LAST_UPDATEMon, 22 Jan 2018 9pm

In Our Social Media Obsessed World, Selfies Are The New Path To A Modeling Career

Rebecca Romijn has had a successful modeling-turned-acting career, including a stint with Victoria’s Secret.

But she just lambasted Gen Z and many favourite models of millennials’, going so far to call them “not true supermodels” in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

Entertainment Tonight had asked Romijn what she thought of today’s popular models, specifically pointing to Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, both of whom “are more famous for their social media presence than their runway experience,” as the entertainment website invoked.

“No one has proven yet that numbers of followers translates to revenue. So it is frustrating. I hate it that these, you know, social media stars are now the supermodels in fashion. They are not true supermodels,” said Romjin.

Instagram-famous models have become the new normal for the modeling industry. Evidently, here in Malaysia too, we have quite a number of Instagram models whose career had advanced greatly after their large following on social media.

Like Romjin, we wonder too if it's fair for models who work hard from the beginning, pounding the runways and turning up for countless auditions with intent of making a career out of it, not be given their deserving limelight just because of their poor social media presence.

Instagram Models Draw On Their Daily Life While Career Models Work Without Displaying Their Real Life

To understand further of how these Instagram models are milking it, Malaysian Digest had reached out to a couple of rising online beauties.

Arinna Erin, an aspiring model with a following of almost 20k now on her Instagram, has big dreams for herself.

Since 2014, Erin has been using her Instagram to keep track of her fashion inspirations, trends, and of course to stay connected with family and friends. From simply an app to pass time, Erin’s memory board now has gradually developed into her work portfolio.

“Before Instagram, many individuals who dreamed of becoming a model, they had to approach modelling agencies as a stepping stone. For me, I went to casting and modelling agencies when I was in high school. I did get casting calls a few times but that was about it.

“When I started Instagramming, it was merely an account to follow my family, friends and entertainment accounts, while posting up photos of my daily life. Then came Instagram business accounts who approached me to be their model.

“One after another, that was when my Instagram account became a platform to showcase my work. I do believe Instagram is an additional platform to scout for new faces and talents besides casting agencies.

So the question of Instagram models taking the easy route, Erin feels there is more to becoming a model than just being scouted from seeing a person from a picture with a pretty face.

“If the talent is able to execute poses and deliver the shot and vision the client wants, then I would say yes, be 100% dedicated and professional as a model. Modelling is seen as a career, and it should be taken as a profession, not for fame,” said Erin.

"The next wave is a digital native generation of tech-savvy, iPhone-loving, selfie-sharing picture takers, 32% of whom believe that Instagram is now the “most important social media network” in the world.

“As a result, the modelling industry has shifted indelibly. New talent is no longer found on the streets of trendy city districts, but via the comments and hashtags of your daily feed," reported in HighNobiety.

Noting this, Erin relayed how it’s definitely so much easier to see the entire world and different faces from just one mobile app but there are so many great talents who don’t flaunt themselves on Instagram.

“I’ve seen so many talented and beautiful people who are not on Instagram or who are just not ‘popular’ by the amount of followers, which I find intriguing and super refreshing to know that there are still people who value living their lives without having to stare down into their phones, or picking what filter to use.

“In Malaysia, there are hundreds of great talents and models who aren’t linked or attached to Instagram, they prefer networking and socialising which came way before Instagram and is still the best way to get around and meet new people,” she added.

Erin feels that high fashion models don’t need to depend on social media to get jobs or popularity as they have made it far enough without it and they’d still be as successful with or without Instagram. However, having an Instagram account with a massive following would increase their popularity, self marketing, and boost up potential future modelling jobs.

“If I could give a tip, I would just say always be true to what you believe in, do what you do best, and most importantly is to love what you do. Afterall, Instagram is only an optional extended platform to widen your modelling channel,” she helpfully added.

Speaking to Malaysian Digest, Fasiha Latiff also kindly shared perspective on the matter. With a following of 76k on her Instagram, Fasiha shares plenty of beautiful pictures of her travels, food and herself.

Aware of her lovely model-like photos of herself in her brand Mulan Scarf, many locals companies have approached her for collaborations.

“I love having something like a little diary with photos to scroll through and I think Instagram gives me that opportunity to collect all the bits and pieces of my life that I wanted to remember. As a brand owner (Mulanscarf), I use Instagram as a marketing platform to promote my scarves. It is definitely an opportunity to sell my products with such a large number of followers,” said Fasiha on how she utilises her Instagram account.

