Truth #5

Models are real people with entourages and poor beauty habits. Real women are real people, period.

On the heels of New York’s spring/summer 2012 fashion shows, I rushed off to Milan, Italy to do more makeup backstage at their runway shows.  I began writing this article during my first day in Milan because no matter what city I’m in and no matter what show I’m painting faces for, one of the things that sticks out is how reporters, beauty editors, TV hosts and regular people alike are fascinated by the habits of models.

All of these reporters seem to be on a grand quest to divulge the “secrets” of models, interrupting them during makeup and hair to ask them a million and one questions about their favorite products, designers, dietary habits, and even favorite colors; as if other women could just follow that one secret or latch on to a model’s favorite product, then they too would be “beautiful.”

One model I was working on this week became agitated when a reporter who, without introducing herself or the reason for her abrupt line of questioning, began probing the model about her diet. The reporter, only half listening to the answers, then wrote the model’s name down and walked off.   The model exclaimed, “You shouldn’t write this about me because you didn’t listen and what you wrote down is not the truth! Now everyone will think I only eat chicken and I eat whatever I want!”

The truth about models is that most of them are teenagers, blessed with the right genes, which give them the very fleeting “look” of the moment desired in fashion.   Almost all of them have fairly terrible beauty habits, which aren’t helped by the fact that the very people who make them “pretty” are also often abusing their skin and hair.  It’s been said that by the time a working model has hit the ripe age of 23, the age a model’s career typically ends, she will have about 50% of the hair she started with left on her scalp.  Trust me, models don’t have any secrets to share that will change your life.

If people really want to know how to look like a model the answer is, hire a team to make you look that way, and who work all day to keep every single thing about your appearance in check.  Then find an incredibly talented photographer, with a professional lighting crew to capture a few good photos of you.  Finally, have them retouched to death so they bare a faint resemblance to you but demonstrate flawless skin and symmetry, and voila! You have just become a model.

The truth about women is that many give way too much power to these images of women, which are created as a fantasy to sell a product or brand.  They were never meant to be realistic interpretations of what we should look like. Fashion models aren't meant to be role models.  Do magazines and TV ads send the wrong message about a largely unattainable, narrow-minded beauty? Yes, but our collective fascination with them perpetuates it also.

It’s up to each one of us to claim our own vision of beauty.  We can begin by not spending so much time in front of the mirror, being less hypercritical, and stop picking ourselves apart in comparison with over produced photos.  We can have real conversations with ourselves, and the young women around us, about true beauty, self worth and role models to pattern ourselves after.

Choose to exercise to feel vibrantly healthy, not to look skinny.  Take care of yourself because it brings you pleasure and well-being.  Gaze in the mirror and enjoy the face that has taken you through thick and thin (no pun intended), through tears of joy and tears of sorrow.  Look yourself in the eyes and say something kind to the person looking back. She deserves it.

The signs of age are the signs of experiences past and wisdom gained.  Let us look at our wrinkles as well-earned badges of honor and be grateful for the time we’ve had on this planet.

If you are interested in learning more about the real world of fashion models today, there’s a very well done documentary called “Picture Me” worth watching.

Another independent documentary project called “The Illusionists” is currently under production, and has already received much press for its desire to capture how modern media has changed people’s view of themselves around the world.