The fall of the high fashion model and rebirth of the sexy model
New Tv shows are emerging that are looking for models with personality and a more commercial appeal. Many articles recently predicted the return of curves, and even revealed how many fashion magazines make the skinny more look curvier via retouching, in order to appeal more to the general public that seems to be fed up with the skinny trend.
We interviewed Nadja Atwal (www.NadjaAtwal.com), one of the top managers and publicists for models, about what looks like the death of the high fashion models and turbulent shifts in the model business as she sees it.
Do high fashion models still become stars?
I don’t see anyone new and no one on the horizon…
Why you think that is?
Look at the fashion magazines. How many superkinny fashion models do they actually put on the cover? I mainly see actors, singers and reality stars. Same with the big designers. More and more of the ads feature celebrities. It’s interesting that the high fashion models still have to be super-skinny while we see sexy curvy celebrities on the covers of the same magazines. Women want to look sexy and most do want to appeal to men, and most men like women with curves, so the high fashion model type of today is not hitting the taste of the consumer – that was different in the 90’s when the gorgeous fashion models were Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Karen Mulder – these woman were sexy and had very womanly figures AND charisma on top!
How did it get to this? Did the model agencies not see this coming?
Once the model agencies surrendered to the size 0 trend by telling their models to get skinnier, it was done in my view. Some models are very skinny by nature and to let them be is one thing, but to tell others who are a size 6 or 4 by 5’11 height to lose weight is simply grotesk. I am glad there are some model agents who have kept pushing the curvier models, but it is no secret that they are part of a scarily tinyminority. The fact that Kate Upton is asuperstar today will change the model landscape for the better though – I think she is the very wake up call many needed. The girls with the more commercial appeal have simply the mostpotential to be stars.
Any brand that hasn’t surrendered to the skinny model trend?
Yes, GUESS and how ironic is it that this is the brand that helps a model the most to launch her stardom these days…no other brand comes close in my view. GUESS always stayed faithful to it’s type of a model and that is why the comsumer stayed faithful to GUESS. Most women look at GUESS and think: “Man, I wanna look like that.” No idea why this seems to be rocket science for so many other labels.
Is tougher for models today to become stars?
Absolutely. They compete with actors, singers and reality stars now for all the fashion magazine covers and all the big ad campaigns. That was not the case 10 or 20 years ago. Models also used to become stars on their own. Today I see that most of the big models became interesting to the press when they started to date celebrities. Which leads me to the following: If a model is not dating a celebrity or doesn’t have a publicist here and today, her chances of becoming a star are extremely slim. This the reality, albeit a sad one.
For a model who is starting out, what do you recommend?
Find the fine line of being sexy and commercial while still being classy and eligible for fashion. I see a lot of models jagging up their breasts and lips and it automatically puts them in a certain lower league. All artificial enhancements have to look subtle IF you want a mainstream career as a model, otherwise the industry is quick to put the “bimbo” label on on you…On the fashion model front, I recommend to never surrender to the demand for size 0. Keep your curvers and shoot with some good upcoming photographers who know the GQ and Maxim style. The truth is that the men’s magazines make stars,.. rather go for a small online write up in a GQ edition somewhere than for the cover of a very racy mens mag… GQ and Esquire are still the gold standard and look great on any resume and in any model book. Enhance your web value: Lot’s of models want “the cover”…”the print version” but in reality, many mags have a super low print circulation, while the online coverage gets the model far more milage. Last but not least: Find something else you are passionate about that nicely ties into your modeling and can enhance your PR value. If you like to cook, start a clever food blog, if you are passionate about helping animals, do something, recruit, network and make a name for yourself as someone who is serious about a cause. But I think this is exactly where the guidance and ideas of a good publicist and managercome in.
What type of models are you taking on?
We used to build models from absolute scratch and built them to the point where they got leading parts in movies and got their own Tv shows. Today we mainly take on models who are already established but disire also for their name to be recognized, not just their face. Sadly, today it is all about what media value you have,…especially the internet value couts.We have clients with Vogue and Harpers Bazaar covers who have a recognizable faces but when we took them on, their name was far from a brand. That is what we do. In general I like a girl that is educated and curious with more talent than just modeling. Someone who has skills and is interested in adding on more…singing, dancing, acting, playing poker, martial arts… what ever the skill – the more skills you bring to the table, the better the chance you succeed . And this philosophy applies to almost any job in this day and age. Never stop learning new things!
What is the biggest enemy of a model based on your experience?
There are three equally big ones, insecurity, arrogance (which includes laziness and flakiness) and sadly very often also the boyfriend… Some men will choose a girl because she is a model – which is silly enough. But then when they date her , these men become controlling and get very involved in her business. I have seen several careers ending or been very badly affected by “ but my boyfriend thinks” or “my husband thinks”… and the career opportunity was gone and not too rarely even the husband or boyfriend on top. Men usually never involve their girlfriends, fiancees and wives in their daily career decisions, but for some reason, some models still do it… only to regret it later. As my general take, any man who tells his model-girlfriend “if you do this shoot or go to this event, I’ll break up with you”, has missed out on the whole concept of love. Same as if a man dates a girl and then says: “I can only marry you if you convert to my religion.” Love means accepting your partner as she is. Love does not mean to change her belief system or her career.
Have you ever been confronted with this issue yourself?
Yes. I won a national fashion-model contest and several beauty contests before I finally decided against pursuing the model career and instead focusing on my education and became a journalist… and later a business woman. That entailed attending events, dining with producers, etc….. I had a boyfriend who was whining about that. My answer was easy. “You pursued me knowing what business I work in and what comes with it – if you want something that appears to be less fancy and threatening, date a secretary… but be aware, she might screw her boss.” Then we both laughed and it was fine. I made clear some things are not even debatable for me.
And your husband today – how does he deal with you being always surrounded by alpha males?
My husband is a gorgeous scientist and professor for genetic cancer research –needless tosay I am sure many female students fancy him. And I am an attractive business woman in what is still a man’s world. We both love each other dearly and therefor we trust and support each other. I was invited to a spectacular exclusive event the other day that would have required traveling for the weekend and he offered: ”You go and I look after the little one”. Idecided against the eventin the end but I so appreciated him for offering. THAT’s a partner and I wish every model, every woman a partner like this.
What are the big mistakes a model can make?
Having ‘making lots of money’ as her main goal. When you read all the big success stories of real icons and stars, they all have in common that they were driven by passion for the doing, not mainly passion for making money. Unless you are an investment banker, your goals should be full of vivid content . Another one is thinking that because you are beautiful, the world owes you a living. Nothing is more unflattering than a beautiful woman with a sense of entitlement. One has to stay humble and be wise enough to know that it is a privilege to earn a living in the entertainment or fashion business – and not an entitlement.
What makes a model sexy to you?
A model is sexy to me when she has a sensual face, curvy body, kind eyes, a big heart and… reads the newspaper! A woman who doesn’t know about the pressing topics in the world and her own country, may be pretty face….but is a forgettable woman.