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
Model.Live [Vogue.tv]

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I always liked that model scouts looked for girls who were "strange" — with wider noses, or too-wide eyes, or weird lips, or something slightly off about them that makes them interesting to look at, aside from being pretty. Every time I complained about my nose (I's got me a Jew nose, and an obviously Jew nose, although not the most obvious of the many I've seen, and unsurprisingly considering my 100% Jew pedigree), my Mom would open up fashion magazines and say to me, "See? See how weird her eyes are? See how wide her nose is? But look at her, she's beautiful. And you're beautiful, too."

Of course, maybe I should chalk up my tolerance of modeling agents using "strange" as an attractor to my Mom's awesome parenting.

In re: curves — I think he means Shape. Like how on Project Runway last week Kenley complained about how her new model had no curves, was boxy. Some women (and this is true for all sizes, not just crazy skinny models) have more rectagular torsos, some are more hourglass shaped. So maybe that's what he meant?