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Are Most Models Competitive Backstabbers?

I read a story yesterday about how model Coco Rocha recommended Karlie Kloss to Grace Coddington at Vogue, saying “this girl is good, and so sweet, and you’re gonna want to use her.” It made me think about the misconception people have (at least I think it’s a misconception) that most models are catty and backstabbing. I decided to quiz some model friends to see what they have to say about their photographic peers: nasty or nice?
Model Coco Rocha

Coco Rocha

Karlie Kloss on Vogue

Karlie Kloss

For the first installment of what may become a series, here are answers from three wise women on my Official Model Advisory Board (ok, I just made that up, but I may run with it and actually make it official):
-Audi Martel, house model for Carolina Herrera, who has been modeling for two decades but just keeps going and going like an Ever Ready gazelle. (Sorry, Audi, if I’m blowing your cover on still being 25. Luckily, as long as you look 25, your real age doesn’t matter.)
Model Audi Martel

Audi Martel (Photo by Yoko Inoue)

-Leslie Wayne, a model who always knew the best test photographers and always shared them with me, and once subleased her apartment in New York to me for half price because she’s just that generous.
Model Leslie Wayne

Leslie Wayne

-Ricky Haas, part of a famed Munich model trio (I’m using some poetic license here, though certain bier garten bike crashes she, Leslie, and I were involved in are the stuff of legend now), and a friend who always openly shared her modeling contacts, from agents to male models.
Model Ricky Haas

RIcky Haas

In general, were your fellow models backstabbing or supportive?

Audi: I feel that models are less backstabby than other people, because we are always traveling around alone, and could use a real friend or a sense of family wherever we are…so we are more inclined to be nice cuz we’re aching for a clan, so it’s a misconception to a certain extent…BUT…models are people too. Some are kind and helpful, some are insecure, a few are selfish *unts. I’ve only met the latter about 3 times in 18 years. And of course, I had to set those ones straight.

Leslie: In general, I felt most models were very supportive.

Ricky: Very supportive. I think this has a lot do with who you run with.

Can you give an example of how another model helped you out?

Audi: I myself am the queen of helping girls out. I’m not patting myself on the back, but I’m not threatened by my friends’ success and I am in a fortunate position as the house model for a huge designer, so I often suggest models to hire. Although I have to admit, it’s about 20% for selfish reasons, because if I work all day with someone I want them to be nice.

Leslie: I had many models give advice on where to seek out work next, which country, etc., or advice on clients to seek out that were looking for “my type.” I also had many models advise me on how a particular client liked you to work, which was always helpful. Of course there was the occasional lending of a tampon in an emergency situation.

Ricky: In general, all models and model friends I knew or worked with were just good all-around people. I felt like they were always supportive and helpful with bits of advice. The models I worked with were always giving tips on the best countries to travel to, where the best bookings were, clients to see, photographers that were good to test with and so on. I always felt we were in the same boat, just a bunch of traveling gypsies on the same team!

Can you give an example of a model being nasty to you/trying to sabotage your career in some way?

Audi: I once had some trouble with a model, she actually wanted to come to fistacuffs. We were at a show, lined in front of the sender and being sent to walk out. She was a teenager, who was drunk (at work), from a poor country with a bad childhood and drug problems. Luckily, I was mature enough to recognize that. My 16-year-old self probably would’ve socked her in her gorgeous (young Brooke Shields) face. In the end, she was fired, had trouble with the agency, and apologized to me. Besides her, I tend to be the person standing up for someone else getting sabotaged. Like dethroning a bully model who had taken control of a models’ apartment in London, locking girls out of certain areas and acting as if she owned it when it belonged to the agency. She was just taking advantage of younger naive girls who were afraid to stand up for themselves. I had to get New York on her…I have a friend at work who calls me the “Joan of Arc of models.” But that’s not really a career threatening story.

Leslie: I was seriously backstabbed when a model was trying to steal one of my major accounts. I was under personal stress and having a hard time keeping weight on (editor’s note: don’t marry a French guy looking for a green card, but that’s a whole other blog post). She told the client numerous times that I was anorexic. I was nowhere near being ill, just simply stressed and depressed.  You will always have a few backstabbers trying to get your clients, but in general, if you work hard, remain professional, and don’t get caught up in any drama, it is a very rewarding career.

Ricky: I think the only model I ever came across that I felt was nasty was just the one who would not talk to you on a very long trip, or would speak in another language to the client knowing I didn’t speak the language.

When I saw Ricky recently, I caught her up on a run-in I had with some PTA women last spring. She’d like to note that “we never ran into mean girls like that in the modeling world.” They are lurking in suburbia—who knew? (That’s another blog post also…or book.)

Stay tuned for more responses on “Models: nice or nasty?” Be sure to comment if you have a story or opinion to share!


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