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Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion…

Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model

by Ashley Mears

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An insider's look at the modelling world and how it assigns value to looks. A little unsatisfying because the answer is ultimately "randomly", but that is the nature of the industry. High value editorial work pays very little yet generates buzz and further business. Commercial work pays the bills, but is low value work that is given little credibility and is looked down upon by those in the business. "Money girls" are much loved by agencies even as they are dismissed as ordinary and unappealing. And other than pornography, modelling is one of the few professions in which women habitually make more than men. The book is an interesting look at a side of the business that one does not normally see ( )
  Meggo | Oct 20, 2013 |
Mears did her sociology dissertation as a participant-observer, or observing participant, in the modeling industry in London and New York. She discusses the divide between “commercial” modeling, where conventional beauty rules (and there’s more diversity in terms of race and body size), and “editorial” modeling, which has higher status but generally a lot worse pay unless you become a superstar. Participants disclaim any control over who becomes a star, or even who gets cast in an average show, and yet they also work together to construct a market in which success is attributed to a magic something that just happens to favor thinness and whiteness (and femaleness: men are paid much worse). Bookers and clients claim color-blindness, but then they just can’t find models of color who match their desires. Mears collected a lot of revealing quotes, including one who said that the ideal model of color would be white except for her skin. “[T]here just aren’t enough really good models of color, just as there are no ‘fierce’ size 12 girls, because with tacitly racist, sexist assumptions, they do not fit the bill.”

Gender assumptions mean that men get paid an order of magnitude less than women—but white models make the same amount as models of color, despite the lesser “demand,” because that pay disparity would seem racist instead of natural and justified. Male modeling occurs under gender threat because male models are doing something that women are supposed to do: exist to be looked at. As a result, bookers tend to view male models as less professional or serious, less able to learn modeling as a “craft” of bodily control and display. Thus bookers accept lower rates for men because they think men have less to offer. Since modeling is less of a culturally acceptable aspiration for men than for women, it seems to attract men who don’t need to be taken as seriously. Agencies therefore invest less in developing men’s careers. Clients think there must be something wrong with men willing to “debase their masculinity and career options for a shot at modeling, which is … a very long shot for a viable career for men.” They expect less from men, “because men’s looks are not something to be perfected and played with like women’s.” So it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it all looks natural. Male models manage these difficulties by devaluing their own contributions and claiming to be in the profession just to have money to travel, etc. They positioned women’s better pay as a kind of revenge or justice for pay inequities in men’s favor elsewhere. “[Women are] the ones who should be doing it,” as one male model said. Or, as Mears concludes, modeling is a safe place for women to “rule” because it proves that they aren’t a real threat to men’s structural dominance: they only win when the contest is whose bodies are more highly valued as objects of the gaze. Then the participants use the reified construct of “the market” to explain the value systems they’ve created.

Male models also got used to flirting with the large number of gay men on the production side of the fashion industry, even though they mostly identified as heterosexual. Male models reported a lot more sexual harassment to Mears than female models did (though it’s not clear to me that she pursued the question with women). ( )
1 vote rivkat | Dec 8, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520270762, Paperback)

Sociologist Ashley Mears takes us behind the brightly lit runways and glossy advertisements of the fashion industry in this insider's study of the world of modeling. Mears, who worked as a model in New York and London, draws on observations as well as extensive interviews with male and female models, agents, clients, photographers, stylists, and others, to explore the economics and politics--and the arbitrariness-- behind the business of glamour. Exploring a largely hidden arena of cultural production, she shows how the right "look" is discovered, developed, and packaged to become a prized commodity. She examines how models sell themselves, how agents promote them, and how clients decide to hire them. An original contribution to the sociology of work in the new cultural economy, Pricing Beauty offers rich, accessible analysis of the invisible ways in which gender, race, and class shape worth in the marketplace.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:03 -0400)

A sociologist and former model draws on personal experiences and interviews with industry insiders to examine the economics, politics and arbitrariness of the glamor business.

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