By Jenni Sellan
@SHITMODELMGMT – THE NAME IS PROVOKING and the tag line a catalyst for prompting a thousand questions. And that is exactly the point.
In recent years we have witnessed fashion models using their status within the industry to strengthen the reach of their voice via social media platforms for campaigning causes both in and outside of the fashion industry. Cameron Russel, Mari Malek, & Nykhor Paul, immediately spring to mind; their elevated status and relative success within the industry allowing them a certain level of freedom in their speech without risk or fear of being outcast from the industry that has become their livelihood.
But what of the 1000’s of other models helping to keep the cogs of the fashion wheel turning who do not share the same level of security? The girls who haven’t yet made it to prestigious stage of ‘IT’.
It is amongst these yet to be ‘discovered’ girls that anonymity has become both a necessity and a powerful tool for change.
Meet ‘H & S’; best friends, models and fashion’s exposé; from models consistently not being paid on time by brands we know and love to the devastating impact of industry standards on both the physical and mental health of models, this is the duo divulging the unvarnished truth.
Using humourous memes to reveal the daily grind of modeling and the issues facing those working hard to make it ‘big’ in the business of fashion, Shit Model Management, is quickly gaining momentum and while we can laugh, there are some serious truths and a longer term purpose that sits behind this high spirited jocularity.
Lucky enough to chat to the girls about their personal experiences and insight into the fashion industry, we explore among other things their thoughts on the rise & rise of Gigi and Kendall, why anonymity is a necessity and how their hilarity is driving positive change.
AMFAM: Humour is often used to convey the truth behind situations; what’s the biggest truth you want revealed through this medium and do you think the agencies and designers are starting to listen?
SMM: A very hard truth that I had to learn to face was that modeling and positive body image do not correlate. It is almost impossible to be completely happy with your body in this industry. There is always some way you can change, some way to look better, and some more inches to lose.
It never ends. I decided to address the issue with size and body image on the account because I know that every model has struggled with this. Accepting that you have a distorted body image, (which may cause disordered eating patterns), is so hard to come to terms with. I hope that casting directors, clients, designers, and agents will see the posts and wake up. There are so many things wrong with the modeling industry, and models can only do so much to change it. It’s really not up to us.
Why do you stay in the industry? I read that there is a fear associated with speaking up about issues that concern you about the industry. Do you stay because you essentially love it and believe there is a future or do you stay because there is a fear of losing too much?
There is a very real fear about speaking up. Our agents, as lovely as they may be, have a strong hold over us. They control both our career and our financial wellbeing. A lot of models would rather stay quiet than risk their livelihoods. There are very few models that would call modeling their passion.
Most of us are doing it for the money and the experience. The actual job itself is very physically and emotionally exhausting. It concentrates vastly on appearance, which causes models to constantly scrutinize themselves. When you’re submerged in the industry, it is very hard to come above water and realize that you don’t HAVE to do this- that this isn’t real life.
Modeling becomes your entire life. You can’t just take a break and then come back to it a week later. It revolves around everything that you do: what you eat, your workout routine, your social life, social media, etc. Staying thin, staying relevant, and staying flawless becomes life or death. When I felt this way, was when I was at my lowest. My mom kept reminding me that I could have a future outside of modeling; I could go to school and get a real job. But I couldn’t see it that way.
You are an individual hoping to drive change, have you seen any positive changes in your experiences since launching this platform?
I have definitely become more aware of positive change. Although it is very slow, it is happening. Runway shows like Christian Siriano and Chromat are revolutionary designers because they are actively fighting for size diversity in the industry. I’ve seen a lot more body acceptance campaigns and spreads than I used to, like in Aerie, iD, and Teen Vogue.
How do you see your platform evolving in order to create positive change?
A lot of important teams have reached out to me, including Model Alliance. I have many plans and projects in the works to assist in the drive toward change. The first step is definitely awareness, and I think the account is affectively spreading the word. The next step that I am trying to work on is catching the attention of designers and encouraging them to make a change.
If you could change one thing about modeling what would it be?
I would change the sample size rule. It is not only extremely outdated, but it’s also dangerous. Designers are only allowing size 0-2 models to walk in their shows, which makes naturally bigger girls feel an extreme pressure to be thin. Why can’t they make larger sample sizes? So many designers act like they are these incredible activists and revolutionaries, but then turn around and cast an all white, all size 2 show. It doesn’t make sense. I’m tired of sitting back and watching this happen.
Is there anything you LOVE about modeling? About the industry?
I love traveling, meeting new people, participating in a fun and creative photo-shoot, and interacting with influential people in the industry. I have had the most incredible and unique experiences that I can thank modeling for. The industry does have a way of making you feel special.
Your instagram account has become a place where models can connect based on shared experiences. Has this become a form of therapy to you?
That’s exactly it. When I first became a model, I felt so alone and isolated in my feelings. I had never felt that type of insecurity before. My insecurities and worries started to dominate all of my feelings and I had nowhere to let them out. When I started the account and saw how many people related, I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I hope that other models can feel that way too after following it.
What do you need more of as models?
We need more respect. Sometimes people on set forget that we are human too. We can’t be ‘perfect’ and ‘on’ at all times.
We get uncomfortable. We get awkward. We get hungry. We need our paychecks paid on time like everyone else. We have rent to pay and groceries to buy. We cannot be treated like less than human.
What is the most ludicrous thing you have been asked to do?
Oh God, let me think. Once I was working for a popular makeup brand and they covered my face in clay and turned it into a sculpture… I was so angry because of course I broke out the next day, and the pay was extremely low. Definitely not worth it!!! I’ll do my own clay face-masks at home thank you very much!
Is this an opportunity for you to prove that you are so much more than what people see?
Definitely. Models are a force to be reckoned with.
How do you feel about the rise of models such as Kendall and Gigi? How different do you consider their journeys to have been to the majority of models you know, in so far as the types of treatment that you so cleverly expose?
Their experience has definitely been completely different than most models.
Do they deserve their success? Of course. But it is hard to watch them book every single show, campaign, lookbook, etc, that other hardworking models may have equally have deserved.
A majority of the models I have met, including myself, came from nothing. This makes it twice as hard to afford to live in these expensive cities and make a name for yourself, but it’s not impossible. Some of the greatest models built their empire from the ground up, and that is what inspires us all.