The furore surrounding the Channel Five TV series, Make Me A Supermodel – in which the harsh judges often severely criticized the thirteen contestants – is a public relations disaster for the UK model industry that struggles to be taken seriously in the highly competitive world of international commerce.
This is the verdict of Mike Illes, director at London and Berkhamsted-based MOT Models that is one of the busiest agencies in Europe.
“It is crucial that prospective models, their worried parents and clients are aware that the poor impression given on the TV series does not apply to all model agencies. It is relevant to just a few diva-driven enterprises.
“We’ve been in business for 20 years and in that time have represented over very many hundreds of models who have appeared in national and worldwide campaigns for virually every brand of every product you could care to think of from commodity to extreme luxury.
“Our new talent coordinators would never dream of excessively criticizing an individual as portrayed in the TV program and if we had a difficult problem to discuss with a model, it would always be done on a one-to-one basis in private. The systematic humiliation of a model will not help them.
“We are proud of our track record in supporting models through their education, to the benefit of their long-term career and have often recommended to young models that they concentrate on their study and combine it with modeling, rather than letting their study plans go awry.”
MOT Models represents 200 top models of all ages and has a broad client base. The agency looks to hire models that are fit, happy and positive in their outlook as this generates the best photographic results.
“The show was very worrying for people whose teenage children might be considering a career in modeling but it was equally disturbing for those who see it as completely alien to the work done by many responsible model agencies. I fear we will see a down-turn in people wanting to make a serious career of modeling.
“The series devalued what is a good profession for many young people with its determined focus on the absolute need to be a ‘supermodel’. It is a ‘winner take-all philosophy’ that leaves those not chosen to worry irrationally. With nurturing, probably several of the girls selected at the start of the programme could have a career as a model albeit not of the ‘super’ class. Of course, though, that would just not have made for such “good” TV.
“A worrying phrase that was repeatedly uttered by the protagonists is, “we can’t make you a supermodel”, implying that so long as they were open to enough manipulation, they stood a chance. It is the total antithesis of what in reality works well – people developing their innate self-belief and self-esteem.
“I was horrified to hear that the impressionable girls needed to be ‘broken down emotionally as well as physically’, which is a highly dangerous strategy, underlined by the statement that a psychologist was on hand 24 hours a day. Who is going to put them together again now the show’s over?
“There were some valid points made in Make me a Supermodel, especially by the experts brought in to assist, but sadly the helpful words were completely overshadowed by the relentless cynicism that seeped through every pore of this disturbing series. Thank goodness it’s finished.”
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