Love it or hate it, Instagram has democratized the modeling industry. No longer our beauty standards are dictated by traditional hierarchical structures. Today, we can cultivate our own definition of what it means to be beautiful by simply choosing whom we follow. We can curate our social pages to showcase the models we feel represent, celebrate, and inspire us.
BEIJING, CHINA – MAY 07: A model prepares backstage before the Larome &DIANA KWAN collection show by … [+]
Social media has saved the day(s) by offering sources of inspiration, creativity and a much-needed break from the monotony of lockdown. After all, society has a history of looking for light during the darkest of times. Case-in-point: Hollywood. It’s boom is owed to The Great Depression, when many Americans started going to the movies as a therapeutic escape from the daily hardships they were facing. Today, we’ve traded crowded movie theaters for social media, a portal to endless content that can be consumed from the safety of our homes, no mask required.
As the lockdown forces many sectors to work from home, what are fashion models up to these days? We’ve rounded up 13 models from around the world with fun and creative Instagram accounts and asked them how they’re keeping busy during these unprecedented times.
Morrocan-German model Sarah Feingold may have Revlon and Glossier campaigns behind her name, but she’s most recognized for being the founder of VICE magazine’s NBGA (No Basic Girls Allowed), a space for progressive youths who feel underrepresented in mainstream media. For Feingold, Instagram gives her a fun way to interact with her NBGA community and provide a small sense of normality during a time that’s anything but normal. “I don’t want our activity to minimize the reality of what’s happening, though; not at all. It’s just that sharing perspective really kills loneliness in a way. It grounds me in something bigger than my own panic and it offers a place for others to come and relax, kick their feet up, and enjoy something,” Feingold says. “I also like the fact that you see more positive emotions on social media then on the news channel.”
How she’s getting through lockdown: “When I wake up, the first thing I do is meditate and some exercises to keep my body moving. On the sunny days I even get myself to jog around the block every now and then. Something that calms my mind is painting with watercolors, reading and being creative. I try to be good to my body and soul, allow myself to feel all the feelings that are coming up and for the first time in years, I actually have a sleeping rhythm,” said Feingold.
Non-binary Italian model and make-up artist Vittorio Franco’s Instagram is an ode to self-expression and fearless authenticity. A combination of vibrant make-up looks, edgy fashion shoots, and uplifting captions, their Instagram is a call for others to be their unapologetic selves. “What I do on Instagram is challenging the gender rules and stereotypes, and hopefully, I will give more visibility to non-binary and queer people like me,” Franco said. “I create content because I want to inspire people to be who they are and express themselves freely, even during the lockdown. I hope people realize how important it is to be their authentic selves.” Franco has already appeared in Vogue Italia, Dazed Beauty, Elle UK, Kaltblut Magazine and has modeled for LGBTQ inclusive make-up brand Jecca Blac, so watch this space.
How they’re getting through lockdown: “At first it was hard. I was very upset about the lockdown and I couldn’t find anything to do, but then I started to set goals. I realized I wanted to improve my photography skills and experiment more with clothes and makeup,” said Franco.
At just 28 years old, Jessie Andrews is a wearer of many hats: model, adult and mainstream actress, international DJ, designer, creative director and CEO of four brands: Bagatiba, Basic Swim, Jeu Illimite & Petiue. Her impressive resume is an embodiment of modern-day women: we can do whatever we want, and we can do it all. Her unapologetic Instagram account allows her to celebrate her body and sexuality without shame and assist her followers in casting off the stigma associated with their bodies. Andrews thinks of her Instagram account as a platform for story-telling. “I’m making sure the content we put out on social media is meaningful and engaging,” said Andrews. “I’ve also been getting my friends who have skills to make “how to” Instagram TV videos for my Bagatiba brand to keep themselves busy, and the fans have been loving it.”
How she’s getting through lockdown: “I’m still designing and looking for ways to innovate in the E-commerce world. I’ve been taking MoMA courses through Coursera, listening to the Business of Fashion podcast, roller-skating and cooking,” she says.
When Russian model Katya Zharkova graced the cover of PLUS model magazine, she did it for her daughter. Zharkova took to Instagram to explain why she feels a responsibility to challenge the exclusive beauty standards that have been championed for so long. “My daughter is the reason I continue to promote #bodypositive movement. I need to be sure that she will grow in a trolling-free world. I have to be sure she will grow with love,” said Zharkova. While using her Instagram to promote body-positivity, Zharkova also sheds light on a less-talked-about issue: postpartum body image. “As a breastfeeding mama myself I know how the body can change during pregnancy. I know about all the feelings…The most important message from me – love yourself,” Zharkova wrote on Instagram.
How she’s getting through the lockdown: “I have been re-watching my favorite Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia runway shows and participating in the Instagram plank challenge with my followers.”
