MC’s fashion editor shares her thoughts on the new generation of ‘Supermodels.
Back in the day, all a supermodel needed to have were a great pair of legs, killer cheekbones, a strong runway presence and that special aura that literally commands your attention. But in today’s digitally influenced, social media-saturated world, a supermodel’s earning power is derived not only by how many shows she walked or which magazine covers she graced, but how many Instagram followers she has and how many likes her post attracts. They no longer need to go through hell and high-water to get bookings and to prove themselves in order to achieve the status they crave in the ever-demanding industry.
But this also means that the supermodels of today are much more relatable than they were, during the rise of the Supermodels. They are a little more real, in the sense that they could be the girl-next-door, but with a bit more luck and help from social media to kick-start their rise to fame. The presence of social media helps us to catch glimpses into their lives almost making it feel like you know them. They are given a new sense of power and a voice which enables them to communicate to the public directly— something that, historically, the industry hasn’t had much interest in. And now a model is much more than just a model—she acts, sings, writes books (smart move, Kendall Jenner) and most recently, she also gets behind the lens (Gigi Hadid photographs her beau Zayn Malik for Versus Versace’s SS17 campaign). And she is given the opportunity to do all of the above simply by being an ‘Influencer’ rather than the (lack of) skills she owns.
For me personally, an influential person would be someone like Malala Yousafzai, a 19-year old Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate who was shot in the head for advocating female education. She is about the same age as Gigi Hadid, yet she has only a fraction of the followers on Instagram. Even some of the year’s biggest models such as Arizona Muse, and Lara Stone have little media presence while Gigi Hadid, Chanel Iman and Kendall Jenner have practically made a business out of their social media accounts. And while a large social media presence is no doubt a useful tool, does it really equate to more success? Has the benchmark of top quality work been lowered so that a model or rather, an ‘influencer’, can snag any job: one that she has no experience in; one that talented, experienced and, if I may, more deserving individuals would kill for? Forget brushing up on your skills, just get online, garner as many followers as you can and voila! You can be anything or anyone that you want to be.
In my opinion, social media savvy or not, what these influential models have in common with the supermodels of the past is that bold personality and a stage presence. They know how to garner and hold your attention for as long as possible, something that brands are looking for. They are the connector between the brand and the target audience. The Hadids and the Jenners help the brands cast out their hooks and fish out new targets—but how the brands reel the audience in and gain brand loyalty is another story altogether.