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.
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