Flipping through the semi-gloss pages of a magazine and seeing an uncommon face mixed with recognizable celebrities and pop-culture moguls has been the standard for decades.
Now, it seems to be getting harder to discern which chiseled cheekbones belong to each category, as the distinction between celebrities and models seems to be narrowing.
The new phenomenon of celebrity fashion models, presumably getting its start with Kendall Jenner’s triumphant emergence as a fashion industry icon, has taken over runways and print advertisements alike.
Fashion shows showcase the collections and the designer’s closest celebrity cohorts – sitting both front row and walking the catwalk. Popular faces on runways this year included Gigi Hadid, daughter of Yolanda Hadid, a personality on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Kendall Jenner, member of the Kardashian/Jenner clan, and Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp.
For aspiring models, the blurring lines between celebrities and models on the runway can add another hurdle in an already fast-paced and intense rat race.
“As a model who doesn’t come from a recognizable family, it has added another level of difficulty when trying to distinguish yourself,” Ana Cristina, a 21-year-old fashion model, said. “Now you’re not just competing with thousands of other girls, you’re also competing with celebrities, who already have an advantage.”
Cristina, like many other models, has dedicated a large amount of time and money to pursuing her modeling goals. Dropping out of high school after her junior year and moving across the country from Minneapolis to San Francisco was Cristina’s version of jumping in feet first.
“With modeling, you can’t be afraid to just go for it. It really does wear you down as much as everyone says it will, and you will get rejected hundreds of times,” Cristina said. “But that first ‘yes’ will make all of the exhaustion worth it.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2014 the number of modeling jobs fell at around 5,800 and that a model’s median pay was a mere $27,530 a year. These are shocking statistics to hear in relation to an industry that sounds so prestigious and glamour-filled.
With so few jobs and so many models, modeling is one of the most competitive industries, making it trying, physically and mentally. Models work tirelessly, with the hopes that they make it big.
Some models do make it big. Women like Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, and Naomi Campbell all got their starts on the runway and have become some of the most recognizable people in the entertainment business. But the important distinction is what came first, the career or the fame?
“A lot of models who become extremely successful worked for their success and there is a difference between a model who becomes a celebrity and a celebrity who becomes a model,” Cristina said. “The latter takes away from the modeling industry as a whole and exploits their notoriety for an advantage.”
The purpose of models, in their purest form, is to showcase the clothing or product they are trying to sell. When somebody like Kendall Jenner or Lily-Rose Depp walks down the runway in Chanel couture, everybody sees the person wearing the clothes and not the craftsmanship of the clothes themselves.
The modeling industry is riddled with ethical issues from representation to sexual objectification, but the fight for opportunities seems to be the newest amongst a handful of battles.
“A lot of people come into this industry thinking it’s one way or another, but at its core, it is really sort of heartless. You have to be okay with not feeling glamorous and not getting a paycheck for months on end,” Cristina said. “It’s hard enough competing with other no-name models that when Kendall Jenner shows up, it’s hard to have respect for her knowing how easily she got there.”