Dear Loyal The Science of Style Readers
I’m Jessica, the new contributing writer from the US. I’m based in New York City, where grew up, and went to high school and college (university to you). After attending series of pretentious schools, I graduated with a very expensive degree in Dramatic Writing (screenwriting and playwriting) and history, which is pretty much as useless as you’d imagine.
I, among other things, enjoy accumulating useless entertainment industry gossip, and consuming an unhealthy amount of media. In my spare time, I love to travel, getting into conversations with random people, being sneaky and getting myself into sticky yet hilarious situations. I also love politics and current events, enjoy being right all the time and have a particular knack for pissing off self important people with a well timed cutting remark. As you can expect, I am an insufferable little know-it-all, unemployable in any other field except writing.
My love for fashion was started by the TV shows Mad Men, and What Not to Wear, as well as all the gorgeous European models I hung out with while studying abroad in Berlin. I also love online shopping, Broadway shows, Taylor Swift, swimming and good food.
It’s well known that the modeling world in the West is dominated by teens and preteens from the developing world. Eastern Europe, in particular, supplies the swaths of alien eyed, wispy, thin young girls on the runways every year, while Brazil sources the more curvaceous types you’ll find in Victoria’s Secret catalogues. These women- and you can barely call them women, as they’e barely hit their teens – come from poor countries, have few years of proper education, and usually barely speak English. And for every household name that came from rags to riches, hundreds of others struggle for years on end with no payoff.
Every so often, rumblings about the problems that are so pervasive to the industry makes its way to the press. Those stories usually centre around eating disorders, or exploitative labor practices, or the antics of Terry Richardson and are often sensationalized. Girl Model on the other hand, attempts to tell the truth of what does goes on in the modeling industry. If you ever wondered how the hamburger is made, “Girl Model” follows the supply chain to the very beginning, a beauty pageant in a small town deep inside Siberia.
“Girl Model” centers around two narratives. The 13 year old Nadya, wins the pageant and a coveted contract to model in Japan, with the 30something British modelling scout, Ashley. Nadya is an innocent girl with a dollike face from the countryside, as you would expect, while Ashley is coldblooded and unhinged, her job consisting of travelling throughout Eastern Europe signing childlike models for the Asian market. Ashley once modeled herself in Japan, and much of the dramatic irony in the piece are of the stories that she tells her young recruits of the glamorous life that await them. Her own life, however, says otherwise.
Model scout Ashley
Nadya, on the other hand, is genuine, and her narrative is the heart of the story. It’s to the filmmakers’ credit that her story isn’t sensationalized. Yes – she’s made to prance around in a bikini in the full glare of grown men at the beginning, and it is deeply unsettling; Ashley unflinchingly compares the process to prostitution later on in the film. But the worst moments that await her in Tokyo are the days and days of non stop rejection. She gets further and further in debt to her agency, and returns home a financial burden on her parents.
Ashley’s story on the other hand is manipulative and unnecessary. Apparently she herself pitched the idea for the documentary to the filmmakers and she wastes no time mugging for the cameras. She shows off the her collection of plastic baby dolls, which, of course, she dissects in her spare time, because she can’t have children of her own. She makes long and vague speeches about how lonely she is and gazes forlornly into the distance on multiple occasions. A lot of screen time could have been cut indulging her narcissism, and the film would have been stronger for it.
Ultimately Girl Model tells a story about the not so lurid, but still sad realities of the people that populate the modeling industry- the young girls forced to grow up all too quickly, and the adults, who never quite grew up themselves.
Jessica Wu is a writer in her early 20s from New York City. She has a very expensive and very useless degree in Dramatic Writing, enjoys travel, food and politics, and has a knack for mouthing off in front of important people.