“This paper examines fashion models as gender myths and cultural icons through a cultural history of modelling. It reveals the construction of models’ personas by the successive addition of meaningful signs: physique, manner, attitude, nationality, class, race, salary, chamaleonism, slenderness, and so on. The author argues that models’ glamour expresses economic and social power and promotes the values of consumerism, while exporting cultural ideals through visual neo-colonialism. On the basis of empirical material on models’ experiences gathered from interviews, second oral sources and autobiographical material, the author approaches models’ bodies, identities and public personas as artefacts performed through the reiteration of collectively defined gender standards and practices. This approach overcomes the contrast cast in fashion discourse between visibility/invisibility, private/public, real/unreal while disclosing the hegemonic beauty standards as fiction.” (abstract)
Download: Fashion Models as Ideal Embodiments of Normative Identity
It’s scary how easily I can relate to this article. I think a lot about modelling is misunderstood, ignored, or not properly analyzed, which often makes models feel confused. For me, I never liked to advertise my job because I didn’t want to show off, but at the same time I always wanted to go to the next person and say, “Hey do you know how much work went into this photo? I bet you don’t because to you it’s just an image you look at and you’ll never understand how much work, time, and effort was actually put into it”.
There’s so many problems with the industry that it makes me quite sad. I’m glad I got out of it as soon as I had but it was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. It’s like a drug – once you start, you keep pushing yourself to do better and hope for a future out of it. Just knowing that each shoot will get you that much closer. But it ruined my health, relationships, and mentality on virtually everything around me.
I wish models had the ability to just stand back and examine what is really happening in our lives. Is it really that beneficial or simply tearing out the seams.
Hi Mother Niche, thanks for your comment I can also relate to! I think you might enjoy learning about The Model Alliance in the US. They are breaking many taboos, like the one you mention, and pushing for laws protecting models and their work. I keep on writing about the subject and you can free-download more papers in my website, if you are interested. Best, Patrícia