Tag Archives: industry

A Critique of Today’s Modeling Industry and Representation

By Tanya Chen

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

As the proverb goes, “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” However, I’ve noticed that throughout American history, “the beholder” has always been the white majority. With past beliefs playing a powerful role in informing modern-day views and practices, America’s deep-rooted struggle with racism has had a detrimental effect on society’s idea of beauty. When I look to models and influencers who are regarded as “beautiful,” very rarely do I see any representation that looks like myself. In this article, I will discuss the origins of white beauty standards and the subsequent effects that they hold on modern-day beauty standards in the modeling industry.

As a field with the sole purpose of generating revenue for large corporations by selling new trends and products to consumers, the modeling industry has to maintain its exclusive and posh appearance through glamorous models in order to appeal to the American audience. The aesthetics and appearances of the models set unrealistic expectations for ordinary women who feel pressured to look a certain way. These models often have Eurocentric facial features and have light skin. The modeling industry is the most prominent example of how corporations have internalized white beauty standards to sell their products. 

Photo by Pete Pedroza on Unsplash

The modeling industry is known to pull inspiration from and appropriate Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) culture through music and visuals used for shows, hairstyles, and even skin tones. Cultural appropriation is when people from a dominant culture take aspects of the culture of a marginalized group that has been historically devalued, and divorce those aspects from their original meaning. They then use what they took from that culture for entertainment value (such as in fashion). For example, cornrows and dreadlocks have historically been challenging for Black women to wear confidently because of how society has negatively viewed them, but some white celebrities have been seen wearing them. This double standard and example of cultural appropriation show how the modeling industry views BIPOC people as unworthy of respect, despite capitalizing off of their culture. 

By utilizing other cultures to their own advantage, one would imagine that the industry would be willing to give proper representation to BIPOC models and their identities. However, the industry still refuses to hire more than a few BIPOC models per show. While the industry views BIPOC culture as something that they can appropriate, they don’t view these models as worthy enough to represent the idea of beauty and glamour that they perpetuate. When questioned about this, many of the shows’ executives claim that BIPOC models don’t fit their creative vision or intended audience. BIPOC models are told by the industry that their features and personas don’t fit what America considers beautiful. The modeling industry’s treatment towards these identities and appearances shows that they only recognize BIPOC culture when it is beneficial and there is money to be made off of it. 

Photo by Highlight ID on Unsplash

In today’s society, many other industries have the same problematic values, such as the film and music industry. They choose to capitalize off of BIPOC culture when it fits their capitalistic agenda. BIPOC cultures are more than just an aesthetic experience. This is a problem that has resulted in BIPOC people experiencing continued hardships. A failure to recognize this shows how the modeling industry is a flawed system that fails to serve as a proper example to women everywhere what the standard of beauty should be. 

Tanya is a rising senior studying Business Administration. She is from Southern California and enjoys taking advantage of the SoCal beaches. After teaching Mandarin to kids in underprivileged communities, she realized she had a strong passion for social work. On campus, she is involved with LA Community Impact and is a Marshall Research Assistant. In her free time she enjoys watching film analysis videos, designing graphics, and playing with her dog, Mochi.

Pictures? A thousand words. Experiences? Immeasurable.

By Iric Hong

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[4-minute read]

Growing up in a working-class family, long-distance travel was more often than not a luxury that was far out of my family’s reach. With the cost of providing kids a fruitful and fun childhood increasing by the day, it becomes exponentially harder to allow children to experience all that the world has to offer. Without a doubt, however, I will have to admit that those of us that had the opportunity to call Southern California our home for most of our life had it a fair bit better than others, as this home is also home to many other cultures hailing from different places around the globe. As a child, I was able to experience a variety of cultures that, in some shape or form, shaped Southern California in ways that I could only imagine.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Despite this fact, I was not really prepared for what I was about to witness during my first long-distance flight (that I can actually remember) during the summer of 2016. My family and I were on our way to Japan and Hong Kong and to say my current state of emotions at that time was simply excited would be an extreme understatement. I was unsure of what to expect when I got to Japan. Therefore, I landed preparing myself to be amazed by the culture and the people. And, to be frank, I was not disappointed.

Although I did not have many interactions with Japanese people outside of asking for help finding directions, they were all very helpful in trying to help us find our way despite the language barrier. But the most impressive thing I encountered on my trip existed elsewhere in Japanese society. The integration of man and nature in the design of the cities was absolutely awe-inspiring. You could be traversing Tokyo’s or Kyoto’s main streets during one moment and the next, you are exploring a vast forest leading to one of many shrines that populate the Japanese landscape. It felt so surreal that society could establish such a fluid connection between man and nature in the middle of such a well-developed city. I, for one, have never seen anything like it in cities across America, including the likes of LA, Seattle, New York, Atlanta, and Orlando. It was especially exciting to witness such a feat as I have always been quite the environmentalist myself. At the end of the Japan leg of my trip, I felt that my experiences were well above and beyond my initial expectations.

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

As for Hong Kong, I knew in some sense what to expect and what to look forward to as my great-uncle lives there with his family. Additionally, I have always loved Hong Kong despite the fact that I had not been there in a long time, because Hong Kong is one of the few places where nearly everyone speaks my first language, Cantonese (although I am not great at it myself). Coming from beautiful and innovative Japan to Hong Kong, the bar for awesomeness was not low, but I felt that Hong Kong, in many ways, replicated the same elements of awe in their society. With the geographical location and terrain of Hong Kong, it is no simple task to establish a vibrant community, much less a metropolis, and yet it was done. It was done in a way that didn’t seem intrusive of the natural landscape, with many large patches of woods still persisting around the city itself.

After leaving Hong Kong, I was left thinking about how different the lifestyles are between that of America and that of Hong Kong and Japan. To say the least, it was very different in many aspects; saying it in such simplified terms still feels like an understatement. At the end of the day, to truly understand what others put into words and what they have experienced, you must experience the real thing for yourself!

Featured Image by Tianshu Liu on Unsplash

Iric is a recent USC graduate that majored in Electrical Engineering. His career inspiration from a very young age was on-screen robotics like Iron-Man and Gundam. He hopes to work in the aerospace industry, as that industry resembles what he wants to strive for the most. He likes to play tennis, play video games, and watch movies in his spare time.