You know when people say about models that they are just “coathangers”, just there to show the clothes and look pretty and that’s basically it? Well that’s sort of kind of not entirely untrue: this is after all an industry of outer beauty. At the same time there is a lot more to be said about this, especially since lately there is a rise of models turned influencers.
What does it mean when a model is an influencer? It either means she has a message, or a platform to show herself, or both. So instead of being this anonymous silent beauty that just shows an outfit, we see more and more models who have a message or an opinion, and a presence on social media to share it. That message can be completely trivial (“look, this is my life” or “working out and eating healthy”) or can be very idealistic (models talking about climate change, or body issues, or support presidential candidates,…).
Robyn Lawley cares about protecting nature in Australia, her homecountry. This post is about the great barrier reef (notice how her profile picture also says “I don’t support dumping on the reef”).
Major agencies have been getting on board, either with special influencer boards or by showing their models’ social media stats.
Models1 shows their models’ social influence
IMG takes it even further and shows you a direct feed of model’s instagramfeeds next to their portfolio’s
This trend works both ways: the past couple of years I’ve not only seen models turn into influencers, but also seen influencers (like bloggers, celebrities or activists) turn into models. The Blonde Salad’s Chiara Ferragni has graced covers for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, blogger Nadia Aboulhosn designs and models for Boohoo,… And how about socialites like Kendall and Gigi? Capable as they may be, would there careers have been the same if not without their millions of followers?
Influencers also sometimes extend their influence to other fields too: Ashley Graham designs lingeriecollections and speaks about body issues, Robyn Lawley does swimwear and speaks about environmental issues, Chrissy Teigen is a TV host and wrote a cookbook, Cara got into acting,… So more and more, those different fields and forms of expression are morphing into one.
model Laura Wells regularly talks about environmental issues, and also designed an eco-friendly recycled swimwear collection, playing entirely into her brand and what she believes in.
Personally, I really like this evolution. It’s nice to know that there is more to modeling than just looking a certain way, but that you can also have a message and stand for something. And you can draw so much inspiration from dabbling in other fields too; I’ve certainly experienced becoming a more well-rounded model since I started blogging as well. I also feel like it would do the industry some good if we started seeing models as individuals again, each with their own story and message, instead of anonymous interchangeable standardized girls. An industry where it’s not just about what you look like but also about who you are and the personality you bring to the table.
But I can imagine there is a downside to all of this as well. First of all, what about girls who are just starting out? Competition is already so high within modeling, and now besides all the things girls are already worrying about, they also need to add “presence on social media” to compete with other girls? But more importantly: the online world can be a cruel one. The higher you climb on the social media ladder, the more haters you’ll get. There are social media icons who receive death threats and severe trashtalk on a daily basis. You have to be pretty strong to handle that kind of online abuse. As a model, it’s been possible to be completely anonymous in the past, but with social presence becoming more important, some models might be forced to share themselves online as well… and perhaps that’s not for everyone.
What do you think of models becoming influencers? Great opportunity, or unnecessary pressure?