Meet The Models Calling Out The Fashion Industry, One Brilliant Meme At A Time

Photographed by Nina Westervelt
For every Kendall, Gigi, and Bella in the world, there are a thousand models whose names you’ll never know. They work in an industry that affords them little by way of employment rights, with no job security and no promise of work after they’ve "peaked" at 25. If you’re "just" a model (i.e. not a mega-famous one with millions of followers on every form of social media), things don’t look quite as fun behind the scenes. It's this — and many other industry truths — that the anonymous Instagram account @shitmodelmgmt is calling out. Ranging from the hilarious to the downright depressing, the memes about being a working model posted on this fledging feed have struck a chord with others on the same boat. They share picture after picture about the reality of being employed by people who treat you, quite literally, like an inanimate clothes horse. We're well acquainted with the sample-sized problem — but what about other issues models face, like their rights to some very simple things that we just might take for granted, like being paid on time? New laws have gone some way to combat this mistreatment. In New York, models under the age of 18 are classified as child performers, which offers them protection they previously didn't have. In France, a bill passed last year bans the use of extremely skinny models. Similar policies have also gone into effect in Italy, Spain, and Israel. It’s a start — but it's certainly not enough, as the two models behind @shitmodelmgmt explain, every day, to their 49K (and counting) followers. We caught up with the girls, who met each other living in a model apartment in New York (and who remain anonymous, beyond their faux first initials, S. and H., behind their shared Instagram handle), to find out the truth behind the memes.

With @shitmodelmgmt, you’re highlighting a lot of unpleasant aspects of the fashion industry that may not be totally obvious or visible to outsiders. What needs to change in the way models are treated?

S & H: "People need to realize that we, models, are humans. If they want a mannequin, then start using mannequins. Yes, we sign ourselves up for this job, but we should be able to rely on certain standards in our work environments. Basically, we don’t think it's okay for both clients and agencies to withhold information about our careers, pay us whenever they feel like it, make commitments they cannot keep, etc." So, you do the work, the brands use your photos, and you still don’t get paid for months after?
S & H: "In some situations, we will not receive any payment for months and have to get advances from our agencies. So this creates a situation where we are paying our agencies to loan us money until we are paid for the work we did."

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

A photo posted by Shit Model Management (@shitmodelmgmt) on

In your profile, you say you want to quit the industry. But what attracted you to the modeling industry initially?

S: "I wanted to model because I felt that it finally made me beautiful. Growing up, I had zero self-confidence. It’s strange because when I go back home, I feel special, but when I am actually doing my job, I feel like I am just another pretty girl that stands in front of a camera and desperately tries to prove herself." Do you really want to quit, or do you just want fashion to be a better industry to work in?
H: "If I'm being completely honest, I do want to quit. I'm always standing up for other people and for what I believe in, so it's difficult to work in an industry where I can't even stand up for myself. But I don't plan on quitting anytime soon. I know that models have become influential figures, and we truly have the power to make changes in the world. With so many followers and so many people listening, the amount of issues that you can make people aware of is incredible."

What are the best reactions you've had from other models who’ve seen your posts on Instagram?
H: "My favorite thing is when people comment and say, 'Thank you so much for speaking up about this,' or, 'Thank you so much for making this account.' I think that the account is shocking for a lot of models because it's hard to talk about some of the things we go through. When you see a difficult, stressful, or even amazing moment that you have experienced in the form of a funny meme, it makes you feel good to know that someone else has experienced it, too. We’re getting our frustrations out."

It's simple yet complex.

A photo posted by Shit Model Management (@shitmodelmgmt) on

Would you ever identify yourselves? Could doing so help your cause — or would it just ruin your careers?

S & H: "For now, we're going to remain anonymous. I think that the account alone is helping models by just being a way for them to let out their frustrations, and have a laugh. Revealing ourselves would definitely have a negative impact on our careers. It is likely that our agencies would be upset, and it's hard to know exactly how they would react, as well as how clients would react. For now, we're good with just being S & H and creating giraffe memes for the entire world to enjoy."

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