clothes'... it was awful." - Emily Davies.
British model Emily Davies
The effects of only seeing one body standard as portrayed in the media through the modeling industry are detrimental. Eating disorders take new forms in order to promote and enforce anorexia and bulimia; all to fit one's perception of what they ought to look like, as modeled through the media. This causes hatred within individuals towards their body if they do not happen to resemble the skinny life that they see portrayed on their screen (it's the thing that also contributes to the further prevalence of fatphobia within our societies).
This can also be a major contributor to depression and other mental health issues, eventually leading to suicide thoughts within - especially young - individuals.
If you've read up to this point in this article, it goes without saying that the modeling industry should begin accommodating different body - and height - types models on the runway, as opposed to just race as a baseline to stake its diversity claim. Aside from key notable modeling figures who serve as beacons of hope and representation for plus-sized people of color in the world, such as Precious Lee, Paloma Elsesser, Ashley Graham, and Jill Kortleve, there is still a very small demographic of plus-sized individuals on the runway which needs to be changed and amplified to help combat the toxic issues regarding body image.
April 2023 British Vogue Cover featuring models Paloma elsesser, Previous Lee, and Jill Kortleve
The modeling industry does a very good job of promoting unrealistic body standards through the media, feeding generations of individuals - starting from adolescence - false narratives of how they ought and should look skinny, because it's the only body type they've been seeing. But once again, it is up to us to help dismantle the prevalence of body negativity by calling for the further representation of more diversely different models on the forefront of our media.
The modeling industry needs to be an exemplar of the diverse representation all over the world, that makes every individual proud of the unique person they are.