Check out NYC-based model Cami Opp’s Instagram page and you’ll find striking images of her laying in a dandelion field, rays of back-lit sunlight casting a whimsical effect over the dream-like scene. These images were actually taken during a virtual shoot via Facetime with LA-based photographer Jen Collins. This is a comforting reminder of society’s ability to innovate and come up with creative solutions as needed. Having modeled for many “it-girl” brands like SKIMS, Fenty Beauty, Covergirl and Urban Outfitters, Opp is using her influence to provide comfort and light-hearted entertainment to her followers, whether its sharing ideas on how to proactive or simply posting her TikTok dances.
How she’s getting through lockdown: “The ability to spend long periods of time with family, or loved ones, wasn’t something I was able to do as much, when we weren’t in quarantine. So taking time to count your blessings and reflecting on what you are grateful for is important during this time,” said Opp.
Queer model, actress and activist Macy Sorrelle is the antithesis of the picture-perfect artifice usually associated with Instagram. “As a model who is 5’6” with a gap tooth, and ringlets on my head, I feel honored to use my platform in a way that contributes to the evolution of beauty standards,” Sorrelle said. “It’s exciting for me to create relatability within an industry that seems so unattainable.” While harnessing the power of the social media platform, Sorrelle also addresses its dangers. “Being on social media at a time like now is a big source of stress for a lot of people. It can make people feel like they have to upkeep already unrealistic standards in the midst of a global pandemic which is sad. It happens to me too, which is why I discuss how having off days is normal,” she says. By confronting the issue directly and being refreshingly vulnerable about her emotions with her followers, Sorrelle hopes to destigmatize the need to be perfect, successful and happy during this tumultuous time. “A large part of the human spectrum of emotions is ignored on Instagram. It is perfectly okay, and quite honestly encouraged, to simply log off sometimes. The Internet is a fabricated part of existence. You are allowed to exist outside of it.”
How she’s getting through the lockdown: “Every day is a new day. Therefore your needs as a human being change on a daily basis. This is why I personally have not stuck to a strict routine in my quarantine life. The expectations I’ve set for myself are to take things day by day. It’s a push and pull situation. What I did yesterday may not feel good to me today. I am honest and realistic with myself and others,” said Sorrelle.
In 2016, Precious Lee made headlines for being the first black, plus-size model to be featured in Sports Illustrated annual Swimsuit Issue. However, the very fact that this is newsworthy highlights the inequality that is still pervasive in the industry. Whether it’s calling out designers for exclusive sizing, criticizing the slow speed at which the fashion industry is changing, or posting empowering photos on Instagram, plus-size model Precious Lee is the self-described “chunky chocolate superhero” the fashion industry needs. “I’ve been dedicated to expanding the world’s ideals of beauty through my work by representing my people in spaces we’ve never been ‘invited’ to,” wrote Lee in an Instagram post. And she’s been true to her word; Lee recently collaborated with luxury lingerie brand Fleur du Mal to create a size-inclusive capsule collection, and appeared in Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel, #PlusIsEqual and #ThisBody campaigns.
How she’s getting through the lockdown: “Finally finishing books I’ve put off reading too long. Facetime my people daily. Organizing. Sleeping. Tuning my chakras with healing frequency music. Breathwork. Yoga. Mudras. Spending time on unfinished projects. Studying. Writing. Found an old marketing book from college, re-reading it. Conditioning my hair. Long baths anytime of the day. Cleansing. Watching old movies like I’ve never seen them before. Laughing until I cry. Hydrating. Dancing until I feel like I pulled something and dropping to my knees to give thanks every time I think of how blessed I am,” shared Lee.
Known for the striking contrast between her strong eyebrows and platinum-blonde hair, LA-based model Tara Martin has shot for ASOS, Miss Selfridge, and Pretty Little Thing. After the lockdown foiled her plans to shoot a lookbook for her clothing brand Deck Studio, Martin decided to work with an artist and some of her favorite models to create digital illustrations instead. She’s also using the social media platform for creative inspiration. “I never take my Instagram too seriously, and especially during these times it’s good to have an outlet to take my mind off of things, and I hope that it does that for other people too,” said Martin. “Fashion, beauty and styling are definitely my ways of escape, and I love to share that with my followers. I’ve been researching all my favorite designers’ archives and am currently obsessing over 90s Todd Oldham and Helmut Lang.”
How she’s getting through the lockdown: “It’s definitely been challenging to adjust to this lockdown but I’ve tried to make full use of my time and have been cooking, reading and going on lots of walks. I’m isolating with my boyfriend (in Manchester), who is a photographer, so I’m very lucky that he also helps me to create lots of content! We keep each other creatively inspired,” said Martin.