The term ‘celebrity’ is diversifying and Instagram models are now working their way to the fore; simply by attracting huge followings on their social media accounts, she further explained.

“These instagram models are media properties unto themselves, turning good looks and taste into an income stream They earn quick cash only by posting selfies and tagging a brand in their caption.

“There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of influencers worldwide making a living this way. Some make a lot more than a living. Some even demand up to RM3000 for a single Instagram shot. So I think yes, why not,” she relayed.

The existence of social media especially Instagram is changing how new talents a spotted. Hence, instead of wandering the streets of trendy city districts brands are turning to the much less time-intensive method of looking at their phones, explained Fasiha.

“I think it is great to see the industry opening up and allowing different new faces arising from social medias to be high-fashion models,” she added.

Fasiha further mentioned how Instagram and high-fashion models are working on two different platforms. Instagram models are not restricted and can portray their daily surroundings while on the other hand career models are working in an organized environment without displaying their real life.

“From my point of view, in order to expand your followers you need to engage with them on a personal level. Keep on updating and inspiring,” Fasiha shared her own experience.

A Presence On And Offline Is Exceptionally Tiring But Necessary These Days

To understand the other side of the spectrum, Malaysian model of Malay-Indian descent who was a finalist on the fifth cycle of Asia's Next Top Model in 2017, Shikin Gomez had spoken to Malaysian Digest regarding the issue.

Previously walking the runway at events like Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week, Shikin has had a lot of exposure with the struggles holding up a modelling career.

“There's this misconception that a pretty face and followers are all you need to enter the industry but it's always much more than that. While us working models need to physically take care of our skin and health.

“This stuff can't be photoshopped in reality! However companies still have the tendency to hire Instagram models because there's this belief that their fans would buy into the brand that their idol is presenting,” she said, adding how at the end of the day, what matters is what sells and not the method of getting the message to audience.

As to whether she has to compete with these Instagram models, Shikin admits regretfully they have become a part of the industry. Although having a name for herself in the industry, Shikin said we can't just assume the industry will stop for us just because we have made it.

“Even if you did, you still have to make sure you are competitive in the market,” she added.

With the use of social media platforms, the ball game has change for models like Shikin whereby definitely more work has to be put in.

“I feel like I am more aware of my appearance and how people perceive me. I definitely get acknowledged and stopped on the streets because people notice me on social media.

“A presence on and offline is exceptionally tiring. But I cannot lie, it does bring in lots of opportunities,” she added.

With or without social media we would have to always work hard, said Shikin, if the adverts that a person is doing fits his/her brand, then all I can say is go for it. At the end of the day, modeling is as much a job like sales where you have to pitch, negotiate and close.

“I believe both Instagram and career models can exist harmoniously. If you get paid, it's a job. Like any industry out there if a client chooses you, Instagram model or not, I have no problems with that but you get what you pay for.

“You choose what quality you want and in the end, who you choose reflects your brand,” said Shikin.

Venice Min, another Malaysian supermodel with a huge following of over 300k on Instagram, said being in the industry for about 6 years now, she has seen how greatly affected a model’s career can be by social media.

“I personally think that we have to strike a balance. As a media personality myself who is active on both traditional media and digital platforms, whatever we post online, it only depicts our individual quality and that way, we are only competing among ourselves.

“Generally, I think there is definitely a competition building with the Instagram-models that are making their way into the industry. From a brand's perspective, they will definitely go for models with a huge following because it is one of the most effective marketing strategy.

“Basically, it's like hiring a spokesperson to talk about the brand without having to go through so much hassle. But we shouldn't value ourselves based on the number of people following us or even the number of likes.

“I think that is one of the biggest obstacles that many social media personalities face. Apart from that, in various aspects, expectations in what beauty really is, what a real model really is, expectations from the society; given a situation, model A who has more experience but less followers compared to model B who has 10x more followers from model A.

“In the current generation, most likely model B will get the job if social media is taken into consideration,” she stated realistically.

However, Venice agrees it is much easier for her with the use of social media platforms to share more about her life to the public by simply posting pictures.

“It's also better because I can even communicate with my followers.

“Now, maybe I need to put in more work in looking for a nicer setting for pictures,” she cheekily added.

