Models and Modeling

Models are generally  divided  into  groups based  on the  type of work they do; the most  common types of models are fashion, glamour, fine art, and body part models. While  modeling has a reputation for consisting solely of tall, thin, exceptionally beautiful women, the  industry actually  encompasses both men  and  women with a huge  range  of body types and looks.

Fashion Models

The  most  famous type of model  is undoubtedly the fashion model. Fashion models are hired  to advertise  clothing through print  advertisements (editorial  modeling) and  to promote fashion designers in runway  shows. Many  fashion models succeed at  both editorial and  runway   modeling, but  it  is not  uncommon  for them  to specialize  in one  or the other, as they each  have a slightly different set of requirements.

In  terms  of body  type,  fashion modeling is the  most  ruthless, especially  for women. Female  fashion models need  to be both uncommonly tall and  uncommonly  thin;  the average height of a female fashion model  is 5 feet 10 inches with a weight of 110 pounds, while the average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches and weighs 160 pounds. Male fashion models are also taller and thinner than average: a typical male fashion model  is 6 feet and 150 pounds, while the average American man  is 5 feet 9 inches and 190 pounds.

Beauty  is an important factor  for fashion models, though not  as much as it is for  glamour models. For  runway  models in  particular, beauty  is less  important than body  type, well-defined bone  structure, and  ease in walking  on the catwalk. Beauty  is more  important for editorial fashion modeling, as photographs present a closer  view of the model  than is found on the runway. In fact, many  highly successful editorial fashion models also  become engaged in glamour modeling, where  beauty  is paramount.

Glamour Models

Glamour modeling places  an emphasis on the model  instead of a product—most instances of glamour modeling do not  feature a product for sale at all. Glamour modeling is almost  exclusively a female  profession; while there  is a small market for male  glamour models, some  may argue  the  types  of work  given to men  and women are not  equivalent.

Female  glamour models are mostly  featured in men’s magazines. The  beauty and  sexuality  of the  model  are the  main  focus  of the  photograph, and  many  of the pictures feature short profiles about the model. One  of the most  recognizable instances of glamour modeling is swimsuit modeling, made  famous by the hugely popular Sports Illustrated “Swimsuit Issue.” Glamour modeling became popular in the United States in the first half of the 20th  century with pinups and posters featuring scantily  clad women, and today a huge  range of men’s magazines highlight glamour modeling. Nude glamour modeling is also a pervasive  type of pornography, made  famous by Playboy magazine.

While  there  are instances of male  glamour modeling, it isn’t  nearly  as omnipresent as female.  Most  male  glamour modeling takes  place  in  the  handful of pornographic  magazines targeted at  women and  gay  men.  Some   mainstream women’s magazines, such  as  Cosmopolitan, feature semi-nude  photographs  of male  models, but  they  are  not  as important a feature of content as the  corresponding female models in men’s  magazines.


While  fashion and  glamour models are the  most  common, there  are many  other types of models who  do not  fit the  popular image  of models and  modeling. The original  models posed  for painters and  other artists,  and  visual artists  in the 21st century continue to hire models to pose  for artistic  work. Fine arts models come in  virtually  all shapes and  sizes, and  while  nude images  are  common, they  are distinguished from  pornography based  on  the  lack of emphasis on  the  sexuality of the model.

Many  advertisements for  accessories demand  a  close-up shot  of  a  specific body  part:  for  example  a wrist  and  hand modeling a watch,  or  foot  and  lower leg displaying a shoe. While  the part  in question is usually  especially  elegant, the demands placed  on  the  body  as a whole  are not  nearly  as stringent as for other types  of modeling. Body part  modeling is often  an avenue to success, especially for petite  models that  do not  fulfill the  height requirements set forth  by fashion modeling.

Fitness models are used  to advertise  exercise equipment and lifestyles, and this is the  one  area  of modeling that  is dominated by men,  though both men  and women participate. Fitness models have  athletic physiques, with  more  muscle mass and definition than is customary for fashion or glamour modeling.

Another example  of alternative body  types  in women’s modeling is plus-size modeling. Any  model  wearing  a dress  size 8 or  greater  is considered plus  size, though most  plus-size models wear size 12–16. A high  fashion runway  model, on the other hand, usually  wears a size 2. Plus-size modeling is most  common in editorial  fashion pages  in magazines, as well as advertisements for specialty  retailers such as Lane Bryant. There are almost no plus-size runway models, as runway work is usually limited  to haute couture, the designers of which rarely work in plus sizes. While  the body size standards for plus size models are different, the rest of the requirements still apply: plus size models must be beautiful, with clear   skin   and   straight  teeth, and extremely photogenic.

The    most    famous  of   all model  types is the supermodel, the very highest echelon attainable   for   models.  Supermodels  are  almost   entirely   female and  gain  celebrity   status akin to  Hollywood actors  and  rock stars. Supermodels also usually cross  modeling boundaries, combining fashion and  glamour  modeling, and  often  including television commercials and even films.

The  modeling industry is a frequent recipient of criticism from  the  public. Many  argue  that  the  bodies  presented in fashion magazines create  unrealistic expectations for young  women, citing the rise of eating  disorders in teenage girls and young  women in recent decades.

The  2006 deaths of two models caused the public  to look with an even sharper eye at the  fashion industry and  its demands on  models. In August 2006,  Uruguayan  model  Luisel Ramos  died during a fashion show of a heart  attack  brought on  by anorexia nervosa, and  just  a few months later  anorexia also  claimed  the life of Brazilian  model  Ana Carolina Reston. Ramos’s  body  mass  index,  a figure calculated from  a person’s height and  weight,  was well below  starvation levels at the time of her  death. In response to the public  outcry, the administrators of the 2006  Madrid Fashion Week  instigated new  weight  minimums for all its models, regulated by monitoring the models’  body mass  index.  Italian  designers followed suit later that year by signing  a joint measure with the Italian government banning size 0 models from their  catwalks.

Despite the  frantic  response to  these  tragic  events,  it is unclear whether the exceptional thinness of high fashion models will cease to be the trend. The ease of flattering a tall, thin body originally prompted the popularity of typical model sizes with haute couture designers, and it seems  unlikely  that  they will suddenly abandon  tradition. Many top designers have advocated the hiring  of healthy models to the  runways, but  it is important to note  that  just  because obscenely thin  models may be banned, the models that  remain are by no means indicative of the average bodies  of women. Glamour models are a perfect  example  of a healthy figure that is still virtually  unattainable for a majority of women. While  glamour models are far more  voluptuous and usually  shorter than runway  models, they are still much thinner and much more  beautiful than the average woman.

While  glamour models might  not  induce eating  disorders in women the  way high  fashion models do, the  pervasiveness of images  of glamour models is often cited  as the  source for poor  body  image  among women. Not  only are they thinner  than most  women, the  vast majority of photographs of glamour models are airbrushed, or altered  with  a computer, creating even  more  unrealistic expectations.  Airbrushing is ubiquitous and  far-reaching and  not  just  used  to erase  the occasional blemish. It is also used  to completely reshape the  body  of the  model. Waists are whittled, legs are slimmed, and stomachs are flattened, all with the click of a mouse on a computer program. The  images created leave the average woman feeling a sense  of failure that she can’t look like that, without realizing that in fact, no one looks  like that,  not  even the model.

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