Annabel North Lewis
English-Indonesian model Annabel North Lewis is treating the lockdown as an opportunity to experiment artistically, by crafting make-shift studios and doing her own photoshoots. “It has given me a further sense of autonomy over the image I want to put out of myself,” says Lewis. She also launched her first cookbook and own at-home cooking company called “At Home With Annabel”. Filled with 21 easy but hearty recipes, 50% of the profits will be donated to FoodForHeroes, a charitable organization that delivers free meals to the NHS and front line workers. She’s also using her platform to encourage her followers to make charitable donations to the NHS or help in any way they can. “I’ve noticed a huge increase in people using their platforms to send out positive messages and more importantly, the promotion of community spirit and charitable causes,” she says. “This makes me realize how powerful having a following on social media is and the potential for good this can lead to.”
How she’s getting through the lockdown: Having recently relocated from Bali to London, Lewis finds that a regular routine and daily exercise helps to ease her homesickness, and reminds others to not be so hard on themselves. “We are in a temporary and very uncertain situation. It is okay not to be okay. Get the rest you need, get creative, learn a skill, learn a language, anything you never find the time to do, do it! Or don’t do anything at all, that’s okay too!”
According to 21-year-old trans model, artist and vlogger Ella Snyder, Instagram is a platform to showcase her unapologetic self. “I think, or at least I hope, that by just being myself in front of such a large audience I can encourage my followers who may feel ‘othered’ to do the same,” said Snyder. “I hope I can be an inspiration to young trans and nonbinary people.” She previously fronted the “Game Time” campaign for size-inclusive underwear brand Parade and has recently been featured on the 2020 Dazed 100 list, which, in collaboration with Converse, spotlights the next generation of creative minds and activists. Having been an avid follower of the list for over 5 years, Snyder called the announcement “a literal teenage dream come true”, and it seems likely it’s the first of many to come. Snyder is currently studying photography at Parsons in NYC and you can check out her photography page here.
How she’s getting through the lockdown: “I’m teaching myself how to play the ukulele, making YouTube videos, and raising my new kitten, Clementine,” said Snyder.
Australian model Lily Easton may have only just celebrated her 20th birthday, but her portfolio already includes an international Guess campaign, Miami Swim Week, and ASOS. Long before the pandemic ensued, she was using her Instagram account to raise awareness about animal rights and climate change. During the lockdown, she’s decided to foster two newborn kittens and is urging her followers to follow suit. Since animal shelters across the country have closed, many animals face euthanasia unless they can find a temporary home. “Applying to foster an animal is such a great and fulfilling way to spend your time,” said Easton. “If you’re unable to commit to fostering, these volunteer organizations are incredibly low on donations. Even skipping your coffee run and sending that $5 to them helps so much!”
How she’s getting through the lockdown: Spending time with her animals. “It’s been so much fun, and it’s so rewarding to see them grow,” said Easton.
As the essence of a fashion model’s job is to portray an image cultivated by a client, Instagram gives them the chance to reclaim their own identity. “Through Instagram I can highlight my individuality a little more and not just be a living clothes hanger,” said London-based model Edie Rose. It’s not surprising she has over 200k followers; with her cheeky captions, quirky poses and edgy style, Edie-Rose is that relatable cool girl you want to be friends with. The English-West African model is working from home during the lockdown, shooting garments sent to her by regular clients. As more and more models start to work from home to adapt to the new constraints set by coronavirus, perhaps we will be seeing a more autonomous future for models worldwide.
How she’s getting through the lockdown: “Exercising when I wake up has helped me to have a more positive outlook throughout the day. I’ve also got into some random and creative ways to keep myself entertained, like knitting (so far I’ve made two scarves), nail art and different types of hair braiding, using my brother as a test dummy [laughs],” said Rose.
A combination of Cherokee Native American, Mexican, German and Scottish descent, model Olivia Rodriguez is an affirmation of the beauty of diversity. She’s appeared in Vogue Italia and modeled for Chanel, ASOS, Tiger Mist, and Fae Swim. While Covid-19 has completely disrupted life as we know it, Rodgriguez admires the creative solutions it has inspired. “I love that artists have found a way to make lemonade out of lemons,” said Rodriguez. “I’ve had a few FaceTime photoshoots with photographers on other continents that I would never have gotten to work with otherwise.” Her recent virtual shoot with Brazilian photographer Matia Ternes demonstrates the merits of this unorthodox medium. As FaceTime imbues each picture with a hazy glaze, the pictures of Rodriguez in a sunshine-yellow bikini look more like an oil painting than an iPhone screenshot. Perhaps we’ll be seeing virtual photoshoots long after the lockdown has ended.
How she’s getting through the lockdown: “I’ve been quarantining with my mom, dad and sister in my hometown of Encinitas, California. The silver lining of this situation is that I’m able to go on long daily walks with my parents or do Youtube workout videos with my sister. We’re bonding, and lucky to have one another,” said Rodriguez.
Co-authored with Adriana Georgiades