Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Model blogs and blacklists

Self-portrait/Sessilee Lopez

Spotted on COACD that African American model Sessilee Lopez has her own blog. I’d be fascinated to know just how many models are blogging – and notably, how many are doing it under their own names. Judging by the number of working girls who have gone on the record recently about the skinny model issue – I can think of only three - you have to wonder how honest any model blog can possibly be?

Fashion is a business known far more for its hubris and hyperventilation, than its cold hard analysis. So perhaps we should forgive Douglas Perrett of COACD for his breathless appraisal of Lopez’s blog.

He notes today:

“Now in her blog she opens up to us, her adoring fans about the perils of being, not only one of the world’s it models, but one of its only black it models. Through her own words she shares with us how she broke the Grace Jones mold that so many girls are put into and rose to the top”.

I’ve had a look through Lopez’s blog and I am struggling to find much insight about the industry’s perils – or exactly how Lopez "broke through the Grace Jones mold”. Although perhaps the key here is to read between the lines.

In her first entry, dated October 30th 2007, Lopez explains she has just jumped ship from IMG to New York’s Major Models.

In her second entry, dated December 12th, she notes:

“I've been out of the NYC scene for a while because I've been based in Paris, France over the past month or so, and loving every second of it. Although, I had my tough times in this crazy city, I wouldn't change it for anything in the world. Major Models in Paris are the ones representing me and I just love my agents. They work so hard for me knowing that "women of color" don't work so well out here and slowly but surely we're changing that! So far, I worked with many amazing photographers for several different magazines and I am so proud of my new work, very different from the whole Grace Jones styling that I usually get”.

On April 14th, Lopez logged a shoot for Metal Magazine in the Canary Islands. She notes that although Josephine Baker was the initial inspiration for the shoot:

“ the last minute it was changed to a Grace Jones - a black female Ivan Drago (Rocky 3) type of look”.

Lopez breaking the Grace Jones mould on Metal Magazine/Sessilee Lopez

And on May 7th she logs a shoot she did with photographer Simon Procter - which was dropped altogether.

Of course this month Lopez features on one of four covers of, and a spectacular 30 pages of editorial inside, Vogue Italia’s landmark all-black edition. For this issue Steven Meisel shot a number of black models, both women who are currently working and veterans. The names include Liya Kebede, Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman, Toccara Jones, Alek Wek, Naomi Campbell, Iman, Pat Cleveland and Veronica Webb.

Lopez on the cover of Vogue Italia July 2008/Sessilee Lopez

Here is a good sample of scans from the issue on high profile New York women's blog Jezebel.

This issue is one of several fashion industry initiatives which would appear to address recently-raised concerns about the lack of diversity in the business.

Lopez shot by Steven Meisel/Vogue Italia/Sessilee Lopez

And Vogue Italia's all-black issue is proving not only a talking point, but a hot seller. On Monday WWD reported that by 10.00am last Friday, the day the issue went on sale, New York newsagencies were selling out of the issue – and that not only had Conde Nast increased US newsstand distribution of the issue by 40percent, but the company would print an additional 10,000 copies.

But there have been criticisms.

Some have suggested the all-black issue is just a token gesture.

Others, that Vogue Italia deliberately sidelined the idea into one of the year’s lowest-profile editions.

Others still have called into question the appropriateness of the “blackface” makeup in some images. And more than one has suggested that many images are simply imitations of Jean Paul Goude’s iconic ‘80s studies of Grace Jones.

Frockwriter can’t help musing that, at the end of the day, shouldn’t the real agenda here be to include more black models in regular fashion coverage - rather than grouping them all into a separate edition?

You’re unlikely to hear that on Lopez’s blog because, presumably, she’s thrilled with her part of the action. And fair enough.

Meanwhile Jezebel is paying what it claims is a bona fide working model to pen a semi-regular sub-blog called Modelslips.

So far they're not earth-shattering revelations but the model, "Tatiana", does nevertheless nibble the hand that feeds.

Of course, she's anonymous. So we have absolutely no idea who she really is - and those she criticises can't ice her out. Which is precisely what they would attempt to do if they knew her identity. The "cokeblown oaf of a booker" (and what a brilliant line that is) would presumably be first in line with the ice pick.

The journalist in me has a really hard time believing that the person penning this column has no professional writing experience.

Tatiana confesses that she has attended college, but to my eye the writing is pretty slick – and cynical.

Notes Tatiana in one entry:

"Last night I worked, unpaid, for six hours so that a fashion designer could continue dressing socialites and selling out her sunglass and perfume licenses and decorating her SoHo apartment with Picassos. I did it notionally for pictures on ("Think of your pictures on!" a minder hissed whenever we models began to look slightly wilted in the third hour of standing, immobile, in shoes invariably two sizes too small or two too big.) But actually, if you want to be technical, I did it for two slices of melon and a lipstick and a dress. And I did it because I knew if I hadn't, my agency would've been disappointed — "She's a little difficult," I could already hear my cokeblown oaf of a booker whispering in a client's ear, "how about Dasha or Angelika instead, mmh?" — and because I would've been replaced for the show in less than an instant if I had quibbled with the remuneration offered.

"Six hours.

" didn't even get my good side.

"We had come from Brazil and Canada, from the Ukraine and the Bronx. From Croatia, Australia, and Korea. We had come to work a presentation — to spend three hours in hair and makeup, and three hours entertaining those individuals wealthy and well-connected enough to make the guest list. We wore a resort collection. Although resort collections are timed for mid-winter release, they are brief, pretty, summery garments — the idea being that you pack them to take on your January cruise. This is my "career" in a nutshell: I work for free to sell overpriced clothes to the women for whom an invitation to a fashion show and a Picasso and a January cruise are among life's givens".





Timo Rissanen said...

Summer Rayne Oakes blogs, though not about being a model so much as her work with raising environmental awareness:

But I do like Tatiana's misguided bitterness.

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