When Did Modelling Become a Hazardous Occupation?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

    My heart sank this weekend when I heard about the death of a promising young model, Ruslana Korshunova. She leaped from the balcony of her apartment to her untimely end Saturday afternoon. A friend said she had just come back from working in Paris, and that she was "on top of the world." I know this is the same account every other blog and news site is reporting. I know that people are searching for answers to why this girl took her own life. I wish she had left some kind of letter revealing her innermost secrets, but she didn't. However, there are reports from various foreign press that Ruslana hinted about depression on her blog, writing things like "I am so lost. Will I ever find myself?"

Ruslana is just one in a list of models that have fallen victim to a lifestyle that nurtures loneliness, self deprecation, and emptiness. These young girls are catapulted into an industry that does not prepare them for the hard work, but pressures them to eat nothing and still appear young and beautiful. Then there are those young models from struggling third world countries that are expected to be the breadwinners of their family at 15. It's just not fair.

    So when did modelling become a hazardous occupation? As difficult as it is to believe, being a model has always been risky business. Look at what happened to Gia and Donyale Luna who both died of drug overdoses. And the family tragedy involving sisters Eliana and Luisel Ramos who passed away within months of each other from complications of anorexia and malnutrition. Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston weighed a mere 88 pounds when she died in November 2006.

    There are still models out there like Ruslana who feel like life isn't worth living. They are all alone in New York, London, and Paris and looking for someone to trust, a surrogate family to listen and support them during tough times. I hope that wherever Ruslana is, that she is at peace. Her suffering is over, but now it's time for us to reflect and learn from this model suicide.


"Back fat, love handles and cellulite"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    Models are only human, but we are expected to live up to unrealistic standards of beauty. Some of those standards include maintaining your size 2 figure when you're 5'11''. Tyra Banks was scrutinized for gaining weight, now the attention is on another Victoria's Secret model.

    Karolina Kurkova strutted the runway for Brazil's Sao Paulo Fashion Week. Instead of applauding her performance, the critics ridiculed her for appearing "chubby" and exposing her "back fat, love handles, and cellulite."

    Let's just be real here, cellulite is a fact of life for most women, and models are not exempt. It's just a strange phenomena that happens because of either hormones, stress, diet, or a combination of those factors. According to wikipedia, " Cellulite is not related to being overweight; average and underweight people also get cellulite."

    "Tall and skinny seems to be the rule" explains my best friend Stephanie, and she is equally as disgusted with this problem as I am.  Sure, Karolina gained some weight, but this doesn't negate her status as one of the highest paid models.   I'm self conscious about my cellulite and stretch marks, but you'll still catch me in a bikini.  So if Karolina can show off her curves and cellulite, the rest of us can too.


It's Only Skin Deep

Monday, June 23, 2008


   It seems nearly nine months after Bethann Hardison's forum on the lack of black models in fashion that this issue is finally climaxing.  Vogue Italia has its all black issue, and even American Vogue jumps on the bandwagon with it's "Is Fashion Racist" article.  As much as I want to dissect the article right now, I won't.  This is something that deserves a more personal exploration.
   Racism in this society, as well all know, is deeply rooted.  And these roots have grown into a foundation that sets the standard for what we think is beautiful, what we think is right, and what we believe is acceptable.  The images we broadcast and print are more like stereotypes and caricatures than real life portraits.  We are careless because we allow the media to dictate a misconstrued vision of beauty, and yet we accept it.  

    Every minority model has at least one story about being the "token" in a campaign, fashion show, or commercial.  Some of us can even tell you about being dropped from a project because the art director wanted to go for a different look.  Personally, my image has been manipulated for not being black enough.  

    So unless we start holding magazine editors, designers, agents or whoever accountable, we will be stuck in this fashionably racist vicious cycle.  Beauty is only skin deep, and that seems to be the problem.  


"Because Nobody Gives Her a Chance"

Friday, June 20, 2008

    Fashionistas everywhere are anticipating the release next week of the all black issue of Vogue Italia.  The magazine features a who's who of African American models past and present from Iman and Naomi Campbell to newcomers like Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn.  Those names or photographs didn't catch my eye, but someone else did.

    Sessilee Lopez is a young model whose powerful image graces the pages of this Vogue Italia.  I immediately wanted to know everything about her.  I couldn't believe that someone so young could create an intensity comparable to Tyra and Iman.  

    Sessilee made her fashion debut when she was 15 with IMG.  Soon thereafter she walked the runway for Vivienne Tam.  Her popularity has been growing since 2005, so why have I just noticed her now?  

    NY Times writer Cathy Horyn must have been pondering the same question.  In an interview with photographer Steven Meisel about the Vogue spread, Horyn wonders why this stunning model isn't working around the clock.  What Meisel says is something that hits close to home for me: "Because nobody gives her a chance."

