The ‘Real’ Life of a British Model

Words Eve Fitz­patrick @NEXT Mod­el Man­age­ment

Don’t get me wrong, I count my bless­ings each and every day that I am able to do the job I do, but there are some stereo­types of mod­el­ling that sim­ply aren’t true. Mod­els are not vain air­heads, nor are they incred­i­bly fan­cy and glam­orous peo­ple that live a life of lux­u­ry. They are very nor­mal, from all kinds of back­grounds, and luck­i­ly with how the indus­try is pro­gress­ing, they are all shapes and sizes, gen­ders, eth­nic­i­ties, ages etc. 

I talk of my own expe­ri­ences in this arti­cle, of course, as a white British female. At 17 I was scout­ed at Read­ing Fes­ti­val by NEXT (who are now my love­ly agency). I had green eye­brows, was very tip­sy and smelly from sleep­ing in a tent all week­end, and had absolute­ly no inter­est in mod­el­ling. When I turned 20, I moved to Lon­don to study His­to­ry, and with a new-found matu­ri­ty and con­fi­dence, decid­ed to see if they still remem­bered me at NEXT to give mod­el­ling a go. Although aware of the stereo­typ­ing that can sur­round the role of the mod­el, I went into the indus­try with no pri­or knowl­edge, a lot of enthu­si­asm and an open mind. Luck­i­ly for me, I almost instant­ly fell in love with the job.

John Berg­er points out that the way in which females are viewed in soci­ety is a direct result of the way in which they have been por­trayed in pieces of art for hun­dreds of years, par­tic­u­lar­ly through­out the Renais­sance peri­od. He cor­rect­ly states that:

“men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch them­selves being looked at. This deter­mines not only most rela­tions between men and women but also the rela­tion of women to them­selves. The sur­vey­or of woman in her­self is male: the sur­veyed female. Thus she turns her­self into an object — and most par­tic­u­lar­ly an object of vision: a sight.”

What Berg­er says is true. Arguably, an edi­to­r­i­al or a fash­ion show demon­strates women in sim­i­lar means, but what if the pow­er is tak­en back and the nar­ra­tive is changed? What if mod­el­ling is seen as a form of empow­er­ment instead of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty? What if mod­el­ling is about how the woman is made to feel with­in her­self by the clothes or the make up or the hair, not about how she is seen by the out­side world? Mod­el­ling is not a sub­ject for the ‘male gaze’ as John Berg­er points out, but an empow­er­ing and cre­ative plat­form for the indi­vid­ual.

Alexan­der McQueen (my absolute idol) recog­nised this. He always spoke about design­ing clothes to empow­er the women that wore them. For me, this speaks per­fect­ly of what the essence of mod­el­ling and fash­ion is about. Although many of his col­lec­tions at the time were crit­i­cised as not seem­ing to be typ­i­cal­ly ‘beau­ti­ful’, I can only imag­ine how amaz­ing­ly pow­er­ful the mod­els must have felt walk­ing in his clothes. 

Mod­el­ling is about cre­ativ­i­ty. It is about adapt­ing each and every day to a new role, and in many cas­es, com­plete­ly push­ing your­self out of your com­fort zone. One day I’ll be styled as a 60’s dis­co dancer, the next as a Marie Antoinette Goth Queen (Grete Moeller I’m look­ing at you). The bound­aries you can be pushed to are end­less, and watch­ing cre­ative minds come up with these con­cepts is incred­i­bly inspir­ing and some­thing I am tru­ly grate­ful to be a part of!

Addi­tion­al­ly, mod­el­ling is not all about the indi­vid­ual. When shoot­ing or walk­ing in a show, the mod­el is mere­ly a cog on a way big­ger wheel. They are a small part of the over­all process, but the most vis­i­ble part of the end prod­uct. When a mod­el is deemed ‘beau­ti­ful’ in an edi­to­r­i­al, they have had hours of hair and make-up done, and shot by pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers in a very pre­cise set up. The tal­ent that goes behind cre­at­ing a ‘beau­ti­ful’ pic­ture lit­er­al­ly does take a vil­lage, and every per­son involved, whether it be the mod­el or the make-up assis­tant, always needs to be recog­nised, because I promise you I do not wake up look­ing that good ever.

Mod­el­ling has enabled me to explore my inner self. It has enabled me to feel less like a pawn and more like my own unique being. I absolute­ly love my job, for the many tal­ent­ed peo­ple I am so lucky to meet, for the bound­aries I am able to push myself into, and for the hunger of always want­i­ng to achieve more and more and more!

All pho­tographs by Andrew Kim­ber

OVERDUE had the plea­sure of shoot­ing with Eve for our debut issue.
Check out our dig­i­tal issue, which is now free to down­load, here.