Many of us tend to believe that the modeling industry is one of the most luxurious, exclusive, and fun industries to get into and build a career in. We see in social media how runway models live the time of their lives. They go to places like Paris, France and Milan, Italy. They don the most beautiful outfits, go to exclusive parties, and rub elbows with prominent figures not just in modeling and fashion, but also in the entertainment industry.
But what many of us don’t truly realize is that there is a dark side to this industry. This is the dark side that we don’t often see on posts on Instagram or interviews on YouTube. Many models go through mental health struggles behind the scenes. As a mental health professional, understanding these struggles is the first step towards helping them. Once we understand their struggles, this is where our efforts in attending counseling workshops and conferences will ultimately pay off.
Stress, Fear, and Anxiety from Body-shaming
To become a model, the often unspoken rule is that you need to have a certain body type. You need to be tall and slim enough to fit the clothes that designers made and to blend well with the other models. Many models today have been bravely defying this rule. One of them is Ashley Graham. She’s known to be one of the few successful plus-size models in the industry. However, it is important to note that she detested using the word “plus-size” because it creates a sense of making other models feel like they don’t belong. Another successful model who defied expectations is Winnie Harlow. She struggles with vitiligo, a skin condition that caused pale patches on her dark skin.
But despite these defiers, body-shaming is part of the norm in the modeling industry. Thus, many models have suffered from its effects, developing mental health conditions such as stress, fear, and anxiety.
A common side effect of rampant body-shaming in the modeling industry is the development of eating disorders. Models are often advised (even forced) to drop a few pounds before they work on certain shows or before fashion week. As many of us know, “dropping a few pounds” is not as easy as it seems. Thus, many models turned to develop eating habits that have major effects on their mental health and bodies.
A survey conducted by Medical News Today found that 40 percent of models are suffering from an eating disorder — taking into consideration both confirmed and unconfirmed cases. They opt to starve themselves (anorexia nervosa) or force themselves to purge (bulimia nervosa).
Stress from the Workload and Traveling
If models aren’t going through the stress caused by body-shamers in the industry, they are often going through stress caused by the workload and traveling. Again, walking down the runway while wearing the most beautiful clothes of the season seems so easy and fun. But, in truth, it’s really not. More often than not, models go through multiple shows a day, especially during fashion week. They run around town, from one venue to the next. Sit through hours of hair and makeup sessions, accomplish dress fittings, and just hope to get a hot meal in between sessions.
On top of all of that, they also travel a lot and almost never home. Sure, it can be fun to visit European countries. But being away from their home and their loved ones can still be very stressful. Many would say that this is just part of the job and models should’ve been prepared for it before pursuing this line of career. But this doesn’t mean that it gets easier for everyone.
Trauma from Sexual Harassment and Assault
Much like any other industry in the world, the model industry has its fair share of cases of sexual harassment and abuse. And models are often at the center of it all. They are often hounded by paparazzi and taken advantage of by fashion executives. Models such as Kate Upton, Sara Sampaio, and Elsa Hosk stepped forward and shared their stories of sexual harassment and assault in the modeling industry as part of the #MeToo movement.
Such experiences have caused mental health repercussions on models. Since then, many of them suffered from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As mental health professionals, it’s our job to help people power through their mental health struggles. And, as mentioned before, the first step towards that is understanding their struggles. Models are often misunderstood. Many believe that they’re always living the time of their lives. So it’s high time that we subvert that misconception and start understanding what they go through on a daily basis.