So when you finally pick up your issue of Vogue, take a second look at Sessilee.  She's an ambitious girl who knows this business is tough, but she's strong enough to fight against the grain and triumph.


Where Have All the Models Gone?

Monday, June 16, 2008

    Standing in line at the grocery store last night, I decided I wanted to buy a magazine.  Ok, Charlize Theron is on one cover. Jessica Alba is on another. Sarah Jessica Parker... Sarah Jessica Parker... and then there's Sarah Jessica Parker.  So, where all the models?  

    It took me a while, but I finally found one magazine with a model on the cover ( Redbook with Heidi Klum).  I had noticed this before, but it seems like the lack of real cover models is an epidemic that won't be going away anytime soon.  Exactly when fashion magazines stopped being about fashion and more about celebrities is a question that deserves some investigating. 
    A February 2001 Slate magazine article states that the downfall happened circa 1994 when Supermodels like Linda Evagelista were proclaiming "I don't get out of bed for less than $10,000."  Who wants to pay a model that amount of money for a monthly? And getting an actor or actress to pose for a cover wasn't about the cash, but about cross promotion and publicity.  According to British publication The Independent, two years later the public was tired of models and wanted more celebrities. We started seeing Bruce Willis and Demi Moore in Donna Karan ads.  But I remember things starting earlier when Mark Wahlberg did that Calvin Klein underwear campaign. It was very effective, but it signaled the beginning of the end for models.

    There is no quick and easy solution for this problem.  Unfortunately, we live in a celebrity-obsessed society where Hollywood calls the shots.  I'm not trying to bite the hand that feeds me, but current editorial rates for models are barely enough to put gas in my car.  


A Model Don't- Telling the Truth About Your Age

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    On the eve of my birthday, I was having a conversation with a friend about issues we've encountered in fashion and entertainment.  Something that we both agreed is an especially touchy subject is age.  In this business, you don't mention your age unless your booking the job depends on it (like an alcohol ad which requires you be 25 to work). Don't even bring it up in casual conversation, because it may come back to bite you on your ass later.  

    Lately it seems like this industry has been all about selling this prepubescent androgynous look that lacks any kind of sex appeal.  So if you're a sophisticated woman that knows how to flaunt your sexuality, you might not work. This whole dilemma saddens me.  I believe that particular facial expressions models make come from a certain level of experience. Personally, that's what makes the image believable, and that's what sells.  I also understand that there's this sense of innocence that young models bring to the table, but trained professionals can also pull off this look.  Why must a model be old and tired by 25?
"One minute you're the face of the moment, staring up from newsstands everywhere, and the next thing you know some teen from Kazakhstan has bumped you off your perch." - Veronique Hyland, on longevity in models' careers, in WWD.

    I hope I never get replaced by a younger upgraded version of me.  For now, I think I'm safe, especially since I'm still getting carded when I go to buy alcohol.


Catwalk Confessions- Dress Right

Monday, June 9, 2008

This post has been a week in the making, only because I was waiting for accompaniment.   
     Dress Right is one event I really get excited about every month. It's like going to a family reunion in downtown LA with your hippest and coolest cousins who just so happen to be into fashion.  The event is not your standard fashion show.  It's a party accessorized with an open bar, hipsters, indie designers and models.  And what happens after hours includes lots of debauchery.  It's all about having a good time, putting on a good show, and networking between sips of booze.
    Shoutouts to Shadowscene for the photos, the 87 Stick Up Kids for the real entertainment, and the Apartment 3/ Dance Right family for putting on another damn good show!  But I doubt my words are doing Dress Right justice. So check out the video courtesy of Vimby


"Make the Money, don't let it make you."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

     As a model trying to make ends meet, sometimes you have to do a few things you don't want to do. And no, I'm not talking about working the streets or stripping. Sometimes you have to take on non-traditional jobs like bartending, promotional work, or background work. The latter is one of my least favorite, and I refuse to subject myself to that drudgery ever again... or until I desperately need some cash.

     I want to be completely honest and school you on how this works. First of all, don't lie to yourself or let bookers tell you that you're going to be "featured." Honey, you're just a glorified extra getting paid more than those normal looking people. Second, you were not booked for your acting skills (remember, most models can't act). This is all about getting paid to be on location all day so that the camera can get a shot of the back of your head. Like I would ever put
Entourage or CSI Miami featured background on my resume, and you shouldn't either.

     Then there's something ethnic women often do to get their image in rotation: video modelling. Once again, if you're serious about being a high fashion model please don't do this. I've done a couple of music videos here and there, but I'm not shaking my booty one day and going to a Gucci casting the next. And don't fool yourself. If you get booked as a "featured" girl in the video, you are
just an extra.

Here's one entry on my background resume. I'm the girl in blue.