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Vogue's Model.Live: Models Are Strange, When You're An Agent

Vogue sneaked up the third installment of its modeling "documentary", "Model.Live" over the long weekend. Austria, who may be as young as 15, explains how she got into the industry — via the Ford Supermodel of the World competition, her participation in which ironically attracted IMG's attention instead of Ford's — and why she is leaving her family and friends in the Dominican Republic for two months to try her luck on the international show circuit. Tears are shed, a large cake is consumed, and there's a raucous going away shindig with dancing. But one of the weirder moments — and probably the show's best example yet of the way some modeling business interests talk about their young charges — happens when Austria's Santo Domingo agent, Socrates McKinney, explains just what drew his eye to Austria. Clip of McKinney, and Austria's would-be model mom, above, and more after the jump.

Where exactly McKinney locates Austria's "curves" I'm not sure. And it always rubs me the wrong way when I hear an agent talking about how "strange" a model is. Seeing as our bodies pay their bills, and as Austria in particular has a killer runway figure, a face that could launch a thousand campaigns, and a smile that could sell a ton of CoverGirl, it seems disingenuous and a touch gift-horseish for an agent who stands to make a significant cut of that future wealth to go on about what a simply wonderful genetic freak Austria is, with "the height" and "the hair" and that inexplicable "something in the eyes."
Seeing models as "strange" is just so utterly convenient to the narrative that sees us as carefree fashion sprites who spring, fully-formed at 5'11" and 34"-24"-34" (or smaller!), from unremarkable surroundings, eager and unquestioning and destined to do the industry's bidding. It's a narrative that renders invisible the constant struggle that staying in this industry really is — at least for 99% of models (it's a struggle I personally find rewarding — or as Sen Dog put it so eloquently, it's a fun job, but it's still a job). It's the narrative that motivates people like the accountant at my Barcelona agency to jokingly tell me that she finds it odd that my kind, after coming and "enjoying my beautiful city's sunshine, our men, our cuisine, and taking beautiful pictures," actually expect some kind of monetary compensation for our troubles and occasionally inquire as to how that all is going. (I know, the gall, right?) It's the narrative that simultaneously disqualifies what we do from being "work" and implies we're unfit for anything else. Since we're so "strange" and all.
Austria, who as I pointed out earlier was reported to be 14 this February, celebrates a "Sweet 16"-cum-going away party in the full show, which, like all of the "Model.Live" webisodes, you can watch at Vogue.tv. With effective management, Austria could be a big star without entirely losing her teenage years in a blur of makeup brushes, stolen naps on airport lounge seats, and constant low-grade peckishness. Having one's mother by one's side at her age is generally a good thing; having one's mother by one's side to say things like "I always wanted her to be a model because I wanted to be one myself," gives me slight pause.
Earlier: Vogue's "Model.Live": Castings Can Really Be A Grind
Vogue's "Model.Live: Don't Get Famous, And Other Gems of Parental Wisdom
Points for Effort: Vogue Reality Series About Modeling Surprisingly Realistic, A Little Boring
Related:
Model.Live [Vogue.tv]

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DISCUSSION

motoko-kusanagi-old
Motoko Kusanagi

I don't really get the connection between being called "strange" and not being taken seriously as a professional. In my experience, fashion has a high tolerance for extremely unprofessional behavior. Some of the top catalog/editorial models are just horrible at posing in front of cameras, and yet everybody works around their ridiculous shit because they are (after being coaxed, cajoled, coached, and catered to) interesting to look at. (If you only knew how bad, and what big names these are!)

This is not diminish the grind of castings and go-sees and fighting for your paycheck and being robbed by accounting, but...let me be careful how I put this...I'm convinced that the industry is not at all interested in rewarding hard-working professional talent. I may be off base here, but I think most bookers, editors, etc. get off on making models feel badly. In fact, I think it's a big part of why chose to work in a job that allows them that power. I think the vast majority of the people that book and evaluate models are grinding an axe while they do it.

Just my humble opinion...excuse me if it steps on anyone else's toes...