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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Addressing a Reader Comment #2

Anonymous Wrote: Why is it that commercial modeling is considered as representing the "average woman"? commercial models have the same measurement requirements for waist, bust, and hips as fashion models (give or take one inch) except they are shorter so it looks more proportionate. so to be honest the strain to be thin is just as hard. the "average woman" has measurements of 42" hips and 36" waist and is the height of 5'4". So it seems commercial is just as physically hard to obtain as fashion except of the height factor. 34", 24",34" is seen the same by girls viewing it on either the runway of someone who is 5'10" or their favorite tv commercial extra who is 5'7". so how is being that small really considered "average"? 

You know, those are questions that I have often asked myself. And to be honest, there is really nothing I can say that would satisfactorily answer them. But what I do want you and other people to understand is the reality of the modeling industry. Models are commodities. We are not hired to change the world or make a difference in people's lives. We are hired to make people money. The modeling industry (fashion, commercial/print, etc.) is not about ethics, morals or being role models. It is first and foremost a business and its goal is to make as much money as possible. The modeling industry's priority is to sell people something that is not real. So no, models do not necessarily represent the average woman or even the average person. The facade is just that--a facade. People don't always buy a product because the model selling it is representing the "average" person. People mainly buy products because the model selling it is physically appealing. The advertising industry has whole sectors devoted to consumer research and sad to say it is because of the general public's actions/reactions that they take the steps they do when it comes to hiring models to push a product, designer or idea.

Commercial/print models are popularly known as representing the average woman but that isn't exactly accurate. What these types of models are supposed to represent is a more down to earth, girl/guy next door image. We're supposed to be the people you would see walking around in the mall or drinking coffee at the local cafe. Unlike fashion and runway models, who are seen as untouchable, print models are hired to be the "approachable" image of a company, product or idea. While the ideal measurements for print models are similar to that of a fashion model's, print agencies are much more flexible when it comes to signing people. They are hardly ever asked to lose weight. I've run into many print models in the field that fall outside of those measurements so no, not all print models are required to fit into an impossible weight range.

The modeling world is a difficult one to break. I'm sure you've noticed they do not adapt so well to change. For example, I was answering modeling questions on a forum one day and someone stated that they could not readily believe that there are models that are 5'10" and 115 lbs. I replied back that if you look up any fashion or runway model, including the Victoria's Secret Angels, a large majority meet those stats. I also said that I did not feel it was healthy but it was a standard that agencies and clients demanded, therefore it was totally possible. One of the other users on the forums, who is an ex-model and now works as a head booker for DNA Models, followed up my reply with her own, stating that she agreed 100% with what I said and did not even attempt to stick up for the industry when it came to the fact that being 5'10" and 115 lbs or smaller was not healthy. That is her reality on a daily basis. That's how strong the industry's roots go when it comes to such topics. Models are not meant to be role models...they are meant to sell clothes, accessories and products. Can models be role models? Sure, why not? However, that was never their original purpose and the sooner the public can see that, the better. We are simply doing our jobs.

There are models for virtually everything these days. Plus size models may be larger in size but they have an even bigger challenge with keeping their weight and stats up to par. Petite models are required to maintain these same strict standards. Print models are more flexible but still required to meet certain qualifications that do not necessarily make this field a "free for all." Want to see models that really represent the average person? Then there are "real people models." This field of modeling is slowly growing in demand so there are options. You have to look for them.

Do I disagree with what you've said? Actually, I completely agree with you. However, if there is anything I've learned in over a decade of being a commodity to a multimillion (if not multi-billion) dollar industry is that we are not selling reality. We sell an image. Do I condone or encourage this perception? Definitely not. I do what I can to present an accurate view of the modeling world in my blog for people to hopefully better understand how things work and why. And while I do not agree with a lot of the practices and politics, it is something that is bigger than me. The modeling world has been operating for decades and is set in its ways. The reason models and modeling is seen as such an enigma is because not everyone can become one. If anyone could be a model, the novelty would wear off quickly and the modeling, fashion and advertising industry would lose a ton of money. Do I wish things were different? Certainly. But continuing to ask age-old questions about a system that is set in its ways, while thought provoking, doesn't contribute to a solution. It's like asking why do football players make more than teachers? Why do we spend more money on war and weapons than on schools and healthcare? It is unfortunate that the modeling industry operates in the way it does but as long as you can put it into the perspective that it is a "made up" reality, it tends to be somewhat easier to deal with. No one says you have to be like a print or runway model. The real concern becomes when people blur the lines between what is real and what is not.

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