The flashes have died down, the techno music has ceased, and you don’t get paid to walk down the catwalk anymore. Much like professional athletes the length of a model’s career is finite and dependent on their age. Sure you can be a model well after your prime, but we’ll get into that later. Even though right now you are a beautiful human specimen eventually you’ll have to think about your future beyond the catwalk, is life after modeling a glamour-less future?
A Pretty Face Like A Million Others
Unfortunately, the problem with being the embodiment of what society deems as beautiful is the fact that it’s an umbrella distinction and relatively generic. When something is as generic as society’s standards of beauty, you’ll find that a lot of people will fit into that category. That means there is a horde of replacements just waiting for your first wrinkle or first frumpy photo-shoot, to dethrone you from the pantheon of stunning people.
Not that any other profession is any different, as the 30-year-old veteran is often replaced by a fresh out of college, Facebooking, instagramming kid. But in the modeling world this happens in a much harsher and rapid way. One day designers are swooning over you and draping you in their creations, and the next day a gangly 14-year-old is “discovered” and takes everything away. That is the unfortunate caveat of a being in a profession which only judges you, and evaluates you on one factor: attractiveness.
Reasons For Leaving
Although it’s a glamorous profession and at least on the surface an easy one, modeling is an extremely demanding profession, both physically and more importantly emotionally. Your look is under constant scrutiny, and the smallest infraction (gaining weight or blemished skin) is treated with extreme prejudice. This can be extremely damaging for an adolescent, either male or female. Add to that objectification, constant traveling and the social demands of the profession and you will find that many models opt out of the profession even before their career reaches maturity.
Models are also subjected to the pressure that younger models are constantly introduced into the fold, making them less and less competitive. As mentioned above eventually they are no longer marketable and relegated to posing for advertisements and big box store catalogues.
So we’ve all heard of the reactionary behavior of models on the decline; Kate Moss’ drug use, Naomi Campbell’s assistant abuse, then you have the horror show that is the previous contestants of America’s Next Top Model. Although the competition is set up to help young unknown models, it seems that it is more a career killer than a career builder. Not only did most of the models seen on the show not manage to start a career, it actually destroyed their lives. Granted the program is more reality show than model discovery, it still seems like a strange statistical sample of what often happens to models.
Here is a list of models that died while modeling this century…the list reads like a catalogue of rock star deaths, including numerous overdoses, murder, anorexia and suicide. There are extraordinarily high levels of suicides in the model industry, due to unrealistic demands on the models in regards to their body weight and their impending “aging out” of the industry. They are often afflicted with Marylyn Monroe Syndrome, which says although they are widely loved, superficially they are extraordinarily lonely because no one actually knows the real person behind the public persona. Finally, many models feel external pressure from the people that support them, their fans. Under constant scrutiny for their next professional move and quick to criticize them, fans are often vicious critics of the models they admire.
Career Based on Experience
Although many models often return to school to get an education, others use their experience in the industry to create a related business, most frequently model agencies. But the fashion industry has a whole periphery of professions that once trained or formally trained they can practice. From the most obvious such as photographers, designers, makeup artists and agents/recruiters to the highly specialized like lawyers and non-for-profit organizations that help models adjust to “normal” life.
Some of the luckier models that had world-wide recognized names often use them to create empires. Heidi Klum, Elle McPherson and Tyra Banks have all gone on to forge names not only as the most beautiful people in the world but also as respected entrepreneurs. Some models have even tried their hand at acting to various levels of success. As in the article, I linked to above the model/author says that even when your modeling career has ended you’re still young and have a rich experience many other people will never be privy to.
Yet another group of former models leave glamor far behind them in lieu of normality. Saturated by over-exposer and the demands of the industry they choose to take a conventional path, settle down and start a family. Although this may seem like a paradox, it makes sense. Once you have spent years of your life being shuttled between locations, spending hours being fitted, beautified and parading down runways, both the mind and the body eventually demands a slower, more fulfilling life. Family life (according to those that live it, and never shut up about it) is one of the most fulfilling pursuits people can engage in.
The Not So Domestic Life
Some models have a hard time not being the center of attention and venerated by oodles of fans. Instead of disappearing into obscurity, they choose to create controversy, much like Kate Moss’ drug abuse scandal, resurrecting their falling star. Kate Moss was extremely successful using this technique to re-enter the modeling world long after she was thought retired. Tack onto that a rock star love interest/monarch/married millionaire and you have the trappings of a story that would make any tabloid editor salivate with anticipation. I mean what sounds better than a headline that starts with: “Former models was the other man/woman!”. Everyone is just out there to make a buck.
See Also: Acclimating to Work After the Holidays
Are you a former model? We would love to hear about your experiences while working in the industry feel free to share your story in the comments section below.