Fashion model Shelbi Byrnes says, “People glamorize Fashion Week a lot like it’s an amazing, magical thing. But in reality? It’s a grind. It’s a hustle.” According to New York Post, the model has been attending up to 10 castings a day in the days before Fashion Week, which kicked off Wednesday. She isn’t guaranteed a spot in any shows, even shows that she was cast in. She may not get paid at all.
She falls into the group of ladies that Kendall Jenner, the world’s highest-paid model, recently called “those girls,” when she said, “I was never one of those girls who would do like 30 shows a season, or whatever the f**k those girls do.”
Jenner said her comment was taken out of context and tweeted, “It was intended to be entirely complimentary.”
But it certainly wasn’t taken that way. High-fashion model Teddy Quinlivan commented on Jenner’s Instagram, “Those girls make exponentially less for the same job as you…[and they] have to show up ON TIME.” Another model, Payton Knight, said, “She was discounting girls who aren’t famous and aren’t born into rich families. [It’s like] their work is nothing, like it’s not that hard to do.”
Irina Djuranovic posted on her Instagram, “Never been so indirectly and publicly offended in my whole entire life. To be called a supermodel…how easy it comes to you.”
Byrnes said models don’t make much money unless they’re already famous. Paris Al-Atraqchi was in five shows last Fashion Week and made nothing. According to Knight, some models even go into debt with their agencies when work doesn’t come immediately. Models who travel far from home will stay in expensive agency-owned houses that can cost thousands of dollars a month in rent.
According to Observer, many have pointed out that Kendall Jenner can be selective about her work because of her family’s wealth.
The high-fashion modeling industry is notorious for depending on free and underpaid work even from models as young as 13. In some cases, models working in unregulated conditions are even younger. In recent years efforts have been made to change the exploitative status quo, but model representation and payment among the world’s top houses is still an issue. Among the models who appeared in New York Fashion week in February 2018, 62.7 percent where white and only 34 out of 2,289 were plus-sized. Only 31 were non-binary or transgender.
As of right now, most models starting out will have to deal with long work hours and lots of rejection. However, Kendall Jenner’s experience is unique. She broke into modeling at 15 years old after her mother called a renowned Victoria’s Secret photographer.