The following are real comments left on an instagram from a popular swimwear & lingerie model:
“Perfect Body (crying emoji)”
“Why’re you so skinny??”
“i want that thigh gap! cute!”
“Hmm, not enough abs”
“Craving to look like you (emoji with hearts as eyes) workout!!”
“God I’m sick of perfect chicks :(“
“my thinspo but not achievable lol”
Comments like these are everywhere— just type in the name of any popular supermodel and you’ll see a bevy of instagrammers eager to voice their opinion on Chrissie Teigan’s facial structure, Candice Swanpoel thigh gap, or the size of Kate Upton’s chest.
Sure, we used to flip through magazines and make statements about our favorite celebrities— who they’re dating, how great or terrible they look post break up, making assumptions based off of media claims surrounding said break up.
However, now anyone with a social media account can say whatever they want about a celebrity in a much more public forum. The liminal distance separating the public image of a person from who they really are is being replaced by the ability to feel like we have a glimpse of people’s “real lives” through instagram and twitter.
Maybe it’s because there’s a false sense of anonymity on the internet— knowing one can say whatever they want without the repercussion of having to actually own up to any kind of emotional damage caused by their statements—that makes us desensitized to the fact that the people we are talking about are actually real people.
This, paired with the perception that someone who’s job causes them to be within the public eye, somehow belongs to the public, somehow entitles people to pass scrutiny on others even outside of their published work.
Models, especially, tend to be the subject of this scrutiny. Go an any models social media account and you’ll see comments like the ones above—even when they aren’t displaying their work and just posting photos of themselves hanging out with family and friends.
However, this is troubling to me.
Having worked in fashion for my entire professional life, interacting with models is one of the many parts of the job. Styling for photoshoots, you really get to know the girls for days at a time. You meet some girls who are working to save up for medical school, a good amount are extremely young and nervous about being in a country where they barely understand the language, some are merely enjoying the opportunity to see the world while they’re young, while others are using their career to support their families back home.
The thing is, before I started working in fashion, I had the same mentality as most people.
I saw the models as a commodity, an image without a personality that was interchangeable with any other beautiful woman. It never even crossed my mind that the person in front of the lens is a girl, just like me, and most of the time even younger.
I didn’t fully realize that projecting my own prejudices on a model (regretfully and foolishly, I assumed they were all glamorous, bitchy, women who don’t eat) was as foolish as assuming that all engineers are antisocial, or all lawyers are workaholics.
However, that’s a two dimensional way of looking at women who in fact are real girls, with real careers and goals. Most of the time they’re girls who have had to wise up and take on adult responsibility quickly— starting a full time career at as young as 14, and juggling real life responsibilities I didn’t even think of until after I turned 18.
I have been wanting to start a series on Madame Ostrich that highlights real women and their careers. I’ve felt that there’s a lack of publications that give an honest portrait of women and their careers, without sugar coating the bad or putting up a bunch of stylized images.
I figured that taking this opportunity to lift the veil between the lens and the girl, and show people what it’s really like to be a lingerie model would be the perfect start to this series.
So, I interviewed two New York City based models Madeline Blake and Maddy Pace to see what their career is really like…
First of all, how old are you and when did you start modeling?
Madeline Blake: I’m 19. I started modeling commercially when I was 10, but started working full time in NYC at 16.
Maddy Pace: I’m 18, I first knew I wanted to model when I was 13 and then actually signed with an agency when I was 14.
So what does a normal work day look like for you?
MB: It really varies day to day. Some days I’ll be running around the city for castings, fittings, and acting auditions. Some days I’ll be up at the crack of dawn for a photo shoot, or up until 2 am rehearsing for a new audition. On my days off I love to spend my time in the kitchen cooking and baking. I never have a set schedule from one day to the next.
MP: Well once I’m up and out of the apartment I’m rushing from casting to casting all over the city, finding time for lunch somewhere in between and then I’m back home usually around 6 which is when my booker sends me my schedule for the next day.
What’s the best part of your job?
MB: The best part has to be the travel opportunities. Being a model, the world is literally my oyster. I get to work all over the world, and I’m extremely grateful for that opportunity.
MP: The best part about my job (and the main reason I model) would have to be getting to travel, and through modeling you get to connect with a lot of different industries and meet all kinds of great people.
What’s the worst part?
MB: The worst part is constantly being told no. Sometimes a client is looking for a very particular look, and I just don’t fit that mold. It sucks, but I’ve learned not to take it personally.
MP: The worst part about modeling is that most things happen very last minute, so it can be hard to plan sometimes. This industry is constantly changing, I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year or even this next season.
To add onto what Madeline said— Has there ever been a particular instance where someone made a statement about your body or work that made you feel uncomfortable?
MB: Other than a few opinionated followers on Instagram, I’ve never really had anyone say anything that made me feel uncomfortable. In this industry I’ll always have people telling me I’m too skinny, and others telling me I’m too thick. It’s something I’ve learned to take into stride, and ultimately ignore. I’m comfortable with who I am, and want to always remain healthy. That’s what is most important.
What’s the largest misconception about your job?
MB: I think many people see the modeling world much more glamorous than it really is. It’s hard work! You’re constantly being pulled in different directions. In order to stand out in an extremely competitive industry, you have to alway be on point in terms of body, skin, hair, and personality. You can’t ever have an off day.
What’s one thing people would never guess about you from just looking at your photos?
MB: I absolutely love to cook. The kitchen is my happy place! After a long day shooting I love to come home, put on some Frank Sinatra, and cook something new and exciting. In the summer I grow my own tomatoes and herbs and make a killer Arabiata sauce from scratch.
MP: I feel like the majority of people only see the girl in the magazine and assume every model is living like that too. They’re only seeing the product of what a model does, not what happens behind the scenes or day-to-day in a model’s life. We’re humans too, just because we have our picture taken for a living doesn’t mean we “have it all.”
Do you have any plans after modeling?
MB: My true passion is acting. I’ve begun actively perusing it as a full time career, and am excited to see where it takes me!
MP: I don’t have any concrete plans after modeling yet, I know I’d like to pursue something in interior design someday. For now I’m just going to ride out modeling and see what aspires.
To sum it all up— if there’s one thing you want people to know about lingerie modeling, what is it?
MB: It’s all smoke and mirrors. It looks very easy, natural and sexy, but, in reality, on set I’m being prodded and positioned in so many uncomfortable positions that just feel awkward, but end up looking great in the photo!