Role Models: fashion favourites can be activists too

Anya explores why female models should not be dismissed as just pretty faces.

Female models are in the spotlight for both their aesthetic and broader impact on the female population. Whilst recent dialogue has been more open about the impact of airbrushing, underweight models, and diversity in the fashion industry, many people dismiss female models as bad role models for young women.

This is particularly the case with models such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid who are often perceived to have breezed through the modelling world owing to the fame of their parents. There is a sense that some models do not deserve the platform they have, and, more importantly, do not use it as a force for good in wider society.

the opinions of models are now accessible

However, many models have emerged as more than just anonymous mannequins to be paraded on runways, with a growing movement of models using their platform to encourage body positivity and diversity. Catalysed by social media, the opinions of models are now accessible to their following, further humanising a female workforce who were historically told to be seen and not heard.

Being politically engaged has almost become fashionable—voicing the concerns of oppressed communities is no longer a taboo subject and can even bolster the profile of models. Whereas before it may have been perceived as not the place of a model to comment on such areas, there is now almost an expectation for them to stand up to social injustice.

Calvin Klein model Ebonee Davis and Victoria’s Secret model Leomie Anderson are among those who have spoken out about a lack of diversity in the industry. Leomie runs a blog on boosting self-confidence and founded a black model survival kit, aiming to raise awareness of discrimination after having to bring her own make up products to fashion shows. Ebonee treasures activism as part of her personal brand and has delivered a TED talk on the duty the fashion media has to change broader societal perceptions of BME people.

These are just two examples among an army of women who are slowly but surely chipping away at the vices of the fashion industry from the inside. It is important to stress that models, like women, are not one-dimensional nor valued only for their looks. Models are individuals with opinions, depth, and the ability to change the system from within. With many now taking to social media and voicing problems within the fashion industry, they are increasingly positive role models for women.

Models are not confined to one sphere, rather they have the capacity to transgress the world of activism, using social media to translate their opinions into real change. This process is a prerequisite for the fashion industry becoming more accessible to a range of women, enriching both its audience and the women who will make up the future of the industry.

To generalise that all models are bad examples to young women overlooks the plethora of voices emerging against the failings of the fashion industry and perpetuates the damaging notion that models are limited to their physique.

Anya Mcloughlin

Featured Image courtesy of @portiamaae via Instagram. Image cropped for formatting.

Main Images courtesy of @leomieanderson and @eboneedavis via Instagram.

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