Glazed eyes, shocked expressions and dejected souls are a familiar sight in a lot of audition rooms across the world. Young models strut in with confidence and saunter out crestfallen when they hear the words: “Sorry you did not make the cut”. Over the years I have had to take on the odious task of rejecting outright some of the most deserving candidates, these fledgelings do not get the stage to let their brilliance shine through just because the client saddled me with a criterion that is rigid and lacked foresight. In many instances, I have managed to bring to the stage models that would not be termed as conventional and in most cases, these renegade models have dazzled me with their grit, moxie, and flair.
The reason why many dreams lay gasping on the floor is that we have failed to rise above our myopic view of beauty. Each generation has attempted to box beauty in the narrow confines of the few who tend to dominate the social space or spaces of power. Art, television, cinema, and fashion have all been guilty of creating and promoting stereotypical ideas of beauty which at times have proven to be damaging to individuals and society as a whole. Barbie fixation surgeries, anorexia, bulimia and even suicides are a result of society’s malevolent machinations to create unreal and unhealthy beauty standards.
Contrary to some claims, what we perceive as beauty is fickle and has changed over time, it has not all been programmed in our genes but much of it is due to external influences. The beauty quotient varies with culture and time, we have gone from Rubenesque to waifish and are slowly leaning towards fitness which thankfully is positive also what is considered as attractive varies globally from hyper curvaceous to androgyny. So perhaps it’s time for image influencers, the media, and the fashion industry to conscientiously push forth body positivity and make being beautiful more inclusive.
In the fashion industry, it is time to usher in an era of inclusive modelling and which is not to showcase the benevolent nature of the said profession but because it is economically prudent to do so. There are high-income groups that do not fit or subscribe to the ‘conventional model look’ and yet do not want to miss out on the attention due to them. Given the phenomenal rise of social media and along with it social media stars the target demographic for the stylists have become more diverse so a wider inclusive net has to be cast. The social media elite, the influencers are people who have created atypical platforms for themselves and have the chutzpah to express their uniqueness and their appeal to people who celebrate difference. “Design needs to have less body and more soul.” One needs to keep the above quote in mind when traversing future markets for design.
The first steps might seem small but are critical with contests planned to find a talent pool that is as diverse as talented. We have unsheathed the starter’s pistol and are ready to sound off the race which changes the way in which we perceive beauty. The first show involves a contest for petite models whose height is less than five feet and four inches which gives them a platform all to themselves which we know is a step in the right direction. There are many other showcases on the anvil that will be revealed in time but in these trying times, safety is essential. We have to strive to survive, to live to see and be the change.