Vogue's "The Models"

Fall 2019 Fendi runway in Milan, photo by Yanshan Zhang

Fall 2019 Fendi runway in Milan, photo by Yanshan Zhang

by Cassandra Chum

Through mass media, we are constantly taking in the highlight reels of a glorified modeling world. From runway shows to magazine covers to Instagram photos, we see the “I made it” moments for those in the modeling industry. We see the elegant photos, the world travel, the glamour, and all the fame. Vogue’s latest Youtube series, “The Models”, brings to light an entirely different side of this industry. From unlikely starts at a very young age, to power dynamics, harassment, and discrimination in the industry, several models from unique backgrounds share their stories on this series. These individual stories are representative of many experiences in the modelling world and expose the darker side of this career.

The first video of this four part docu series features women explaining how they got into the modelling world. The journey of each model is unique and many of these women were exposed to the real hardships of the industry from the beginning. Many models are scouted at a very young age, and are forced to grow up quickly and create an entirely new life, sometimes in a new country. While chasing the idealization of modelling or running from a troubled life at home, new models are especially vulnerable.

The second video explains the dangerous power dynamics in the industry. From agencies to photographers, these dynamics hurt models at various levels. Models are diminished, sexualized, and violated by authority figures around them. Many models become indebted to their agencies and are forced to take jobs they aren’t comfortable with.

The third video discusses the fashion industry’s well known and criticized prejudice against size diversity. Models share their experiences with the pressures of body image and losing weight in a career that depends on your physical appearance. These pressures can lead to an unhealthy body image and developing an eating disorder or body dysmorphic disorder.

 The final video shares models’ experiences with discrimination and tokenism in the industry. In a very homogenous industry, models of color, plus sized models, or models that look outside of the “standard”, have experienced discrimination. Even in an attempt to appear diverse, the industry has taken to tokenism.