Typing “how to be a model” into Google produces some hilarious results. A wikiHow article with 12 useful steps to help you walk like a model (e.g. “place one foot in front of the other”) is one such example but, jokes aside, the search will also bring up some scary results: the classic ‘34-24-34’ measurement requirements and trolls encouraging young vulnerable girls to exist off apples and Diet Coke. For years, models have been tall, skinny, ‘naturally beautiful’ and white, but change is in the air.
Jourdan Dunn spoke out against racist bias in bookings in 2015, telling Miss Vogue, “I find it weird when agents say, ‘You’re the only black girl booked for the show. Isn’t it great?’ Why is that great?” The people who control the industry use the argument that white faces sell better and though the bias doesn’t look set to shift any time soon, Lineisy Montero made history as the first black model to walk for Prada since 2008 and walked a grand total of 68 shows at the Spring shows. She is one of the only black models in the industry to wear her hair naturally. Winnie Harlow, who suffers from vitiligo, also challenged the ideal of perfect white skin when she starred in a Diesel campaign and featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Glamour, amongst others.
Plus-sized models are a huge part of this push for change. Ashley Graham and Candice Huffine made waves when they appeared on the catwalks at New York Fashion Week. Even Victoria’s Secret, known for its impossibly skinny and toned ‘Angels,’ announced plans to adopt a plussized angel into the clan. A space has emerged for plus-sized models in high fashion and they are no longer confined to the pages of plus-sized catalogues or clothing lines.
“It’s more expected now for supermodels to be smart, to have opinions, to have a personality,” Rosie Huntington-Whiteley told The Observer. Lucy Greene and Pandora Lennard decided to create a business from this demand for personality and founded The Anti-Agency in 2013. They foster the careers of “very creative, very intelligent and very driven” young people who want to make some money to fund their other projects and use social media, rather than street spotting, as a way to seek out their clients. The creativity of the models shines through in the way they present themselves and makes them fascinating to look at.
A catwalk of real models, in all the senses discussed above, is a long way off, but milestones will continue to be overcome as long as stylists, designers and agents embrace more and more beautiful exceptions to the criterion, which they swear by.