Runway or run away? -The truth behind the lifestyle of a fashion model

We’ve spoken to models and agents from the industry about the real life of what’s probably the most glamorized job in the world.

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A model wears a creation for the Viktor and Rolf Spring/Summer 2019 Haute Couture fashion collection presented in Paris, Wednesday Jan. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
A model wears a creation for the Viktor and Rolf Spring/Summer 2019 Haute Couture fashion collection presented in Paris, Wednesday Jan. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Ever since social media, the confrontations with flawless bodies, perfect smiles, extraordinary lifestyles and ultimately your own averageness have been omnipresent.

For a young girl looking at the world through an app on her phone it must look like there’s only two kind of women; those who have it all and those who don’t.

But how did we get there and how can we dismantle a glamorized image of an industry that has rejected or spit out at least as many as it has nourished?

First of all, no magazine, no brand and also barely any model will share what’s actually behind the product, a business, an industry and hard work. 

We spoke to several top models in the US and Europe, asking about their individual experiences and the tone of clients and agencies in general.

What all of them told us is one thing: you have to be in a strong mental place to survive here. 

It’s nice to travel once in a while but is it nice to travel 10 hours before a 9 hour shift to then travel back 10 hours and go on to the next set, with the pressure to look fresh and be in the best shape? Long term? Not quite the holiday-travel-lifestyle you had in mind. Also hardly sustainable.

Reducing yourself to your body for your profession is one thing, having to get used to be rejected because you don’t suit a clients expectations takes a whole other level of mental strength and confidence. 

Agencies should be safe spaces for models but are all so often part of a system that applies extreme pressure and expectations on young girls at an age where they are still significantly developing.

What do you do if you’ve been working and traveling all week, your routines such as workout and gym schedule got a little messed up (not even thinking of social time) and you then receive an email by your agency asking to send some fresh lingerie polaroids and your measurements for a client within the next hour?

The constant anticipation to be told you’re not good enough today or not good enough for a client, an agency or casting director. It is always there, no matter how ‘perfect’ you might look.

A stable and supporting social and private circle is even more important, when your professional environment judges you more than it encourages you. Of course, that doesn’t apply to everyone working in the industry. But to a big part of it it does.

Not even to begin with being sent to European capitals at a young age, to be swarmed with dodgy promoters trying to lure you into nightclubs with free goodies, drinks or worse.

An industry with a lot of false promises, false expectations and no real colleagues but people you are sent to work with. You can have a lot of fun, but at the end you need to bring that fun yourself and hope for the best.

If you are looking for stability, you won’t find it here. It’s different places, different faces, every day.

Of course, the traveling, the opportunities and at a certain point surely also the money can make this job highly enjoyable or worth pursuing. But it takes a certain type of personality to keep that drive and mentality regardless of your experiences with other people in the industry.

We hear a lot about fashion going through positive changes recently, but we’re still a long way from hearing the end of models or agencies coming out about unprofessional photographers, abusive directors or even agents and clients.

So no matter how much of a top model material you are, it is extremely likely that at some point you will be facing one of those dark sides of the fashion industry, even if it’s just a one time experience on your way to the life you dream of. 

Obviously, the people we’ve spoken to would probably not be in the industry if they didn’t consider themselves prepared or the struggle worth it.

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