If you were to ask the average person about their thoughts of the modeling industry, he or she would most likely mention the most glamorous parts of the job. This can be everything from traveling the world and wearing extremely expensive and fashionable clothing to the fame that comes with being a well-known fashion model. The rise of Instagram, Snapchat, and other photo-sharing apps makes this basic understanding of modeling even more ingrained in our society.
Ultimately, modeling isn’t as glamorous as you think it may be. In fact, being a fashion model can be extremely stressful. Not only is the fashion world extremely competitive, but models need to cope with the physical and psychological challenges that accompany a career based on looks and beauty.
To get a better sense of the stress and health challenges that models face in their careers, we recently had the pleasure of speaking with Ria Serebryakova. Serebryakova is a rising star in the modeling industry. Originally from Russia, Ria Serebryakova was discovered at the age of eighteen. Her big break came from an appearance for Miu Miu during Paris Fashion Week. Since then, Serebryakova has worked with world-renowned fashion brands like Forever 21, Tory Burch, Ray-Ban, and L’Oreal. Along with gracing magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Ria Serebryakova is also an artist. Her recent photo exhibition (called “The 2084”) illustrated the issues of plastic pollution and was displayed at New York City’s renowned Van Der Plas Gallery.
In our conversation, Serebryakova discussed things like challenges that new and experienced models face, why casting calls can be stressful, and what models can do today to address their stress.
The surface-level perception of the modeling industry is that it is full of glamour. You take private planes to exotic destinations and get to wear the most fashionable clothes. What is wrong with this perception?
I’d agree that this view of the industry is too simplistic. To be clear, I love modeling. It is my true calling and I enjoy partnering with all of the brands that trust me to represent them on the runway. But it’s not like we are living lives without stress or hardship. Modeling is difficult—especially for models just starting out.
Like any job, there are downsides. In certain situations, you need to adopt a mask and remain professional. This is especially true if you have to do something that you don’t really want to do or if you’re doing something you’ve never done before. For example, working in extreme heat or cold can be difficult, but you just have to do it. Viewers of my work or other models’ work don’t see these challenges behind the scenes. All they see is the finished product.
That’s a great point and one that many people forget. What is one part of your work that is particularly stressful?
One of the main battlefields is casting. You only have a few minutes to make an impression (which is stressful in and of itself). But the stress gets even greater when you attend a big casting. As one example, during Fashion Week, there are hundreds of women trying to make an impression. Waiting for many hours, it is easy to get stressed—especially if the casting directors and designers are stressed. The stress is contagious, but you have to bottle it up in order to make the best impression.
I can imagine that getting consistent work is a job in and of itself. How do you deal with that?
The fashion business is very unpredictable. While this unpredictability can be exciting at times, it can also be stressful for models. You never know when your next job will happen or if you will consistently get work in the future. You have to be adaptable, as there may be situations where you need to constantly fly from one place to another. There may also be situations where you are completely free with no castings on your schedule.
This ambiguity can be mentally challenging. This is where it is important to stay mentally strong and get help if necessary, whether that is through meditation, therapy, or something else.
Does it get any easier as you become well-known?
I would say that the stress is different. In the beginning, the stress is around casting. It is easy to compare yourself to “more successful models,” and as a result, get sad or depressed. Rejection is also difficult. You start questioning whether you were meant to actually do this. It takes a lot of work to not feel bad about yourself and beat yourself up if you experience failure.
In the later stages of your career, the stress comes from the higher stakes. Yes, you may not be scrambling for work as compared to those early days. You may have some more time for yourself and start to care about your health more than work. But still, because you have built a career to this point, you want to do everything to avoid going backward. This is a tricky balance that not everyone will appreciate.
What is your advice for other models who are dealing with stress or who are feeling overwhelmed?
There’s nothing wrong with getting help. For as goal-oriented as we may be, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your health. Make sure to take care of yourself, whether that is getting more sleep, using a meditation app, or something else. Not only will this make you happier, but you will likely see even better results in your modeling career.