What separates professional models from amateurs?

What separates professional models from amateurs?



We would have to look at what defines someone as professional. How do we measure this, especially when the main equity traded is beauty, which we are told is in the eye of a beholder.


Traditionally there were parameters which separated models from “just” beautiful people. Such as weight, height, age, contacts, to name a few. Any deviation from the desired ‘ideal’ most likely meant getting nowhere. Added to this was the process by which models and supermodels were marketed to the consumer. Gone are the days of cameras being difficult to obtain and photography being a mysterious and costly profession to pursue. Everyone can take great images with their mobile phone and more. The kingdom of selfies has cometh upon us. Two edges of every sword and what is easily made and readily available devaluates many a masterpiece.


As social, beauty and fashion industry norms change, we are starting to see the tides shift in the world of modeling too. There is ever greater push towards creating a tolerant, inclusive and ethical society and our rising consciousness is reflected in our wardrobes and personal styles. Perhaps the clothes we wear, how and why we wear them, the brands we buy and support are tell tale signs of where we stand as a society and as individuals. As within so without. Models, the unicorns of this very world, are the ones to profess and represent the changes. Evermore the mysterious “je ne sais quoi “is in the play. The intangible (or even tangible) uniqueness factor may override the traditional physical requirements to be deemed a professional in the world of modeling.


Arguably the lines between professional and vocational are being blurred and perhaps the deciding factor is money and fame – as it always has been the case. Many children of the famous are automatically propelled to the ‘professional’ bracket of the supers and well-paid models mainly on the back of their pedigree (and possibly tweaks from the surgeons). Other models fulfill the old school parameters of double Ts (tall and thin). A person who is signed with a famous modeling agency alas making virtually no money is deemed professional by validation of an entity from within the industry. A gatekeeper of sorts. But as our individual power rises thanks to the internet, we may at times overstep these – or engage with them differently. Is someone a professional model even though their primary or only outlet of representation is Instagram or YouTube or Snapchat? One could argue that if they make a living out of it, the answer is yes. Perhaps there is a certain nostalgia for the tradition, for the glamour of days past, for being validated by the leaders of the pack. But the new day belongs to the daring and the brave.


A question bubbling up to the surface of fashion and media industries since the arrival of the world wide web, but ever more so in the recent few years. The digital technology widely available and media convergence allows people to engage directly with the gatekeepers, to communicate and express their opinions as well as get involved directly in the creative process of fashion imagery production. In other words, the consumer – both as a buyer and as a spectator – is now assuming an active role in the process of defining and redefining of what professional means. As consumers gained their voices so too grew their importance and influence and the message seems to be getting louder. The fashion world and its ambassadors, the models, are to be diversified. Buyers want not only something to aspire to but also something to relate to. Thus the rise of an influencer on social media and clearly growing diversification of models in terms of color, body type, and even age.


Trans models such as Andrej Pejić (now Andreja Pejić) have made major waves in the high-end fashion. Pejić previously walked for fashion royalty such as Jean Paul Gaultier in both menswear and womenswear shows (2011). Pejić was the first trans model to sign a cosmetic contract and was also profiled by Vogue in 2015 and the following year graced the cover of

  1. Not so long ago to think of a trans model being represented by a major crème de la crème agency such as Ford in New York and LA would be more or less unthinkable. As likes of Pejić (And previously Teri Toye) paved way and the shock factor is slowly becoming a status quo, all Of a sudden there is gender fluidity in the mainstream advertising too. Refinery 29 predicts that“For The Modeling Industry the Future is Transgender” as Teddy Quinlivan, Leyna Bloom, Casil McArthur, Gia Garison, and Geena Rocero are unashamedly looking at us from Refinery’s landing page



If someone predicted in the 80s, when the waif look and heroin chic reigned the industry, that in 2018 there will be a plus size Americas Next Top Model finalist, people may as well have laughed. The body positive activist and a model originally from Ukraine, 32 years old Khrystyana was signed by a major UK agency, MILK, just days ago (IG @khrystyana). Somehow one could doubt they would sign her has she not fought for an ANTM crown. That is the power of media harnessed towards ones dream.

Ethnic diversity is no longer a statement from a few pioneers, like the United Colours of Benetton used to be, but as natural as global shipping. The age taboo is slowly but surely softening its edges too, with silver-haired models such as Carmen Dell’Orefice (who is 86) are making ever more appearances.

Andy Warhol rather correctly predicted the 15 minutes of fame. What he didn’t see coming (how could he) was the 15 seconds of fame to follow, birthed by the Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook.

It seems the future belongs to the self-appointed, the self-made. Warhol’s Interview magazine just folded and with it perhaps a whole era of what ‘professional modeling’ means.

That is not to say that greatness won’t be forever demanded in the world of beauty and fashion, but perhaps the hunger games are now a little fairer, more people can join and try their luck.

Marilyn Monroe’s “it’s all just a make-believe” is still relevant and true, more than ever before, in the history of fashion and ultimately modeling.

Laura Arten, laura@laurarten.com IG@laurarten Twitter@LauraArten