Redefining Runway Beauty

Marziyah P (Year 8), Chief Contributor

Before the change. 

Despite what TikTok may tell us, the modelling industry is not all GLITZ AND GLAM!  

In the early 2000’s, the modelling industry was the definition of toxic. There was no diversity. Sexual assault was common. Underage girls walked the runway. The idea of body positivity was not even a thing. Insecurity and mental health problems increased, not just in the industry, but in the community as well. There was a long road to change. 

Whenever I looked at fashion shows, I was stunned by the lack of diversity. The faces of large fashion houses were Caucasian, and for every 15 models, there would be one dark skinned model. Reporters and photographers would only click photos or show interested where a Caucasian model was present. If the percentage of dark-skinned models were less, then Asians were hardly seen on the runway. 

6 feet tall, size zero, smooth skin and toned physique. Not a single body hair but with shiny long blonde hair, young and proportionate faces. White, skinny and tall was always the status quo in the modelling industry. This ideology then continued to influence the upcoming generations. In the past, these characteristics would get you to rock the runway at fashion shows, but just like me, not many people would ever fit into this category of beauty. Even if a girl of colour fit the criteria, she would not be accepted due to her ethnicity. If a male was white but not 6 feet tall, he would be out of the running. One little flaw and the definition of your beauty was changed because of the flawed perceptions of beauty in the modelling industry. 

This concept was even depicted in the school grounds when I was little, all while innocently hanging out with a diverse group of friends. A white boy approached us and took only one look before he formed his opinion: 

“Why do you have hair on your legs and upper lip? Are you a boy?”  

This statement has no doubt been heard by many girls around the world and across time. I had finally realized how one industry had influenced the younger generations to have the same thinking. This one statement made my group of friends feel as if they weren’t beautiful, and that there was something wrong with them as a result of the distorted beauty standards the modelling industry creates. 

This ideology continues as many people continue to suffer from a lack of body positivity and reduced self-esteem. Models in catalogues are a constant comparison. There is always a constant focus on appearance, and continued promotion of unhealthy habits amongst men and women.  

Now these are just a few examples of situations people all around the world face, with each coming back to the same idea. If you do not fit the status quo; you aren’t beautiful and do not have the equal right to pursue your dream according to standards within the modelling industry.  

The road to change 

In recent years, celebrities and personalities have taken the industry by storm by breaking the cookie cutter molds of beauty (credit: vogue). Many models have come into the industry with a bang forming new norms, including the inclusion of every type of beauty such as ethnicity, textured skin, varied sizes and ages, as well as those apart of the LGBTQ+ community. This movement is currently supported by Priyanka Chopra who was named ambassador for Victoria Secret. In an interview, Priyanka discussed the importance of inclusivity in this industry, revealing her past experiences with negative comments on her beauty as a teen. 

This movement is not just prominent on the runway but is supported through online platforms and shops as well, through showing the same outfit on different sized models of different ethnicities. These significant changes have resulted in the increase of diversity ethnically to 40%.   

Like many others, I went shopping during the black Friday sales and entered Mecca, looking at all the models posing with makeup. For the first time I saw a poster with different types of ethnic women standing together equally. It’s not just the big brands, but influencers have also acted, standing up for inclusivity and promoting body positivity. 

For newer upcoming models, the sky is the limit, and fashion companies are starting their journey to a better and united future within society. No one knows how modelling will evolve from here, but there are a few people out there like Priyanka Chopra and Valentina Sampaio who have a vision in mind that will turn heads.