Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model

Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model

Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model

Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model

Synopsis

Sociologist Ashley Mears takes us behind the brightly lit runways and glossy advertisements of the fashion industry in this insider's study of the world of modeling. Mears, who worked as a model in New York and London, draws on observations as well as extensive interviews with male and female models, agents, clients, photographers, stylists, and others, to explore the economics and politics--and the arbitrariness-- behind the business of glamour. Exploring a largely hidden arena of cultural production, she shows how the right "look" is discovered, developed, and packaged to become a prized commodity. She examines how models sell themselves, how agents promote them, and how clients decide to hire them. An original contribution to the sociology of work in the new cultural economy, Pricing Beauty offers rich, accessible analysis of the invisible ways in which gender, race, and class shape worth in the marketplace.

Excerpt

You’ve got a great look.

That was what he told me as I sat in a Starbucks in downtown Manhattan. I had come in search of a quiet table at which to crack open a social theory book, one of a number of texts I was assigned as a new graduate student in sociology at New York University. Instead I found myself seated across from a model scout who was handing me his card and telling me that I could be making a fortune as a fashion model.

While waiting in line for my coffee I overheard a man, flanked by two pretty young women at a nearby table, talking loudly about what it’s like to work in the fashion modeling industry. He was in his forties, tan and balding; his two companions, who were listening to him intently, looked about twenty years younger. I took him to be a modeling agent out with two of his models, and I listened with feigned disinterest, having packed away my own modeling portfolio into my mom’s attic just six months ago, content to start a new career in academia after what had been five years in the business, at first part time in college, mostly small stuff for local department stores in my hometown of Atlanta. Later, school vacations would be spent modeling in Milan, New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. It seemed a lifetime ago; I had just celebrated my twenty-third birthday, well past retirement age for a model, and the books weighing down my shoulders were a reminder of a new career ahead.

On my way out I passed their table, and the loud-talking agent stopped me: “Hey, which agency are you with?” The young women smiled at me.

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