By ALYX GORMAN
In approximately three seconds, you’re going to roll your eyes at me. I know this. But I’m going to say what I’m going to say anyway:
We need to be nicer to models.
There you go. I can literally hear your eyes rolling into the back of your head. But please check your prejudices at the door and listen to me for a second.
Last weekend, in the most respected weekly supplement of the most respected national newspaper in the country, The Good Weekend ran a cover story ran about Australian supermodel Abbey Lee Kershaw.
The story in question began like this:
“I’ve recently spent some time looking at Abbey Lee Kershaw’s breasts. They are certainly nothing special; modestly proportioned, unremarkable. What is unusual about them is only that they are on display so much: she recently whipped them out for her friend, the catastrophically cool French photographer and fashion designer Hedi Slimane, who shot her naked in a bamboo grove in California last year …A former model and aspiring actor, Kershaw once told W magazine: “I like my hands. They do most of the talking.” But if recent form is any guide, it’s actually her tits that do the talking, and what they say is: “I am not Miranda Kerr.”
The owner of the “unremarkable” breasts in question was unimpressed.
So were a lot of other people, too.
Can you imagine a story like this running about any other kind of woman? A story where the opening paragraph physically dissects the poor subject, before ultimately rejecting her?
People would be furious if you wrote about a fictional character the way this story describes Abbey Lee. But because she’s a model, the paper decided that publishing an assessment of her tits was an acceptable thing to do.
It’s pretty clear from the tone of the story that the writer really didn’t want to interview a model. And you can see that in his scepticism not just of her breasts, but of what Abbey Lee said in the story.
“Modelling is hard work,” he says, qualifying it with a “Kershaw insists.” He goes on: “While it’s unlikely Amnesty International will be intervening any time soon, modelling does invite regular claims of exploitation.”
His sneering tone undermines the fact that what he’s saying is objectively true. Models are treated badly.Abbey Lee. Image via @abbeylee on Instagram.
After years working with and around models, I’ve witnessed working conditions that would be completely unacceptable in other first world industries being foisted onto girls that are barely out of puberty. Aside from the women who physically have to make the clothes, the models have the hardest, most dangerous jobs in the rag trade.
I’ve seen girls get hospitalised with blood poisoning from infected blisters, I’ve seen them get burned backstage with hair straighteners and forced to work so many hours they literally keel over. It’s a fact of the industry – one that isn’t explored often enough.
Abbey Lee is the rare model who will speak openly about this. She says something similar in the story. Decrying the lack of a proper union for models she said: “There is no limit to what a client can ask of you. If they are shooting till 3am and you have a 6am call time, then tough luck. You can be doing fittings at 2am, call times at 4am, the show at 11am, you are being f…ing screamed at by everyone…”