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Bloggers taking on modelling jobs
The first kind of model was hired based on how representative they were of the consumer. It started back when women would commission clothing from seamstresses and individuals that resembled the patron were hired to display the dresses, accessories, snuff boxes… whatever. Fast forward to the kind of models today that you and I recognise, and they’re considered to be the standard of beauty. Especially in 2018, with a focus on diversity, more and more people are able to identify with the un-airbrushed mixed race girl on ASOS or the curly haired plus-size lady hawking moisturiser on a bus wrap. But before the commercial world caught on to what consumers wanted, millennials and Gen X were already turning their heads towards viral personalities. The key difference here is that public chose whom they wanted to take inspiration from, to whom they wanted to listen.
But as advertising puts more effort into a realistic representation of people, social media is taking a step in the opposite direction. This is more than just all of us using the same backdrops, filters or wearing the same off-the-shoulder Topshop blouse. As brand collaborations take precedent in the lives of career bloggers and are the driving motivation for new Instagrammers, will we become the new wave of commercial models? And critically, will we face a situation where only those who fit the industry’s standard of beauty will be the ones that make it?
Digital and modelling agencies
It was two years ago when I attended a talk hosted by a Nuffnang agent. She spoke about how she was representing a micro-influencer with a 10k following and that an international client chose her for a big budget campaign predominantly because of her ‘look’, rather than what we’d think was the obvious reasons – her stats and content. This was my first encounter of bloggers taking on modelling jobs. My own experience was when I was approached for seasonal shoots by huge brands, mostly via digital agencies. With friends in the industry and mostly because I don’t live under a rock, I knew that signed models could earn five figures for jobs like these. But when it came to budget for influencers, even the £1k mark caused hesitation and negotiation (I doubt that the brands themselves know how much we walk away with because they’re using third parties to deal with us). I know I’m not an industry standard model but if you’re asking me to do the exact same role and post on my account, why is my fee so far off from theirs?
As for the models, for years their agents have monitored the social media accounts of their represented. Those who have a sizeable following on Instagram book more jobs – just think about the purpose of bodies like Model Village who market their models as influencers because that social clout gives them more value. Many of the global agencies like Storm, Premier and Next have opened their talent divisions to digital figures. And although the criteria for them/us are different, let’s be honest, you still have to be attractive in their eyes.
They all look the same
These developments bring us to a very interesting pivot in the social media scene. Influencers are gradually replacing commercial models and as a pushback, these professionals are being encouraged or in some cases, pressurised to be popular online. It’s a generalisation but in the future, we are going to be mixed into one gigantic pool when it comes to who gets picked for brand collaborations. For those who are observant, this may not seem that new to you. After all, influencers on Instagram are usually thought of as bloggers or hot girls in Calvin Klein underwear (sometimes they are the same person). And okay, you may think that just because someone is big on a platform that doesn’t make them a recognised opinion leader with a portfolio of other talents, like styling or photography. But with such a low barrier to entry, we’re all just 60 minutes away from having our own website and whatever title that’s now on trend in our bios.
I’m not going to hark on about all the ways the industry has changed since I first started because tons of other girls have dedicated great posts to that. I will say that in the beginning, blogging or ‘influencing’ celebrated individuality and just half a decade on, it’s desperately seeking out conformity. The reason I believe that this will only be propelled further is because to a huge extent, brands are still in control when it comes to the success of a burgeoning influencer. Want a repost from Missguided or the majority of high street brands for that matter? If you look like you could be casted for Love Island, your chances are higher. Sure the Chiaras and Aimees of this world can dictate work on their terms but let’s talk about the main bulk of us who are still paving our way, because we’re the ones greatly affected.
Do we have any choice?
Have we ever? Throughout my short but intense three year journey on Instagram, I’ve had changing opinions about whether brands take advantage of us or if as a collective, we ask too much from them. This is why I’ve written posts questioning brands’ authenticity and that super popular one about not being a brand whore. We are the accumulation of the choices we make and I think that in a job that is so personal, the same rule applies. In this sense, we can manage our careers and not be too swayed by financial motivations or the lure of ‘the brand everyone is working with’.
However, what control we do have is limited. For example, if you don’t have the right ‘look’ for the kind of brand or type of work you’re after, this could put you in a risky situation. This is particularly the case for luxury brands. To bring it back to models, think about how unlikely it would be if someone as fabulous and beautiful as Chrissy Teigen (forget about whether she’d want to or not this is demonstrative) walked for Chanel at Couture Week. It doesn’t matter how awesome and popular you are, it’s just not. going. to. happen. And think of all those A.N.T.M makeovers to get the girls to look edgier and more editorial so they could book more prestigious jobs! Part of the saving grace of blogging was that originally, it was a counter to problems like these. Is it just me or are we backsliding?
After talking to some individuals in the industry, luxury brands are taking influencer marketing seriously, but those with whom they wish to be associated is even more controlled than I had thought. When I brought up a few popular bloggers, I asked my contact how they managed to maintain such great brand collaborations, in spite of some accounts suffering from low engagement (and pretty normal content). The answer was what we learnt right at the start of this post: her look. Brands knew that they were unlikely to get sales conversions and neither would those posts raise much brand awareness – the two main key performance indicators (KPI) of any campaign. But they still wanted to work with her because she was the right kind of beautiful.
It may be the art historian in me but I like to think of things as happening in waves. The bloggers that started around a year or two after my time (2011) are probably the last wave of ‘influencers’ that have enough say over what we do and can still make an honest living. It’s because we’ve had the time to grow a variety of our social media platforms, get attention for our blogs (that were fewer in number back then) to rank up our SEO value. Not only that but we’ve had the years to establish enough quality content to prove our worth. I’m not saying it’s impossible for everyone else but it’s going to be a lot harder; not solely because of the algorithm but because of how much we allow likes and commercial work to dictate our aesthetic.
These are a few of my thoughts on how we can combat this: Firstly, invest in the brands that invest in you. So be smart about the collaborations you spend time chasing, not only should you want to work with them but they’re going to be loyal and supportive of your career, not just the way you look. This means you’ll build mutual respect that won’t falter because your stats suck the one month you were sick and barely posted. Secondly, if you find that you are getting a lot of ‘modelling’ jobs, try and get a reputable agent who will fight for your value. Thirdly, if you aren’t getting the type of brands you’re after and you suspect that it might be your ‘look’, question what your incentive is. No company is worth feeling sour over a random rejection.
shot by Alise Jane