When we think of supermodels, our minds automatically wonder to the likes of Kendall Jenner, the Hadid sisters, Karlie Kloss and many more. Whilst we have become so attuned to seeing their names in headlines, on the covers of Vogue magazine and walking down runaways, I think we can often forget about ordinary individuals who are striving to become bigger and better but lack status. One of the problems that has arisen in the fashion and modelling industry is the issue of nepotism.
Nepotism is defined as “the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs”.
The term nepotism is often affiliated and used in accordance with celebrities
The association is due to the argument that without influence and status, celebrities would not be as successful in their chosen industry as they currently are. According to Forbes, Kendall Jenner in 2018 was the highest paid supermodel in the world, earning $22.5 million dollars, with Karlie Kloss following shortly behind with $13 million. However, before Kendall Jenner became famous for being a supermodel, she was simply known as one of the siblings of the Kardashian family and daughter of the infamous Kris Jenner. Many argue that this was her pathway into the modelling industry especially since she is now the highest paid supermodel in the world. However, is this actually the case?
In an interview, Kendall Jenner denied that nepotism was the reason behind her success as a supermodel and rather acknowledged that despite having a platform, it made it harder for her. “Everyone around me, whether it’s friends or family, knows how hard I worked and how hard I still work. I did everything that I was supposed to do and had to do to get to the position that I’m at now as a model. I went to every single casting and ran all over, not only New York City, but all over Europe, trying to get a job and make my way.”
Kendall continued to say that she would even go to the extent of removing her surname from modelling applications to prevent bias on hiring her due to her reality television past. Many have criticised Kendall as they believe that without Keeping up with the Kardashians, she would not have been able to pursue modelling so easily, and as a result attribute her success to the reality television show.
Similarly, in April 2021 Gigi Hadid’s father, in a birthday post on Instagram, labelled Gigi as ‘self-made’ which opened up a pool of controversy as many disbelieved that she had not benefited from nepotism. It sparked debate across all media platforms as, whilst there is no denying that she is probably a hard-working individual, is it fair to say that she is self-made? Gigi’s mother, Yolanda Hadid, was a reality housewife star and former model and Gigi was modelling for Guess at the age of four years old.
Is it fair to call out these models and say that they have only become successful due to having powerful connections and infamous relatives? Well to some extent, yes, as for us as outsiders modelling seems like the ideal job. Who wouldn’t want to walk down a runaway and see their face on a massive billboard in Times Square? However, there are untold truths about the modelling and fashion industry such as the lack of diversity and the inability to financially support oneself in order to be in the running. There is also the confidence needed to be always in the public eye and the high probabilities of rejection.
This leads to the question over whether ordinary people can break through these industries. Well, the answer is yes. Although having a famous last name can be beneficial in becoming successful – it is not the be-all and end-all. I think often we automatically assume that models have grown and been conditioned into this lifestyle by their parents, when in fact some began as ordinary people (and still are!). One prime example of this is my favourite supermodel, Naomi Campbell.
Unlike the Jenner and Hadid families, growing up in Streatham in South London, Naomi Campbell was scouted in her Italia Conti uniform by the head of Synchro agency, Beth Boldt, who asked her if she had ever thought about modelling. Shortly after three months of being signed to Synchro, she did her first shoot with British Elle. Likewise, Barbara Palvin was discovered walking down the streets in Budapest with her mother and was asked if pictures could be taken of her which launched her career.
Naomi Campbell shared in her book – “When I started out, I wasn’t being booked for certain shows because of the colour of my skin. I didn’t let it rattle me. From attending auditions and performing at an early age, I understood what it meant to be black. You had to put in the extra effort. You had to be twice as good.”
However, it is important to remember that although it may not be necessary to have a famous surname, there are still issues that we have to be aware of. Naomi Campbell acknowledged that her modelling career was not always easy in the beginning. She recognised that the colour of her skin was a contributing factor as to why she was not being casted for modelling jobs. Similarly, Tyra Banks received several rejections due to being told they ‘already had a black girl’ in their agency.
In the modern age we are in, there are more calls for designers to be more inclusive and have diversity in their shows, which also includes having models of different sizes
However, this is still one of the key problems in the fashion and modelling industry. So, whilst there is still this issue of nepotism in these industries, creating unfair standards and competition, if you’re thinking about going into modelling -don’t let this discourage you. With the right mindset, you can achieve anything!
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