Models Aren’t Brain Surgeons
I was a model from age 4 until age 12. I did mostly runway work for Gimbels, Hornes, and Kaufmanns in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from the mid-sixties until the early seventies. I also remember doing print work and a few other tidbits here and there from time to time. It was my first job, and I am not sure how they paid me, because my mom always took care of that stuff, but I got the impression that the pay was pretty low. I didn’t care, because I only did it about 4 times a year and it got me a lot of popularity points at school, and for a young kid, it was just another novelty thing to do. Plus, I do remember my savings account topping a hundred dollars at some point (oh boy!).
For me modeling was cool and fun, but I really hated fittings. Fittings were the trying on of various clothes over and over again in different sizes to see what made you look best. At that time, I tended to look best in Bill Blass and Christian Dior. Sometimes, I was asked to pull different pull-toys (duckies, etc.) down the runway, and one time I was on TV with a dog. It wasn’t difficult, stressful, or even tiring for me.
Ever since then, I have had little respect for the modeling business and find the overloading of media attention given to models ridiculous and baffling. I knew at a very young age that modeling was silly and superficial. I always knew that modeling was temporary for me, and could never imagine really taking it seriously as a life’s work. Instead, at a very young age, I saw myself as a scientist or artist and the modeling thing was just novelty and proprietary vanity. I moved away from Pittsburgh and modeling when I was 12, and had no remorse in leaving the business. I was never anything near a supermodel, and in fact, was sort of a tomboy during those years, as I loved sports and trailed my older brothers a lot of the time. However, I am and always have been content with the entire modeling experience. Given the amount I did, it was no big deal.
At that time, the big models were Twiggy, Cybil Shephard, and Cheryl Tiegs. This was the beginning of the now overbearing phenomenon known as the supermodel. Now, of course, these girls have a right to make a living like anyone else. But what distresses me is that my children will probably read/watch/hear much less about Albert Einstein than Cindy Crawford. Much more about Naomi Campbell (who is supposed to be one of the biggest bitches on the runway, I might add) than about Stephen Hawking or Steve Jobs. Even the word “model” is disturbing. The definition of model in Webster’s New World Dictionary is “a person or thing considered as a standard of excellence to be imitated.” Wrong. Instead they should be called the “pretty but unimportant people,” “those who look good in really ugly clothes made from a yard of cloth or less,” or maybe the clinical “good specimens.” You may say, “oh, but some models are real intelligent.” “Cindy Crawford was valedictorian at her high school.” I have no argument for that. But young women don’t know or care about that. It’s irrelevant. Now, if Cindy cures cancer, then I’ll be impressed.
Even though I was a model, my role models typically came from reading. In particular, in elementary school, I remember reading a whole slew of biographies on the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Babe Didrikson, Knute Rockne, Teddy Roosevelt, and Madame Curie. I still remember the shelf with all those books and where it was in the library. These were the people that I admired, and I remember how cool it was that you could make history and then people would write about you after you were dead.
Most people never seem to recognize the image revolution, nor the impact of never-ending TV on those who are troubled that they analyze. When a young girl is disturbed by her appearance, perhaps it is time to step back and look at where she gets her role models. According to Mara Selvini Palazzoli, in her book, Self-Starvation , “young girls are subjected to […] the fashionable need to appear slim and sophisticated, the widespread publicity of dietetic aids, the constant discussion, at home or among girlfriends, of calories and weight, and above all the social ridicule in which women of Rubensian proportions are held.”
Instead of enjoying childhood and building a healthy self-image, many young girls idolize the supermodels who have done absolutely nothing to contribute to the moral good or scientific advancement of this or any country. In a nutshell, young girls everywhere are looking up to women for no other reason than the way they look. Unless you find the Fashion Cafe a suitable contribution to society, that is.
To me and my family, the situation is laughable. If you don’t read or study science, art, philosophy, or history seriously, then why should I listen to you? This is the proposition I grew up with, and believe me, I did not have hippie parents. They were just second generation Europeans who wanted freedom and intelligent endeavors to be the centers of our universe. But perhaps there is hope in this new decade. How will the oh-oh’s (00’s) be remembered? Albert Einstein was named the person of the previous century by Time magazine. Isn’t it time we honor scientists like Bruce Walker, one of many men and women who have devoted their lives to the advancement of AIDS research? What? You haven’t heard of him? Or Dr. James Scotti, the astronomer who recently spotted an asteroid that could possibly hit the earth in 2022? I would much rather meet one of these guys and shoot the bull than discuss dieting methods and make-up tools with Tyra Banks. But would your daughter?
I took that cover of Time and put it on my son’s bulletin board. And hopefully, he will never have to ask, “Hey Mom, who is that guy?”