The fashion industry has notoriously been criticized for romanticizing stereotypes of ideal body types and unrealistic standards of beauty. In a recent video interview with Vogue, nine models discussed the negative effect that being part of such an intense and stringent work environment has on their mental health and self-esteem.
“As a model you have to literally have this separation of yourself where you don’t even belong to you anymore. What it does to your brain is so f*cked up,” said Nigerian model Adesuwa Aighewi. “All the models that I know, we all have self-esteem problems. So it’s really funny when you see people targeting us and making fun or thinking that we’re like this supersexy entity. Imagine the whole world judging every pore of your entire body. Who trained you how to cope with that?”
“I think there needs to be a major overhaul in how girls and people are treated, not just as objects but as disposable. Existing in scarcity is such a dangerous and violent war zone in any space.”
Adesuwa added that models in the fashion industry are constantly treated as replaceable, instilling a fear in them that they could lose their jobs if they speak up about their mistreatment. “A lot of the reason why [a modeling career] lasts five years is because of the way this industry ruins you mentally,” said Anok Yai. “It’s not because you become ugly or you can’t walk anymore. It’s because, most models they quit.” Adesuwa added, “They leave broke; they leave tainted; they leave like empty shells of what they once were. They literally have no more life in them.”
Paloma Elsesser and others go on to point out how the short lifespan of the career is taxing on mental health and affects models’ personal relationships and plans for the future. “What’s hard is that people still, despite like all of this affirmed tragedy in the industry, that people still equate success with happiness or confidence or wholeness,” said Paloma. “I think there needs to be a major overhaul in how girls and people are treated, not just as objects but as disposable. Existing in scarcity is such a dangerous and violent war zone in any space . . . It’s why the competition and the abuse of power is so pervasive, because everyone’s afraid to be kicked out and to be over, and it’s really dangerous.”
In the face of such a demanding industry, Kaia Gerber added that it’s OK to not be OK and speak out about the way you feel. “What you see in the media most times is the highlight reel,” Kaia said. “It’s okay not to be okay sometimes. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to have bad days.” Watch the full video here to see Adesuwa, Paloma, Kaia, Yai, Adut Akech, Alessandra Garcia, Mika Schneider, Fran Summers, and Jill Kortleve share their thoughts on how the fashion industry needs to change for the safety and well-being of its models.