How Social Media Changed the Modeling Industry
By: Beverly Abellanosa
With the emergence of social media, the fashion industry has been transformed in several ways. Due to social media’s influence, never before has the number of followers one has on Instagram held so much sway on which model will be booked for a show. Additionally, social media has also contributed to creating a facade of a glamorous model life, which is not always the case. Nevertheless, not all of social media’s effects on the modeling industry are negative. Social media has also given models a platform to speak up about various issues they face in the fashion industry every day.
Social media’s influence has greatly changed the way models are selected for shows. Before technology’s takeover of the industry, models were chosen based on talent and how well they represented a brand. Now, brands chose individuals who have little to no experience in modeling but have a large following on social media and/or a famous family.
This has been evident in Dolce & Gabbana shows, where more vine stars and social media influencers have graced the runway than actual high fashion models. Furthermore, the criteria for being considered a supermodel has been largely impacted by social media. Some of the biggest names in modeling today have been propelled to success by their followers and family connections instead of due to any hard work on their part. Nonetheless, these girls are still hailed as supermodels after only one fashion week.
Equally important is social media’s construction of a glamorous facade of the industry. However, former and current models have begun to speak up about their experiences in the fashion industry and tear down the smoke and mirrors created by media. In an interview with W Magazine, Abbey Lee Kershaw, a former supermodel who walked 29 shows in her very first fashion week, was quick to criticize Vogue’s YouTube videos for contributing to the misleading facade of a glamorous model life.
“When you’re a high fashion model in the show circuit, by Paris [the last stop of the major fashion weeks] you are completely debilitated. It was not humane what they do to girls during that period. I don’t care what anyone says about the fashion industry, it’s hard work. And those dumb videos where you see Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner jumping around a hotel room are bullshit. That’s not how it is at all.”
The unfortunate truth is that most models live in small apartments with several other girls and struggle to pay rent every month. Others are completely new to the country and cannot speak the language. Models who do not have a large following or don’t come from a famous family are held to a much higher standard. They must meet weight requirements and look a certain way while more privileged girls can show up to rehearsals and call times late, and not worry about their measurements.
Despite these effects, social media’s influence on the industry has not been entirely negative. Models use social media as a platform to voice the injustices that occur in the industry every day. The #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse hashtag has turned into a movement where anonymous stories of sexual harassment in the fashion industry are being shared to raise awareness. Furthermore, models have also used social media to speak up about mistreatment during castings.
Ulrikke Hoyer, a Danish model, shared her experience during a Louis Vuitton Resort show where she was canceled from the show for being “too fat” and was told to “only drink water for the next 24 hours” by the casting director’s assistant. Hoyer’s Facebook post encouraged other models to tell their accounts of mistreatment as well. Due to the outpour of models sharing their casting horror stories, LVMH (a French multinational luxury good conglomerate) and Kering (an international luxury group that owns brands such as Gucci and Saint Laurent) have drawn up a charter on working relations with fashion models and their well-being.
Social media has impacted the modeling industry just as it has in our everyday lives. It has changed the ways models are cast, replacing actual high fashion models with individuals who have large followings. “Instagram It Girls” are hailed as supermodels after participating in one fashion week while the media continues to create a glamorous facade of the industry. However, the ability for models to speak up on social media means they are no longer forced to be silent and can advocate for fair treatment and hopefully create change.