CelebritiesCosmetic ProceduresOn The PulseWomen of Color

About Face doc: Want to hate yourself? Try modeling.

By August 2, 2012 19 Comments

“I don’t think there’s any 15-year-old girl that will turn down the chance to be called beautiful. You don’t realize at that point that you’re also going to get called ugly,” says Paulina Porizkova, talking about being discovered as a model, about halfway through the new documentary film About Face (no relation to this blog or its parent organization).

You can check out the trailer below.

Relatively young women of a certain age will remember the supermodels of the mid-1990s, including Paulina. We thought their lives were so glamorous, didn’t we? Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Paulina Porizkova, walking around just looking goooorgeous, us wanting to be like them.

And I think what we can learn here, children, is that even the most successful models feel incredible insecurity, even while being a key cog in the gears that creates awful insecurity and self-hatred for most woman viewers. Another lesson we can learn:

If you want to love yourself, don’t go into modeling.

It turns out that when you’re a model, everyone around you picks on your appearance so much that you never really feel beautiful. Paulina says, “Working off of your looks pretty much makes you the opposite of self-confident.” (I almost cried when she said that.)

Paulina Porizkova gets back in front of the camera.


We hear this sadness throughout the film, even when the models are talking about their fun, exciting partying in the 1970s. Lisa Taylor speaks of her cocaine use and subsequent addiction: “I was so insecure that I needed to do it. It made me feel like I was worth being photographed.”

Our organization, About-Face, started in the mid-1990s, around the time one Vogue editor says “the look changed” due to all the drug use by models that made them incredibly thin. We used to call that look (perfected by Kate Moss) “heroin chic”, and it’s what spurred our founder, Kathy Bruin, to start what she then called the Stop Starvation Imagery Campaign.

In this film, aging is a topic thick with contradiction and its resulting layers. Interestingly, not all of these models are nipped and tucked to high heaven or shot through with silicone for 20 or 30 years, as you might expect: Some, like Isabella Rossellini and Paulina Porizkova, feel that it’s unnecessary, and that women should be allowed to age. Ms. Rosselini, dressed in a men’s suit, quips “Is this the new feet [sic] binding?” China Machado, who is 81-years-old, makes her statement:

It’s not that women want to stay young, it’s that the whole society makes us want to stay young… The most important thing you have, that will make you look different from someone else, is your expression. So you change that, your whole look goes. You could be more perfect… take out the lines… but then there will be nothing left of you.

oh, and never mind the fact that it’s disgusting and insane to inject stuff into or cut open your face and put it back together for the sake of vanity. (Oh, did I say that out loud?)

Anyway, I love this woman, and want to be just like her when I’m 81.

And so much of that opinion seems to depend on the inner sense of self they had long before they were models. The existence of this inner core seems questionable depending on which (former) model is talking.

“Why do we keep talking about this?” asked TJ Walker in a video “review” (which was not really a review because he hadn’t seen the film). I mean, the guy has a point – why do we keep making “educational” films, writing books, “raising awareness” about beauty and its stranglehold on women? Let me venture an answer: Many women in the beauty, fashion, and film industries (or who were formerly in them) are looking down the barrel of misogyny’s gun and yelling into it “HELP!” We have a huge problem here, and it’s making us hate ourselves. I challenge you to name the problem in the comments below. Then, go out and do something about it.

Jennifer Berger is About-Face’s Executive Director.

19 Comments

  • Kathy Bruin says:

    Nice job, Jen. I need to see this film. Interesting that the guy asks why we keep talking about it. It illustrates on the one hand how we are collectively tired of the issue, but it also says how pervasive the problems remain. At least it is now on people’s radar, unlike in the mid 90’s when poor body image and disordered eating were considered “a family’s problem.” With higher profile films like this one, and Siebel Newsom’s Miss Representation, maybe a real shift is underway. Is that just the optimist in me?!

  • Kari says:

    I think one reason we keep talking about it is that the desired level of change in the media, and our subsequent response, has not yet been reached and the education of girls in this arena has not yet reached it’s potential. I think at the core there is a deep need inside people to be loved and to be valued as we are, and that many people understand love and significance to be translated through attention, The problem is that the people being given attention in modeling and other media are not being loved, but manipulated. “You will get attention, be known, be loved, if…” as soon as you put that “If” in there all the things that beautiful person needs deep down inside: love, attention, affection, affirmation, become conditional upon a performance. These people attempt to earn love not realizing that love can’t be earned, it can only be given freely. Otherwise it isn’t love.

  • It’s misogynistic men in leadership or power positions pushing their own twisted, perverted minds because they are sex and porn addicts. They are woman haters. Just as rape isn’t about the sex, sex in our media and entertainment, both online and on television, isn’t about being prettier or skinnier. It’s a way for these diseased men to goad girls and women into a lack of confidence and self respect. It’s easier to control and pimp us out that way!!

    I have been battling sex trafficking inside the American Porn industry for the past 4 years. I spent 1 1/2 years there and around the entertainment world of Hollywood and Cable TV. The systems are all very warped and corrupt. The whole notion of Stardom is a scam to bring young, unsuspecting girls and women there so they can literally be devoured by all the men who hold the key to everyone’s dream . . Be found and become rich and famous. Unfortunately, THAT’S the new American Dream they’re pimping!!

    Check out my site at http://www.PornintheValley.com to learn what’s REALLY happening in Porn Valley, USA. They are all just different arms of the same sick group with the same motives: Catch and eat the very Souls of our Youth!

    Thank you for your work. It takes a Society to raise our children these days 🙂

    Diana

  • Jenjennijennifer says:

    Thanks, Kathy. Right, the issue is that the problem is STILL around so of course we’re going to keep talking about it. When we’re done talking about it, it’ll be gone, right? In a way I’m glad times have changed and it’s all come out into the open more. But his point is a good one. We can’t just talk talk talk and raise awareness, we have to take real action, like what About-Face does. Teach people to see differently, in a way they can digest.

  • Jenjennijennifer says:

    Beautiful points, Kari. You will not be loved if you have this type of attention, your love will be stolen.

  • Hi! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it very difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any points or suggestions? Appreciate it

  • I used to be very happy to seek out this internet-site.I wanted to thanks to your time for this excellent learn!! I positively having fun with every little little bit of it and I’ve you bookmarked to check out new stuff you weblog post.

  • Just wish to say your article is as surprising. The clearness on your submit is simply excellent and that i can assume you’re an expert in this subject. Fine with your permission let me to seize your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks 1,000,000 and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  • Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  • We’re a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your site offered us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done a formidable job and our entire community will be thankful to you.

  • I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an impatience over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this hike.

  • With havin so much written content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation? My site has a lot of unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my agreement. Do you know any ways to help reduce content from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  • As a Newbie, I am permanently searching online for articles that can benefit me. Thank you

  • I truly enjoy looking at on this internet site, it contains wonderful content. “Those who complain most are most to be complained of.” by Matthew Henry.

  • You have brought up a very superb points, regards for the post.

  • Terrific work! This is the type of info that should be shared around the web. Shame on Google for not positioning this post higher! Come on over and visit my website . Thanks =)

  • Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your article seem to be running off the screen in Firefox. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Cheers

  • Good ?V I should definitely pronounce, impressed with your site. I had no trouble navigating through all tabs and related information ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Reasonably unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, web site theme . a tones way for your customer to communicate. Excellent task..

  • naturally like your web-site however you have to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very troublesome to tell the reality nevertheless I will certainly come again again.

Leave a Reply