Emma* is sixteen. She was first spotted as a gangly, unlikely thirteen year-old and was surprised to be asked to enter the world of modelling. Last year, after almost four years with one of the top agencies in Europe, she was ‘launched’. This is a slightly worrying term, used when models are thrust, rocket-like into the limelight to walk the runways of the world. Sure, there have been success stories in the past but when Emma* was sent to New York alone, like so many other young girls, she found it to be more than ‘one small step’.
Firstly, it is important to emphasise that Emma* is a very normal girl, albeit a staggeringly striking one. She attended a public high school and her life revolves around her friends and family, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of New York, where it’s normal for models to go to 20 appointments a day. This schedule is one of the busiest and most gruelling of any profession. It’s unbelievable that this job is done by girls as young as 13. If you ask an industry insider, they’ll tell you that it’s essential that models start young. They have taut skin. They don’t have hips. They can be ‘moulded’. They each essentially become a moving clothes hanger and they’re treated like one too. A multitude of young Russians are ruling the industry because they’re perfect for it – they are tough, they work hard and they don’t speak. It is exactly the same in women’s tennis.
Although Emma* is confident, she’s English and she’s used to politeness. It’s no wonder she was shocked by the reality she found in New York. On her first day in Manhattan, an agent told her she couldn’t afford to put on any more weight. Size four just isn’t good enough, not when the clothes have been designed for a size zero figure. Emma* might well become a famous model, but many tears will be spilt along the way. The issue remains: we’re still ignoring morality for perfection’s sake.
*The model’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
R. N. Bryant
Image: Malin Oberg
N.B. The model featured in the image is not the subject of the article.