Model masterclass? You may as well throw your cash away


Gisele Bundchen for Colcci's spring 2015 campaign

A follower sent me a link yesterday to a model masterclass that her teenage daughter really, really wanted to do. She wasn't sure whether she should fork out the money; her daughter "has what it takes", she said. "Would this help her get a foot in the door?"

A brief history of the model masterclass in the media

When I was a young 'un, I used to be fierce fond of reading Just SeventeenBliss and Company; occasionally, when my Mother was distracted, I could slip a copy of More in with the shopping, but the possibility of her opening it up on the "Position of the Fortnight" spread was always of great concern to me. Those magazines were good for a lot of things: they taught me a lot about sexual consent; I was informed of the myriad ways one could not get pregnant; I learned about date rape drugs and glitter lip gloss and how to straighten one's hair using a Babyliss straightener that was approximately the width of a paperback book. Those were simple days.

Another thing that I remember these magazines focusing a lot on? Modelling.

It's always been high on the teenage girl's list of ideal careers. We spend all of our lives having the idea that our looks are paramount drummed into us ("Who's a pretty girl?") so it's no surprise that being hired as a model – that is, having a total stranger telling you that you fit into the world's narrow view of beauty – was considered the ultimate boon.

But, obviously, it won't be for everyone. There will be a lot of us who are too short; there will be a few of us who are too tall. There will be women who are too plump (fewer women who are too slim); there will be those whose faces are not symmetrical enough, whose eyes are not expressive enough, whose mouths are too small for their round faces (my own personal Achilles' heel – if it wasn't for that damn mouth I could be Gisele by now).

The magazines I loved as a teen knew this, and also knew that, behind the door of possibility every teenage girl wanted to walk through, there was an opportunistic person just waiting to part them with their money, for the privilege of showing them exactly how to be a model. They would teach them how to walk; they would demonstrate the "art" of posing; they'd take some professional photographs for them and send them home with a portfolio.

Even in the late 1990s, my media oracles were wise to the model masterclass: the only function it served would be to make you slightly poorer. It would not – could not – bring you closer to actually being a model and, in any case, that wasn't what it was for. It's designed to make money (not for you), by exploiting the way in which young girls are thirsty for model fame (a thirst encouraged by basically every single thing they've seen and heard about their looks since the moment they were born).

model masterclass Girl Model movie

From Girl Model, a documentary that may well put you off the whole thing

Do you really want to know how to be model?

Modelling is 90% nature and 10% nurture. What does that mean? Essentially this: either you have it, or you don't. Sure, there are women who have "it" – it being the looks and the body – but can't walk, or pose for a photograph, but that can be taught (or ignored; there are loads of fashion models who aren't great posers or walkers, but eventually get a good shot, and have such incredible "looks" that no one cares how rubbish they are at doing their jobs).

If you – or your teenager daughter – think you have what it takes to be a model, becoming a model in Ireland is fairly simple. You take some photographs, in natural lighting, maybe against a plain backdrop (like a wall – do it outside if possible), wearing something super simple and form-fitting (skinny jeans and a vest are good), with ZERO make-up / fake tan / hair extensions.

You send said photographs to a model agency; you wait. If you have "it", they will be in touch. If you don't, they won't. You can't attend a model masterclass to get "it". What you can do is fork over your hard-earned cash, learn to walk like a model and pose like a model and have some photographs taken – but ultimately, none of that will matter.

I get that we live in a capitalist society, and that everyone has to make a living – but when your money is earned by capitalising on the hopes and dreams of young women who see their value solely in their looks, well, shame on you. If you really, really want to be a model, spend your money on a decent hairdresser, one who won't give you streaky highlights; pay for a gym membership (because you may be naturally lean, but toning your muscles won't hurt); have someone take flattering photographs of you and cross your fingers. Do not take a model masterclass; it won't be worth it.