But Not Everyone’s A Model…

Runway Models

Seemingly, any semi-attractive woman with a computer, photo enhancing software and a propensity to exaggerate, will bill herself as a “model” in Social Media bios. Surely you’ve seen the excess of women willingly posed tooted and booted, poked out and pushed up (real or purchased T&A) in random parts of their homes, prompting viewers towards an email for “booking.” *Fingers to temple* Before Twitter became the primary place to view pornography um, a modeling portfolio, an industry standard of “modeling” was adhered to.

Runway modeling (traditional), a direct partner of the fashion industry, is historically rooted in European couture fashion houses using tall and thin women to advertise a designer’s collections for wealthy (royal or public figures) consumers. Designers and agents meticulously select models based on size, facial appearance, runway walk, and even skin tone, pertaining to how they look in clothing based on the designer’s vision. Traditional modeling is very competitive as models have extensive/impressive portfolios, receive training on industry etiquette, and can command more in an hour than most take home monthly. Fashion industry workers set the trend for future seasons, retailers, and even influence beauty standards/industry using models.

“Urban modeling” is the coined term for predominately Black/minority women photographed accentuating their behind or breasts, often scantily clad. A direct agent in commercial hip-hop culture advertising, the industry has high appeal due to powerful advertising dollars and the ease of using “urban models.” Countless women voluntarily submit amateur photographs, sans standard or hints of dignity, for the opportunity to be further exposed or promoted throughout the hip-hop industry. Read, “promoted,” and not “paid” which is a huge difference (aside from baby oil and a thong) between them and a professional “urban model.”

A market exists for professional “Urban models,” or minority women whose obvious beauty is utilized for alternative fashion and marketing campaigns. The fashion industry is notoriously close-minded, so the push for diversity on runways/ amongst advertisers continues amongst women remaining true to traditional modeling etiquette and industry standards, while building their portfolios and brands for future transitions into other areas. You know, models represented by agencies with solid contracts. Plus-sized, darker-skinned, natural-hair, etc., there’s a myriad of niche markets with a demand for professional models, however the opportunity for minority women to excel still pales in comparison with the yt majority.

Yes, there are yt women willing to take sexually explicit photos a la unprofessional “urban models,” but the difference is yt woman have greater avenues of exposure, greater commercial demand, and can avoid stereotyping/typecasting as their race works to their benefit (yt privilege is real). Consider the branding power of “Playboy” compared to “Black Men’s Magazine.” Until Black/minority models are considered a global fashion industry standard, minority models should remain cognizant of who is ultimately exploited, by whom or who benefits and for what gain when grouped as “urban.” The “Urban modeling”industry is generally tainted because there is no standard. Often companies or businesses run by men to appeal to men encourage all-types of gratuitous T&A shots; and women volunteer them. Volunteer models with no pay, no ownership of photos, and often subject to levels of blatant disrespect at the feet of men in control, capitalizing off their ignorant exploitation (similar pattern in commercial “rap” lyrics; degrading women & pushing sex sells).

So, how to decipher differences amongst “models?” Photographs from reputable photographers, a solid portfolio of work (represented by an agent, not bogus Gmail account), and a passport are characteristics of a professional able to demand a rate for her work. Women willing to do anything for exposure should be labeled as such, and banned from using “model” in any bio, profile or $5.00 business card. Until that day, realize that there is a difference, an industry standard, and that all “models” aren’t created equal (or paid).




About Dawnavette

A Modern Renaissance Woman passionate about writing, women's issues, race relations, pop culture and music.

Posted on July 8, 2011, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great piece. I think with a standard in urban modeling will come respect for that area of modeling. I don’t knock it one bit because, as you pointed out, women that are not African American are lauded and applauded for the same type of modeling, yet African Americans look down upon almost primarily because of the lack of professionalism typically associated with this area. As with most all successful things, there needs to be a standard created. You can flip this article to the other side of the lens as well. Everyone is not a photographer. Yet, these “button pushers” get females to create a worthless portfolio and, hence, we are all flooded with images of females who look like they were picked up at the local meat market and told “Damn, ma…you should model.” Again, we just need standards.

  2. I totally agree. what ever happened to pride in one’s self, dignity. do these people not have mothers. is there no sense of responsiblity to the someone other than themselves. It use to be that you could only find these looks in Mag’s like “Play Boy” and “Hustler” but now you can find it in your local Wal-Mart and on the street. We have come to the age where there is no censorship in anything we do. What a shame that the black commuinty has followed suit in this. We use to hold our children to a higher standard because we knew that they had to work harder and keep our noses cleaner just to have the same as everyone else. That hasn’t changed, but in the name of equal rights we have let our children believe that because that’s not fair that they don’t have to fall in line. That’s not a truth we want to pass on. In fact it’s not a truth at all. What’s wrong with hard work, doing your best at what ever you put your hand to, and having pride in your appearance. We as a race trying to fit in have gotten away from the things that have held us together over the years. The thing that gave us a leg up when that task seems impossible. I pray that we reach back for those values again and claim what Kings and Queens so rightfully deserve.

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