Last week, I blogged my repulsion for airbrushing, and this week, I just watched a documentary that proves how much the industry needs to provide their models with better treatment.
Girl Model initially aired on PBS Sunday, March 24 as part of its “POV” (Point Of View) series and is currently available to watch for free through April 23. It follows Ashley, a U.S. model-turned-scout who focuses on finding girls from the Russian market and bringing them to Japan, and Nadya, a 13-year-old from a remote Siberian village who makes the journey to Tokyo alone with her family’s blessing in hopes of jumpstarting a successful modeling career after being discovered by Ashley.
I was consistently stunned by the maltreatment of Nadya and her roommate, Madlen, who was not much older than Nadya. The list goes on and on: living by themselves in a cramped apartment, in a country whose language is unfamiliar to them (remember, they are young teenagers!); not getting any of the two jobs each they were promised in their contract from Switch Models, and as a result, not being able to properly eat because of lack of funds.
Get this: one subtitle proclaimed, “Switch can terminate the contract and send Nadya and Madlen home if they gain one centimeter in their waist, hips or bust.” Not even one inch (which is nothing to write home about either), but one centimeter. I am unsure of other modeling agencies’ policies, but clearly, agencies should not have the power to wield this much control over its models, especially those who are young and still going through puberty. Clearly, agencies are taking advantage of them.
Ashley said so herself to the camera: “If you catch this girl at 12 when these girls are in these very delicate stages of their life, then you have more power or more influence to guide and direct.” She gave off a weird vibe throughout the documentary, emotionally removed from the models she scouts and interacts with. And while she claimed she has not been involved firsthand, she commented on many modeling agencies’ facilitation of prostitution for its models. That is immensely sad, especially when considering how the agencies already cannot take care of their own by doing the most in their power to help them land modeling gigs.
In one scene of the documentary, Nadya flips through a magazine in a drug store until she stops on a page, when a smile spreads across her face, one of her few smiles I had seen throughout the documentary. She beholds to the camera the ad featuring her, the first time she had ever seen it. (Of course, she had never been paid for it either.) A large, black woolen hat covers her eyes, stops mid chiseled cheek bone, and reveals pouting lips.
Nadya said, “Now, I see the world through different eyes.”
Me, too. Modeling world, it’s time for a change.
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