John Caplan, the president of Ford Models, "answered" reader questions on the New York Times' "Freakonomics" blog today, and the answers smelled strongly of bullshit. As in doublespeak, carefully chosen words and avoidance. He may be snooty and tip-toeing around certain issues just because he is representing Ford, but he's so vague, sweeping and non-committal that if you asked him to pass the salt he would probably say, "Anything is possible." So we decided to answer the questions for him. We're not experts, but we did just cover fashion week. So, though no one asked us to, we provided some real answers. After the jump, everything you already knew about models and didn't want to ask.
Q: Have models truly gotten smaller over the past, let's say, 30 years? Is it a result of demands from designers, editors, and/or advertisers, or did it start with the kinds of models that scouts have been signing?
JC: I really believe that designers, editors, and the entertainment industry drive the body image ideal. We develop and manage models that are healthy, and should our models develop any health problems, we work with the models to solve them. If we sign models that clients don't want, then they don't work; so our incentive is to find talent that meets the criteria of our clients.
Real answer: Models are getting smaller and smaller, obvs. Cindy Crawford makes Agyness Deyn look like a #2 pencil. Of course the agencies are not going to sign girls that can't book jobs, and right now the praying mantis girls book jobs. But what goes up must come down and hopefully in like five years models will be merely thin instead of emaciated. If not, they're going to be sending the clothes down the runway on high school science lab skeletons.
Q: Recently, we've seen the practice of importing models from places in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Many are very young, come from impoverished countries and face reported threats of exploitation. Does your agency employ the practice of importing such models? If so, what safeguards do you have in place to protect their rights as workers?
JC: The reality is that living conditions in some third world countries are awful. We try to recruit great models and give them the opportunity to develop careers. Later, when they become successful, many of them work to improve the living conditions for their families back home. As for protecting their rights, we are very vigilant about ensuring that our models are paid by and work for reputable clients.
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Real answer: They should be happy we plucked them out of their misery into a beautiful life of open bars, crippling stilettoes and objectification.
Q: Why do Ford and other agencies put commercial interests above the health of teenage models? Why encourage a fifteen year-old girl to diet down to a size zero when, as an adult, you know that such behavior is unhealthy, even dangerous? Do you think that adults should take some responsibility for the choices made by kids, and that it is irresponsible to encourage teenage models to over-diet?
JC: Parents, teachers, agents, and clients all share responsibility for the health and well-being of models, particularly those that are underage. Ford doesn't ever encourage models to "diet down to size zero." That's just not how Ford works.
Real Answer: We don't encourage models to "diet down to size zero" because we don't sign them unless they are already size zero. Duh. Then if they gain any weight at all, we yell at them. Didn't you watch The Agency?
Q: How would you rank criteria such as facial features, body shape, poise and hair when choosing a model, regardless of designer?
JC: Designers and their casting agents make selections for talent based upon overall look, attitude, movement and personality. They are seeking talent that helps to bring to life the vision and creativity of their collections.
Real answer: We pick the thin, symmetrical longhairs, or have you not been paying attention?
Q: I'm a 24-year-old model based in Toronto right now. Most models' careers seem to peak at a much younger age. Have I missed the boat, or there still a chance to have a successful modeling career? Secondly, do you think there will be a "return of the supermodel," or will most models always remain anonymous, nameless faces?
JC: Generally models begin their careers when they are 16 to 20 years old. You can always apply at our Web site, and one of our scouts will review your materials.
Real answer: If you haven't made it by now you'd better stay in Canada, honey.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ford Models [NY Times]