Image: The Instagirls by Mario Testino for Vogue

By Pavlina Hatzopoulos

We are now living in a world where we put numbers, statistics and social media followings on our CVs. It’s no longer a name, but a number that defines us. As you read this on your smartphone, or maybe your laptop, just think, when did our presence on social media and in the digital world become more important than our real lives? We are so consumed with scrolling through the seemingly beautiful but essentially made up scenarios on Instagram or Tumblr, that our online images, whether the same as our real personas or not, are quickly becoming more important than who we actually are and what we can bring to the world. So, it’s not surprising that in the modeling industry, who you are on your social media accounts and how many followers you can reach, is quickly becoming the one box you need to check to achieve success. 

Clients are now turning to girls who have this wide social media reach, to front their campaigns and walk in coveted spots in their runway shows. Reason being; it is very likely these models will post a backstage or runway snap on Instagram, where a further million people will see the clothes, which is a huge increase in awareness for a brand. This is perhaps the reason why the second youngest member of the Kardashian clan has found recent success as a high fashion model. Every appearance Kendall makes at a runway show, every cover she poses for, garners not only mass media attention but also the awareness of her 14 million Instagram followers. 

The boom of social media has a direct effect on every model, the minute she steps into a casting. A large proportion of models now use apps on Ipads to display their books to clients. Not only do these apps display your portfolio, they now integrate a section to show how many followers you have on several social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram. A client can now decide, on the spot, that he or she will use a model based solely on her social media following, and not necessarily on the quality of her portfolio. Some big name models, who previously kept their profiles private, were forced by their agencies to go public, as they were losing out on jobs to lesser famous girls with larger numbers of followers. 

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(Image from Snaptch the app Instagram of a model portfolio @snaptchapp)

Models, like everybody else, can use social media accounts to create a certain and often carefully crafted persona, which in turn can appeal to different clients. If you take a look at models’ Instagram accounts you can see some categories emerging. You have the fitness and wellbeing girls, who make it really known that they love yoga on the beach; 

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(Image from Gisele Bundchen’s Instagram @giseleofficial)

Then you have the ultimate big city cool girl, with impeccable street style and famous musician friends;

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(Image from Cara Delevingne’s Instagram @caradelevingne) 

Or you have the bombshell swimsuit models….

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(Image from model Gigi Hadid’s Instagram @gigihadid)

You get the idea. Models use social media to constantly promote their niche, and the girls who know how to strategically market themselves, are the girls nabbing the jobs. 

The importance placed on social media is even further highlighted by the biggest online community for modeling; The website’s Model Rankings are famous for carving out the crop of models deemed noteworthy to be considered supermodels, and for discovering the hottest new faces from all over the world. However, in recent times the website has incorporated a new ranking list, named ‘Social,’ which tallies the models with the widest social media reach. As expected, at number one we can see Kendall Jenner, who actually comes in before supermodels Tyra Banks, Miranda Kerr and Gisele Bundchen.

One of the most influential magazines on the planet, American Vogue, dedicated its prestigious September issue cover to ‘The Instagirls’: Joan Smalls, Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss. Joan has over half a million Instagram followers, Karlie; 1.3 million and Cara; a whopping 7.6 million. Even Candice Swanepoel admitted, in an interview with W Magazine, it is embedded in her Victoria’s Secret contract that she post a certain amount of Tweets and Instagram photos to her millions of followers. 

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(Image from Joan Small’s Instagram @joansmalls)

So, from here, what is the future of modeling? Will the supermodels of the next generation be girls with a true talent for morphing into characters in front of the camera, or having a killer walk on the runway, or will they simply be brilliant selfie takers? It seems like the industry is favouring girls not based on how well they model, but based on the amount of people they can reach. Maybe talent doesn’t cut it anymore, but a follow sure will.

Instagram: pavlina__h (how ironic)