There comes a time in every model’s life when she realizes that she is past the beautiful pinnacle of her career. It is something that happens so gradually you hardly notice, likely because your enthusiasm for the industry wanes in tandem with the waning enthusiasm of the industry for you. If you’re lucky, the two of you part ways amicably, standing at the end of a long road paved in Versace gold and hair extensions. You shake hands, nod your head, and wish one another luck, even though neither of you really mean it.
Given my age, and the age of my model friends, this has been a frequent topic of conversation as of late. You hear the same thing: Work has been so slow, The new booker hates me, I think I’m going to change agencies. The last breaths of a model’s career is a charmless grasping for straws, trying to find some legitimate reason for no longer being in demand. You know, aside from the obvious: we’re “old.”
It’s a ridiculous notion, really. If you see these women in normal social settings — walking down the street, sitting in a restaurant, riding the subway — time stops. They are tall and striking, stunningly gorgeous. But the fact is that they are women now, not girls. The industry wants prepubescent fashion fetuses with no hips and perfect skin. And why shouldn’t they? They’re selling clothes, and to sell clothes they want the best of the best, which, by today’s industry standards, are high school students who weigh 110 pounds.
And you know what? I’m fine with that. I’ve helped out on castings before, sat on the other side of the table, so to speak. And you know what I looked for? Thinner, younger, prettier. When you’re the model, it can be really difficult to reconcile the rejection, to not take it personally. When you’re casting, it’s the least personal thing in the world. You don’t need a girl who’s interesting; you need a girl who looks good in 2-D wearing your clothes, selling your vision. It’s cutthroat, and to have made it a decade is an impressive feat.
It’s up to the model to know when to call it quits. Like any boy you’ll ever date in New York City, there won’t be a phone call, no admission of “Hey, I’ve moved on.” The point is to know you’ve milked that particular cow and it’s time to move pastures before the pail runs dry. And when that time comes, you keep heading down that road, knowing that it might not be paved with gold, but you never cared much for Versace anyway.– Jenny Bahn