Last night, PBS aired Girl Model, a 2011 documentary on the realities of the lives of young, aspiring international models. Around 50% of the movie appears with subtitles, as the film chronicles the life of 13-year-old Siberian model Nadya who speaks virtually no english. The english half of the film follows Ashley, a former American model-turned-scout as she travels the globe in search of the next big face for the Japanese market. Ashley isn’t particularly likable–she’s quite self-loathing and conflicted about her place in the industry and purpose in the world–and many of her scenes became hard to watch. Without Ashley, however, the film wouldn’t have ever been made: Girl Model’s director and producer revealed that it was Ashley who approached them to create the film, which was originally intended to focus on the thin, often-crossed line between modeling and prostitution in the overseas fashion industry. Though this issue is only briefly touched upon in the film’s final cut, Girl Model is still equally enlightening and disturbing. From the extreme demand for child models (12-13 is ideal, though girls are told to tell their agencies and clients that they are at least 15) to the lack of paid work, security, or regulations available to models, to their inevitable isolation and incurring of debt, the film casts a not-so-positive light on a very glamourous industry.
Girl Model is unlike any other modeling exposé I’ve ever seen. There is no mention of eating disorders, drug problems, or creepy photographers in this film. The central theme of the film is not fame, glamour, or superstardom…It is about the exploitation of an endless crop of very young girls by the entire international modeling industry. At its core, Girl Model is an atypical, sometimes disturbing glimpse into a world many of us love, but truly know little about.
If you missed the PBS broadcast last night, Girl Model will be streaming online today through April 23rd.
Liza, Editorial Director