Social media have changed our lives. That sounds dramatic, but it does. Look at the restaurant or on the train but once around you: how many people are bent over with their noses above their smartphone screen? The modelling industry has also been since the arrival of Instagram and co. no longer the same.
Once, in the distant past, discovering a new model sounded like a fairy tale. Just think of Kate Moss, who was spotted when she, as a 14-year-old, lit a cigarette at an airport, or the 15-year-old Naomi Campbell who was discovered during a walk-through Covent Garden in London. They were just in the right place at the right time and with a portion chance they got the question “Have you ever considered modelling work?”. The rest is of course history.
With the advent of social media that whole phenomenon has completely changed. Instagram is packed with handsome women who can kick it into a model. And instead of scouring the streets, talent scouts now use hashtags to search for their latest it-girl. Models also take advantage of this. Just look at the Dutch Alyssa Traoré. She shared several photos of herself on her account, hoping to attract the attention of an agency. Successfully, in the meantime she has even been a model for Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Prada and Valentino.
But it works equally well the other way around. IMG Models is the perfect example, says Harpers Bazaar. The agency launched the We Love Your Genes hashtag (#WLYG) to encourage influencers to post photos of themselves with the hashtag. In this way they have come into contact with talents worldwide.
“The hashtag has opened doors for girls who do not live in big cities or cannot afford to travel far for castings,” says Jeni Rose, senior vice president at IMG Models, at Harpers Bazaar. “There is a girl who lives in a dangerous neighbourhood in Venezuela and cannot travel. One of our colleagues, who also comes from Venezuela, has travelled to meet her. This would never have happened without social media.”
But to say that Instagram is a kind of online portfolio, is a bit too simplistic. Your photos and snout may be so beautiful, even your likes and followers are important. The general rule: the more you have there, the more chance you have to be booked. Two years ago, Vogue already wrote that attention shifted from the quality of the work to the number of likes, clicks and online buzz. Even during castings, it has become the daily cost to pulse to your online figures and followers. “You may still burst with talent, if you are not on Instagram or blogging, you run the risk of becoming invisible or even worse, to miss out on opportunities.”
That it is not all rose fragrance and moonshine is also apparent from a study that was conducted last year by the British Royal Society for Public Health. The research showed that Instagram is the worst social medium for your mental well-being. Your sleep quality does not go by, you will suffer from FOMO [Fear Of Missing Out] and it can give you a bad self-image. And let us not forget that models are just ordinary people.
“The first thing models do in the morning is checking their smartphone and seeing all sorts of other models on their feed,” says Traore. “It’s just hard to see the whole industry as a job and not your whole life. During a casting, you can become very insecure if you compare yourself with other girls, but Instagram means you’re doing it non-stop,” she says.
Beforehand, the model had never considered that social media would play a major role in her career. Something they had clearly mistaken about, she admits now. “An Instagram account requires a lot of work and you actually have to be online 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. That often makes me feel like I’m wasting my time with scrolling,” she concludes.