(Role) Models

Can models be our role models?

Zeynep Demirelli

11/24/20210 min read

Models. Mythical creatures, who are out of this world. People that almost immediatelypop up in our minds when we think of what a ‘‘perfect body’’ would look like.

As we all know, models are always expected to look a certain way. A way that is actually very unrealistic. They are subjected to inhumane standards of beauty, they literally have to live up to the word ‘‘perfect’’. Many people dream of looking like a model. Every girl at some point in their life asked their partner ‘‘If Adriana Lima was in this room, who would you choose; me or her?’’ or typed ‘‘Emily Ratajkowski diet and exercise routine’’ on Google in hopes to figure out how she actually looks that way. Every year on New Year’s Eve we used to watch their show with my friends and swore to start a very restrictive diet the next day, taking VS models as our inspiration.

Looking like a VS model was not only dreamy for us, but also for every model. Becoming VS‘Angel’’ (take notice of the wording to emphasize their outstanding beauty and qualities). To become one, you have to be a lot of things. ‘Skinny’ which at this point has just become something like a pre-admission requirement. Obviously, if you are not skinny, you are not even going to be considered.

Models are expected to be naturally pretty and they have to take good care of themselves. They have to have long shiny hair, walk around with perfect glowing skin with no makeup. They should always be well-groomed and tan. They are not allowed to have an inch of fat anywhere in their body. If the media captures them from an unflattering angle or worse (!) catches them gaining even half a pound, the whole worldmercilessly criticizes them, because gasp ‘‘how dare they gain a little bit of weight?!’’

What do we actually want from these people? Is it realistic to expect someone to be extremely thin and fit? Pretty? With shiny healthy locks, glowing skin with no makeup, perfectly waxed? Is this achievable? Can a human being actually meet all these expectations? If yes, is it possible for them to meet these expectations all of the time?

I genuinely do not think so.

Let us assume that they do meet these expectations. We can argue that it is their job to look a certain way. They have all the time in the world to do crazy long workouts, go on runs, eat perfectly healthy. They also have the resources: they can hire personal trainers to keep them on track and they can have their personal chefs to cook them healthy meals. Their job is to actually look ‘‘perfect’’ and they get paid for it. So maybe it is not so hard to meet all that criteria, if all you have to do is to look a certain way?

But being a model does not end there. Next to ridiculously unrealistic standards, models are also expected to be role models. That is where the trouble begins.

For some reason, before it was widely accepted for models and media to ‘‘promote’’ starvation. They could openly talk about how they have achieved their slim figures by not eating and smoking a pack of cigarettes every day while surviving on black coffee only.

A quote by Kate Moss that openly promotes not eating

Crash diet allegedly printed by Vogue magazine

Right now, it is socially unacceptable to promote any kind of unhealthy behavior like starvation or excessive exercising. People are much more aware of body image issues. The media is trying to be more sensitive to topics like body image and weight fluctuations. Magazines do their best (!) to avoid fatshaming, Netflix touches upon body image issues in all of their original shows and many models are posting pictures of themselves from ‘‘unflattering’’ angles with no photoshop.

While I believe this has contributed gravely to the normalization of all kinds of body types and destigmatization of eating disorders (other than anorexia), it also had a negative impact on how honest celebrities and models are allowed to be with the public. They are socially forced to be careful of what they promote and representbecause they have many fans and people who look up to them (especially young girls). They also need to be relatable, otherwise, no one would like them. Who would like a person that they cannot relate to? Because of that, we don’t get to see anymore what happens behind all this show they put on with their perfect hair, skin, and body. Now they have to adjust to this body positivity movement and ‘‘hide’’ all the extreme techniques they are using to achieve their looks.

Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

Now they are stuck in between simply being a model and a rolemodel: a model would be unrealistically skinny, while a rolemodel would have a healthy relationship with food and would love their body no matter the shape and size. With current beauty standards, is it possible to be both a model and a rolemodel, at the same time?

Models are expected to bring together these two opposites and I am sure they are doing their best. In interviews, they always try not to promote any extremes, which is quite nice. How they do it? Not so much. They tend to mention how much they lovepizza or how much they hate working out. Because everyone already assumes that they are maintaining their figure with not-so-healthy ways, they do their best to bust the myth that they are starving themselves while also trying to stay relatable. But in the end, it backfires because everyone feels like they are being lied to. Then they just get a lot of hate for just being skinny and not revealing their real diets and exercise plans. By a lot of hate, I mean really, A LOT.

Another problem with models boasting about how much they love pizzas is that it gives the impression that they are maintaining their figure effortlessly. Personally, when I see an Instagram post from a model with a big bowl of pasta with the caption ‘‘pasta all day every day’’, I automatically question why I cannot look that way by eating pasta all the time. I’m sure there are models who have won the genetic lottery and who don't struggle as much as others when it comes to maintaining their weight. However, I do not believe it is humanly possible to stay at such a low weight without going to extremes. It still just makes me feel like there is something wrong with my body, that I am the odd one out. I start looking at their other posts and just look at their perfect lives with their perfect bodies enviously, feeling bad about what I have eaten that day.

Then I stop to think: they work full-time, are always self-aware and constantly under the pressure to be skinny. I cannot imagine living a life like that. The truth is, even they (probably) do not live the skinny dream they are advertising and I think that is the saddest part of it all. Seeing it in that light, being able eat whatever I want and not having to worry the way I look in a bikini does not sound that bad anymore.