As part of a new documentary series about the realities of modeling, Vogue recently convened a group of nine models and had them candidly share their professional experiences on camera. The models, who included Paloma Elsesser and Alessandra Garcia, talked about the pressures involved with their careers and the toll their work has taken on their mental health. Elessser explains at one point that while, from the outside, some might think the fashion world is filled with individuals who “feel perfect or look perfect,” many people are actually “deeply unhappy with how they look and their lives.”
Elsesser has broken boundaries as a plus-sized model who has changed the conversation around body positivity and inclusivity. The 28-year-old, who has an African-American mother and Chilean-Swiss father, cleared up an idea that applies beyond the modeling worlds: that success and happiness are synonymous. She also discussed how existing in toxic environments often led to continued abuses of power.
“What’s hard is that people still, despite all of this affirmed tragedy in the industry, that people still equate success with happiness or confidence or wholeness,” she said. “I think there needs to be a major overhaul in how girls and people are treated, not just as objects but as disposable. Existing in scarcity is such a dangerous and violent war zone in any space… It’s why the competition and the abuse of power is so pervasive, because everyone’s afraid to be kicked out and to be over, and it’s really dangerous.”
Models Adesuwa Aighewi and Adut Akech explain that young women are constantly told they are replaceable and that their careers are limited to a few years. Still, Garcia—daughter of the Cuban-born actor Andy Garcia—explained that pressure exists to come across happy and grateful.
“There’s a lot of pressure to be, not perfect, but to be on for people,” Garcia said. “For me personally, I never want to seem like I’m not grateful for opportunities or come off as a diva. Sometimes, I feel like you have to try extra hard to be the happy, positive model on set.”