The world of fashion and beauty is an ever evolving industry, said Alicia Amin, another finalist of Asia’s Next Top Model Season 5 to Malaysian Digest.

“Comparing an Instagram (social media numbers validated) model and a fashion (industry validated) model is almost like comparing two different things. What social media has done is shown the power of the consumers, based on social media statistics.

“Personally, I have tried to achieve my successes through both- approval of the industry and usage of social media. I find that painting myself in many different lights, some for mass consumption, others for the industry; makes me more versatile.

Whether competitions are tough with her and these Instagram models, Alicia believes that once you make it in the industry, you don't have to please the world.

“Most of the new age supermodels do not have high social media rankings, yet their success is almost unparalleled. Unfortunately, if you rely only on the industry, your shelf life will also depend on them

“I have integrated the usage of social media in my career, I do hope to make an impact beyond the constant approval of an ever changing industry.”

Alicia shared her observation that many new models forget that advertising on a personal platform equals endorsement. If you endorse too many things, you come off as neutral and have made yourself a billboard.

“This is a great business model, but does not match my values. Personally, I value the authenticity on my social media platforms. I may not accept many jobs, but I will accept the ones that share the same values as me.

“This way, I worry more about my personal associations and brand image than the competition,” she added.

There needs to be respect on both sides, she ventured.

“An Instagram model may never be on the cover of a magazine, but will have thousands supporting and idolising them. These are two different baskets of eggs. There need not be any animosity, truthfully.

Hartini Mat Jasin or famously known as Tinie, one of Malaysia’s top supermodel, was gracious to share anecdotes from her long success in the industry.

Walking the runways for big names like Chanel, Ashley Isham, Dior, Fendi, Calvin Klein and Farah Khan, Tinie has been in the industry long enough to see the progression from runway to social media.

“The line is slowly blurring between ‘Instagram models’ and fashion models these days meaning if a fashion model that has lots followers becomes more successful on the catwalk – does this make her an Instagram model or does this make her a fashion model with a huge following?

“During the time when I started out as a model, social media doesn’t play such an important part in everybody’s life.

“I have gained a lot of my followers (back then they were called friends) in the fashion industry the old fashion way – we hang out and we understand each other and what we are trying to do in the fashion industry.

“I have gained the respect from friends who grew up in the industry with me.

“That is how to achieve longevity in the industry - by having friends that you have helped or whom have helped you along the way. It’s not about the number of followers but rather the quality of friends you met along the way!”

Tinie said that she only utilises her online platforms to connect with her fans and to show off her efforts a little bit more. Other than that, it hasn’t changed the ballgame much for her.

“The difference for me is that I have been in the fashion industry for more than 15 years and for me, I keep trying to add value to the industry; from discovering new models and talents while helping out new designers with fittings to giving free advice to newly discovered talents, and I strongly believe that this is what makes you relevant in the end – how much work you put into your passions.

“If an Instagram model has as much passion in her work and continue to be successful, I will wish her all the best!"

“To Be Honest, I Would Use Both” - Jovian Mandagie

With competitions running high, can Instagram models and fashion models exist harmoniously?

“To be honest, I would use both Instagram and fashion models because some of these Instagram models have good skills in modelling too,” said the famous fashion designer Jovian Mandagie to Malaysian Digest.

“I have tried using some of them for my mini campaigns, they were impressive.

“Social media is a strong base for marketing today as it is growing each day, to have these models post about our brand would be an additional marketing for us.

Instagram models can be an opportunity for the local models to grow in the industry if we give them a chance to rise by being an Instagram Model, said the Malaysian-Indonesian fashion designer.

First, they will start their career from Instagram and from there, it can help to build their portfolio and the big companies or modeling agencies would recognise them and hire them as a professional model.

We can’t deny how social media today has affected society in so many ways. Today, it has become the biggest influence in everyone’s daily life.

Jovian feels it is not wrong for how the world has grown and we should not restrict ourselves by living in the past.

“I guess we should balance ourselves by being active on social media and also out on the streets as sometimes it is more convincing to meet someone in person rather than only from social media,” he advised.

Perhaps in concluding, in the words of one of the world's most well-known supermodel says it all.

"My God, we’ve worked so hard and we are still working at it—then it just comes like that for them. But I sometimes believe easy come, easy go. So I am actually grateful for the way I had my career. I wouldn’t want it any other way. So that’s for them, this is me.” - Naomi Campbell

-Malaysian Digest