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Sweary’s Jaw: Model Behaviour

Posted August 15, 2012 by Lisa McInerney in Ramp Archives
Girl Model

Models are hot right now, aren’t they?

Ok, so fair enough – models are always hot. That is their function. That is why we have them. They are paragons, icons, almost-aliens with a certain presence that encompasses so much more than the quintessence of beauty. They have poise, grace, an ethereal aura, and legs that go all the way up to their lower backs. The whole point of models is that they don’t look anything like us regular folk. Somewhere between a biological triumph and a freak of nature, they’re just born with the right proportions to make a living from their corporeal parameters. Lucky, lucky models.

Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model on the tellybox gives ample and timely opportunity to us to observe models in… well, not quite their natural habitat, but certainly not a bad artificial substitute. You all know the set up: a glut of hopefuls are chosen to move in together, and are whip-cracked through various hoops and challenges which pick off the least promising competitor every week. At the end, one girl is left victorious. So far, so gladiatorial.

The mark of a great talent showdown, though, is a genuine regard for the rigours of the featured profession. This is what makes Got To Dance, for example, far, far better television than The X-Factor. Likewise, the models on BINTM aren’t just a bunch of pretty girls asked to throw a few outfits on, purse their lips and have a scrap with Julian MacDonald; they’re expected to be able to model. Like, properly model. Embody an idea, a vision, a feeling, a thought. Act silently. Tell a story with their bodies and their eyes. None of that bikini n’ teeth on Stephen’s Green malarkey.

Much as it surprises some of us, modelling is actually a craft, and it ain’t at all easy.

Which is why watching a few episodes of BINTM will severely sap your patience for our parade of Irish ‘models’, for which read ‘bored daughters of hasbeen socialites who’ve been told that cosmetic surgery, hair extensions and skin the colour of Tanora are all you need to qualify as a Peddler of Dreams’. There isn’t a single one of Ireland’s terracotta army that’d pass muster (or mustard, as the case may be) for the likes of Elle MacPherson and her coterie of po-faced critics (barring the aforementioned Julian MacDonald, who has a mouth on him like La Bocca della Verità. Don’t tell lies to Julian MacDonald).

Look at him there, being all judgey.

As a crank of the writerly persuasion, I spend a lot of time bemoaning literature’s fate in these dark days of E.L. James, Stephenie Meyer and Snooki, Novelist Edition. It’s not just the literary arts that have been cheapened and trod upon by shameless apes, though – perfumers, DJs, fashion designers and models alike have seen their talents devalued by the short attention spans of ‘celebrities’ desperate to widen their fifteen minute timeframes. It’s not just here in Ireland that modelling is looked on as some sort of easy option for witless morons who’ve been born with their face holes in the right order.

Take Kendall Jenner, the child sister of Cerberus Kardashian. At sixteen years old, she’s currently being promoted by the horrendous conglomerate that spawned her as a ‘model’, basically because she’s slim and has a great make-up artist. Cue plenty of tweeted pictures, lovingly reprinted by the perverts at the Daily Fail, of this underage lass in a bikini looking provocative in a range of coy poses. Taking away the ick factor of judging the flesh of a schoolgirl – Jesus Christ, Kardashians! – it’s plain to see that young Kendall has either fuck all modelling talent or an extremely bad coach, because every single one of her photographs seems to be a glamour shot.


You know the kind. Smokey eyes, parted lips, faux-demure stances, blank stares. True, the fashion industry loves teenage models – they don’t have any pesky curves to design around and they are stupidly easy to exploit – but even in that context, it’s hard to imagine Kendall Jenner as anything but a risqué invitation. It’s incredibly distasteful. First, because of the idea that the child would even need a career at this stage; secondly because there’s a lot more to modelling than standing still in tiny outfits; and thirdly, because… well, you know. She’s sixteen.

Again, the fashion industry’s preference for incredibly young girls is nothing new. The documentary Girl Model, shown recently on BBC 4’s Storyville, makes for strange and sobering viewing on that very topic, with underage Siberian girls shipped with frighteningly blasé regularity to the modelling industry in Japan. Ending the fashion world’s dependence on child models would be no easy undertaking, and certainly not one we could solve right here and now.

Madlen and Nadya from Girl Model

The fact remains is that for this one wonderfully odd moment, reality/talent TV is actually the good guy. In BINTM the models are all adults and none of them are emaciated. Ludicrous that you’d even have to make a point on that, but here we are. Seeing what goes on at a fashion photoshoot or on a catwalk show is also quite the bonus, in that we’re seeing that there’s far more to being a model than getting your kit off and enthralling a footballer. The craft itself is given precedence. Modelling is not promoted as something to do to pass the time between puberty and marriage, a mere hobby for socialites.

And though the girls are constantly being barked at by photographers (and, er, Julian MacDonald) to be sexy, sexy, seeeeexy, there’s a startling lack of sex to the process. It’s almost… wholesome.

In comparison to flogging one’s teenage daughter to the Daily Fail or manipulating Siberian children as cheap labour, there’s something rather pleasing in that. Give the models their credit, guys, because assuming they’re naturally plentiful is causing more real damage than anyone would like to admit.

About the Author

Lisa McInerney

Lisa’s soul is so damn sensitive, she has to invent and occupy parallel universes just to spread herself evenly. This is also known as being a frustrated novelist.

  • http://twitter.com/Fearganainim Fearganainim

    It is nice to see that the industry has a positive side to it as well. Julien McDonald rocks!!
    Great Post!

  • http://twitter.com/ElleEmSee Laura C

    Whilst I agree with the post above, B&INTM have their moments from Elle in particular. Elle is just mean. She called one contestant ‘Not pretty in an obvious way’ which was quite harsh to be honest.

    • http://www.emesq.com/ Colm

      Granted I didn’t see it so I don’t know what tone she used, but isn’t “not pretty in an obvious way” exactly what you’re looking for in a high fashion model? You don’t just want some looker you met in the pub, like.

      • http://twitter.com/ElleEmSee Laura C

        See she was using it during the ‘bottom two’ elimination bit as a criticism (sp)

      • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

        Yup. You want someone striking, not pretty for high-end fashion. 

        I don’t get that Elle is mean, to be honest. Though granted, there is a certain sense of detachment coming from model coaches/judges/designers that does rankle with the rest of us, because their comments seem so personal – criticising a girl’s look as ‘cheap’ for example, or overly ‘Page 3′. But I guess in an industry where every angle of your face has to mean something, it’s valid criticism.

        I think Julian is actually much meaner – he was as bad on Project Catwalk – but there’s something so camp about him it’s hard to take him seriously. He’s like a bitchy puppy weeing on the floor.

  • http://www.lisamcinerney.com Lisa McInerney

    Oh but yeah, it’s SO TRUE that the judges on BINTM aren’t nice all the time. They’re rarely nice, if anything. Tyson can be a right so-and-so and some of the things he says seems completely unnecessary. I guess you have to make concessions to television drama whether you like it or not.

    I think the way BINTM shines though is the fact that the girls seem like well-adjusted adults rather than frightened, addled teenagers with eating disorders. It’s nice to see something positive from an industry that is frequently dark and terrifying. 

    • http://twitter.com/ElleEmSee Laura C

      Also true. The last one I saw he was giving off about the personality of a girl which was unnecessary because she was very inoffensive.

      The key word you used was ‘adults’. Most of these girls are in their 20s which is great. BINTM also heavily criticise girls if they get to an unhealthy weight out of fear of promoting eating disorders too.

  • Claire Gleeson

    Great article, Lisa. I haven’t watched any of the NTM series in years, but they definitely don’t glamorise an industry that’s very hard work. 

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