The Misleading Rise of the Slashies

or failure.

or failure.

Slashies. Back in Los Angeles, where I lived for nearly seven years, these were about as common as potholes, as invasive as Bermuda grass. They sat in waiting rooms, flipping through pieces of white paper. They ran long fingers through silky hair while reading lines of dialogue to themselves. They were statues come to life, filled with the rich words of other people. I’m talking about the girls who looked to Hollywood as the next logical step, the ultimate fail-safe. Yes, I’m talking about model/actresses.

Within the fashion community, there is a false, hubristic assumption of a smooth transition from modeling into film. The idea is generally that you’ve been behind one camera for so long, it stands within reason to believe you’d be adored in front of another. Acting, after all, is not so different than modeling – you know, except for the auditioning, rehearsing, stage direction, craft techniques, lines and talent, and stuff. Still, ask any model what she plans on doing after her career runs out of gas and I bet you at least 80% will say something along the lines of, “Oh, well, I’ve always wanted to act!”

Far be it from me to dream crush, but this, as one might guess, is about as wise an investment as a putting all of your money into Greek bonds. The likelihood you’ll become famous – whether you’re a model or otherwise – is microscopic, a little mote of luck floating through the cosmos before vanishing completely. Just because you’re beautiful doesn’t mean you’ll get your grubby little hands on it. And actually, the more successful your career as a model, the less likely you’ll make it big as a mega movie star.

Case in point: You ever see pictures of Angelina Jolie as a model? Or Cameron Diaz? Or Charlize Theron? If you feel uncomfortable, that makes two of us. It’s hard to believe that these pillars of pop culture were once just mannequins posing for really, really awful photographers. It’s no wonder they wanted out of the business so desperately. Who would get complacent in a career that looks not so different from Glamour Shots by Deb?

There are the exceptions of course — Ashton Kutcher, Brooke Shields, Milla Jovovich, Uma Thurman – who enjoyed high profile campaigns as models followed by pretty decent careers as actors. Then there are those who are able to break out but who quickly encounter a very low ceiling, scoring small part after small part that will never allow them the exposure they once saw at the height of their supermodel careers: Gemma Ward as a mermaid in Pirates of the Caribbean, Cara Delevingne as a “marriage interest” in Anna Karenina, Gisele Bundchen as a highly unbelievable magazine employee in The Devil Wears Prada.

The hope slashies grasp for is largely a mirage, fabricated by magazines looking for stories to run. For the most part, the names model/actresses hold as totems to their own possible career trajectories – the Angelinas and Camerons of the business — are misleading. Most true Hollywood success stories aren’t necessarily ones about slashies, but of those with genuine talent, fortitude… and possibly a helpful family connection. — Jenny Bahn

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