The other day I finally got around to watching Girl Model, Ashley Sabin and David Redmond’s documentary on scouting in Siberia and the placement of models in Asia. After reading reactions to the film on websites like Jezebel I felt intrigued to see if it was as horrifying as reviews had painted it to be.
The world of modeling has long been made out to be a horrible industry that facilitates taking advantage of young girls and endorses eating disorders. But especially in the last few years this has been evident with the crackdown on the age of models being allowed to walk at Fashion Week and the debate over size zero. Girl Model is the second documentary released in the last 4 years which attempts to uncover the dark side. However, unlike Sara Ziff’s Picture Me, which does this in a somewhat (in my opinion) trivial way (e.g. in one scene the protagonist which is actually Ziff herself is discussing a large sum of money she has been paid and is upset seemingly because she doesn’t think her job holds any real value), Girl Model actually tackles quite a disturbing part of the industry.
A lot of successful models have come out of Siberia. It has long been considered a haven for scouting models. The agency that Ashley Arbaugh scouts for, and that the 13-year-old girl we follow to China is signed to, represents and is responsible for discovering top models Tanya Dziahileva and Anastasia Kuznetsova.
I didn’t find Girl Model to be particularly shocking, at least to me as I work in the industry, but more-so unsettling. The way the scout talks about the girls is creepy (the younger the better - until they get to Tokyo where they are told to lie about their age to clients who apparently want young girls) and we are made aware quite early on that Nadya does not have much left for her back home in Novosibirsk. Modeling is her only way out, and that this is the case for most girls in her village. Even creepier is the director of “Noah” Models who says he is saving the girls ‘one by one’ as Noah saved the animals “two by two”. A truly depressing look at one side of the glamorous world of modeling.