The label ‘Supermodel’ is a universally known term and just like the fashion industry, it's implications are forever evolving. We can look at supermodels of the past and present and see many distinct differences. Models of the past had to gain attention and recognition without the help of social media, while the majority of models today have had the help of Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr. But do these differences dictate who gets to hold the almighty prize of being known as a Supermodel? Or is it finally time thatwe just drop the title altogether?
Young models hitting the runway today don't catch a break when it comes to criticism. Faces like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid always seem to fall target to harsh words surrounding the controversy with the modern usage of the "supermodel" label. Model Rebecca Romijn spoke out in April 2016 to Entertainment Weekly, claiming that she didn't consider Kendall and Gigi to be supermodels, moreso social media stars. Commenting, "[I] hate it that these, you know, social media stars are now the supermodels in fashion. They are not true supermodels." Romijn stated that she believes the two do not follow in tradition with the original 90's supermodel squad of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, and Christy Turlington. Following the publication of Romijn's beliefs, British Vogue tweeted a link to an article documenting the story with the headline reading, “Who said Kendall and Gigi are not true supermodels?” and thousands of people responded with just a single word - "everyone." Romijn's colleague Stephanie Seymour joined the conversation, telling Vanity Fair that "supermodels are a thing of the past" while also slyly taking a jab at models like Kendall and Gigi by saying that the new title for today’s model generation should be “bitches of the moment.” Ouch.
First of all, it's clear that the job description of a model has changed dramatically. As Tyra Banks explained in a blog post, the OGs started out by getting work from low-end "janky" magazines, walking in showroom fashion shows at a local mall, traveling with no help from Ubers or Lyfts, while the supermodels of today have help from the new social world. But that doesn't mean that today's gang doesn't work just as hard. Because social media tracks their every move, today’s models have to be “always on.” Their job doesn’t end when the shoot or runway show is over. Successful models today give up much of their personal lives to achieve their ambitions. Although this generation has been provided with some modern shortcuts, they have also been given new barriers.
" Why should women be competing for a title that does nothing but devalue them? "
The modelling industry is one of the few in the world where women make as much or more money than their male colleagues. We've seen game changers like Naomi Campbell use her visibility to inspire millions of underrepresented young women. Is this intense discrimination of other women really worth it? Instead of lifting one another up, we are witnessing women who are willing to say and do anything to make themselves look the best. In an industry with so much pressure to be 'perfect', we don’t need a title pitting the women who work in it against each other. Women have worked so hard to be valued for things beyond what is superficial, and yet here we are, throwing each other under the bus for a label that ultimately champions attractiveness as the most supreme quality. We are are now at a place where we are finally valued for our thoughts and opinions and should recognize these gifts in others as well as ourselves; we are so much more than a label.
Women are so much more than pretty faces. They have talents, beliefs, strengths, and they all deserve a chance to showcase them to the world. But affiliation with the word 'supermodel' boxes people into a place where you're only meant to stand there and look appealing. This term reinforces the antiquated perception of where the value of women truly lies, and goads us into subscribing to it. Why should women be competing for a title that does nothing but devalue them?
It's evident that in 2016 being a model is a different job than it was in the past, not easier or harder. Old challenges have been put to the side and new ones have arisen. While we learn to accept the fact that the job description is changing, we also need to start coming to terms with the fact that the label of being a supermodel is quickly becoming an old-fashioned title. It's the source of many unnecessary girl x girl fights, and since the word does much more to divide us than unite us, perhaps it is time to put it to rest.