Photo by Annika Forslund
I’ve been quarreling with myself on this topic for months now. I have provided you with plenty of info on modeling agencies in the past. However, I feel there is a missing element. Bias. Today I will impart my bias in regards to the topic of agencies. Today I will open up.
While I have not had a horrendous experience with agencies, like some, it has not been particularly pleasant either. Often, agencies have felt very intimidating, even bully-like.
A model is hardly ever allowed to be herself. She is scrutinized in detail. She is never good enough, always expected to fill in this role of the unattainable. As a society, our beauty standards are warped. They are unrealistic. Yet, young girls are expected to conform. This is what it feels like to be a model. Moldable.
At age 15, I was told I had too much baby fat. My legs have been called doughy. Some people have told me I can’t “make it” due to my size. That I have to conform. I have been pressured and harassed about my skin, urged to see a dermatologist I couldn’t afford, for a problem that was occurring because of my genes, and because I was unhealthy. Being with an agency has always been a stressful experience for me. I was always pressured one way or another, bullied strategically, bossed around, and strung along waiting for my paychecks.
This is my bias. And the experience is not too different from those girls around me.
Girls. We are women, young women. Yet, why do I keep calling all models girls? It is because even I feel diminished as a model sometimes. We are girls. Young. To be manipulated. Some never grow up. Some never learn. Some girls grow up learning from this industry and are left wondering what is wrong.
Agencies not paying their models has become a norm. Clients paying months after a job. Sexual harassment on jobs, and bullying. How can they get away with this?
For one, the industry remains wildly unregulated. On the other hand: we let them. A year ago, I decided I no longer wanted to be taken advantage of by a shady company with only their own interests in mind.
Unfortunately, a model can’t advance her career much without an agency.
To be fair, I have had a lot of exciting moments with my agencies. I have been in Mercedes-Benz fashion week. I have booked huge, lucrative photo shoots. I have been given the chance to book career-changing campaigns. I have been in Anna Wintour’s office building. There are always the plus sides. I often found myself in exciting jobs and opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten without an agency.
Without having been with the agencies I have been with, I wouldn’t be where I am as a model today. My portfolio is strong. My experience is strong. From the platform of being signed with an agency, I have been given the opportunity to expand and grow, not only as a model, but as a woman.
Here’s the thing. We can change this. Together. The fashion industry doesn’t have to be a harsh reality, but a positive environment.
My experiences in the fashion industry have pushed me to create a revolution. I want to promote positive change and health. Poor, low quality living is generally secretly applauded by many industry peers. Young girls loosing too much weight is celebrated! This helps perpetuate and encourage eating disorders among young girls across the globe.
So I need your help. Soon, I will be launching a crowd-funding campaign for We Speak, the agency of the future. I’m creating a healthy branding system for retail and fashion brands to use to encourage healthy living, and healthy women.
If you help fund and promote this mission, you are contributing your piece of a huge undertaking and fashion revolution. The industry has made small movements to a more positive industry, yet the experiences detailed above are still very much alive. Are you ready to roar?
Briauna Mariah (:
Founder of We Speak
P.S. We are on the lookout for experienced, healthy models in NYC! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for submissions (our email system and site is currently undergoing construction!)