Pin It
Favorite

Forever Young 

Is a local modeling competition breaking the mold or just following the trends?

click to enlarge JIM CAMPBELL ILLUSTRATION
  • Jim Campbell Illustration

Time is running out for Jennifer Watts. At 21, the former barrel-racing cowgirl from Elk, Wash., is old as far as runway models go.

Watts is 5-foot-8, loves Pabst Blue Ribbon and the Philadelphia Eagles. She’s in college and wants to be the next female broadcaster on ESPN. And today she’s working as a fashion model.

But for how much longer? Most runway models are 14 to 19, according to a report in USA Today. Some are even younger: A 12-year-old caused an uproar in 2007 when she was named the official face of Australia’s Gold Coast Fashion Week. In Britain, officials have even tried to ban catwalk models younger than 16 in order to protect them from eating disorders and sexual exploitation.

At the Spokane’s Top Model competition, things are a little different. Red Eye Promotions, the organizers of the event, didn’t uphold the rigid weight, height and age standards that other competitions institute. They wanted to be inclusive. “We wanted the event to be open to everyone, to show that Spokane’s fashion scene is diverse,” says event manager Taylor Fyhrie.

More pageant than fashion show, Fyhrie says the event was created to celebrate Spokane’s growing fashion scene.

“The event is about bringing new opportunities to Spokane,” he says. “Spokane is working to get caught up as far as Seattle and other more fashionably-forward communities.”

At the competition on Saturday, models will strut on the catwalk in front of fashion executives and professionals from Seattle Fashion Week. Each model is paired with one of eight local salons and eight local boutiques, which are also competing for a grand prize. But despite the call for women of all shapes and sizes, the top 40 selected for the final round look much the same: skinny. Most are ages 17-20. A couple models are older, Fyhrie says. There’s Watts, at 21, and the oldest is “maybe 23.”

To Watts, who’s made it into the top 40, the youth of her competitors is apparent. “I remember during our first photo shoot, I was talking about getting a drink afterwards and a lot of girls just stared at the floor. I feel old in this competition, but it’s a reality of the actual industry.”

The impact of our youth- and image-obsessed culture isn’t just felt by models, says Elizabeth Kissling, professor of communication and women’s and gender studies at Eastern Washington University.

“Growing up has changed for young women. Their project is their body, dieting, learning to apply make up ... the fundamental project that an adolescent girl is working on is maintaining her looks.”

This message is underscored by advertising, which delivers the message hundreds of thousands of times during a woman’s life, Kissing says.

“We all think that media doesn’t affect us, but that it affects other people, ” Kissling says. “The vision of the world created for us by media doesn’t include women over the age of 40. And those women who are shown are either selling products to make us look younger or are being scrutinized for getting plastic surgery.”

Nicole Beach, a local model who once graced the cover Vogue Italia, Esquire, and Elle magazine, says the pressure is only greater on the models themselves, who often feel objectified.

“The business can be brutal to the point that I don’t think a lot of people can handle it,” she says. “Models need a strong sense of themselves before they enter the business. They need to know their boundaries.”

Now 38, she says her time as a model was a “dream come true.” While she doesn’t follow the industry anymore, she is supportive of other women wishing to enter the business. She just hopes they receive more guidance and direction than she did.

“I don’t have any regrets,” she says. “I just find it hard to transition into other things. I think that’s what’s hard for models. People will always see you as a model.”

For Watts, modeling is something she loves, but she knows it won’t last forever. That’s why she’s recently finished her associate’s degree in communication and plans to study broadcast journalism.

“There’s so much more to me than just this,” she says, circling her face with a long-delicate hand. “Because this may fade but my education is important.”

Although Watts says she doesn’t have body image issues, her perceptions of aging are on her mind.

“You realize eventually, and I have, that the human body starts to age at 18,” she says. “You start to go downhill after age 18 and you start seeing your mortality when you see little wrinkles or a varicose spider vein or a stretch mark or dark under-eye circles. And I’m going to fight it the whole way through.”

Spokane’s Top Model • Sat, April 16, at 7 pm • Knitting Factory • $10-$40 • All-ages • spokanestopmodel.comticketfly.com • 244-3279

  • Pin It

Speaking of...

  • Confessions of a Spokane Buyer
  • Confessions of a Spokane Buyer

    How those selecting the clothes and accessories coming to the Lilac City have learned to work with a more casual clientele
    • Oct 13, 2016
  • Here for 
the Hustle
  • Here for the Hustle

    A Spokane leather bagmaker has gained a national following
    • Oct 13, 2016
  • Globetrotting Fashion
  • Globetrotting Fashion

    Annessa Smith has made Spokane her permanent home and inspiration for her blog, even while traveling the world
    • Oct 13, 2016
  • More »

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • Variations of Zuill
  • Variations of Zuill

    Badass cellist. Musical missionary. Grammy winner. Zuill Bailey redefines Bach for the 21st century
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • Backstage Story
  • Backstage Story

    Behind the preparation and precaution: Why it practically takes a village to put on a Cirque du Soleil show
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • The Genius of Bach
  • The Genius of Bach

    His lasting influence, and a look at this year's Bach Festival schedule
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • More »

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

 

Comments are closed.

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue
SATURATE: Reservation X

SATURATE: Reservation X @ Richmond Gallery

Through Feb. 28

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Jordy Byrd

Most Commented On

  • Partisan Pagans

    The political divide is even splintering Spokane's witches
    • Feb 2, 2017
  • Finding the Words

    The sounds of 8,000 people taking to the streets of Spokane
    • Jan 26, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Blind Faith
  • Blind Faith

    In a vacant lot by the railroad tracks, an unlikely friendship is found
    • Jan 7, 2016
  • Answering the Call
  • Answering the Call

    An unlikely romance leads to an inspired Spokane-Rwanda connection
    • Aug 26, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation