Someone proposed the term ‘conscious modelling’ to me in an interview recently, and I thought it was really interesting. ‘Conscious’ is a term that has popped up everywhere, from food to fashion and it’s about time it was applied to modelling too.
The definition of ‘conscious' is ‘aware of and responding to one's surroundings’ and ‘having knowledge of something’. This is how I would define conscious modelling too - being aware of yourself as a model, the job you are doing and what your image is being used for. Ultimately, understanding the potential you have to influence others with and being able to choose what to do with that potential.
1. Being conscious of what modelling is
It’s a career, a job like any other. If you were going to become anything from lawyer to a chef, you would research that job thoroughly. You’d gain an understanding of what it involves, what a typical day looks like, which companies are best suited to your personality and ambitions. Modelling is no different, though models rarely have the same insight into their own careers when starting out as they are often plucked from obscurity and are extremely young. They most likely had never considered modelling, and until now there has been a severe lack of information for them to equip themselves with. The Model Manifesto book and prevalence of models sharing their experiences on social media and blogs allow aspiring and current models more opportunity than ever to learn about their job.
Conscious modelling in this aspect requires you to be aware of your own job, rights and responsibilities - acknowledging you are self-employed and deserve to be treated with respect. This means understanding how to be prepared for work, what kind of work you want to do, how to pay tax, the contracts behind the job, operating in a professional manner and understanding it is a career, not a hobby. Clients may pay thousands of pounds to book you for a job, and they expect professionalism in return.
It is also impossible to stand up for your rights if you don’t know what they are!
2. Being conscious that models have a choice
Models are no longer booked by a selection of images on a website. Nowadays their entire personality is available to see online, with social media elevating models from voiceless faces to human beings with our own personal brands.
As a model on a job, you are representing a company, and you are essentially endorsing them by modelling for them. Models are often given zero choice as to the work they do (unless you're a supermodel, maybe!) and are just sent an address and time to be at a job. I have modelled for brands that have made me feel extremely uncomfortable as I did not want to represent that to society - whether that was wearing £5 blazers as mini dresses, pretending to be pregnant or wearing fur - and I didn't know that I could say no. When I did say no for the first time last year, I was sent home at lunch!
However I was so happy that I had stood up for myself and my beliefs and wouldn't be working with a client that didn't respect those again. With social media, this is changing as models understand they have their own voices and can actually use them. They are being tagged in pictures and represent the brand more than ever - which works both ways as clients often seek out models on Instagram who's personality fits with their brand.
It is important to remember that you can say no to whatever you like and to always uphold your own beliefs - your integrity is not for sale.
3. Being conscious that models have a voice
Modelling blurs the lines between your personal and work life, however one benefit of this is being able to use the influence you have as a model to promote what you believe in. Organisations such as @modelactivist are helping models more than ever to use their voices to empower others to follow the causes they believe in, whether that is sustainability, climate change, human rights or anything else you can think of.
One by-responsibility it is important for models to be conscious of is the impact that our industry is having on the world both in terms of social impact (whether that may be promoting unrealistic beauty standards) or sustainability. Fast fashion is a huge strain on our world in terms of climate change, human labour and fossil fuels. It is a responsibility of ours as models (in my opinion!) to help educate others on the true impact of buying clothes every week off unrealistic images, on our minds and world as a whole.
Ultimately conscious modelling comes down to being aware of the world around you and the impact you are having in it - choose what that means for you.