This is a story of Alessandra who wants to become a model. However, she finds various hindrances.
Alessandra and the girls take a five-minute break, giving me an opportunity to quiz her a little more about the local scene. ‘It’s very different [in Dubai]. The models here are a bit… spoilt. The competition isn’t as widespread as it is in New York or Paris, so you have a limited group of models who get job after job. But with the injection of new models, new girls, people have to up their game.’
By this, Alessandra is referring to the new academy, which she hopes will generate a new crop of local talent. I try to glean more about what the 12 weeks entail. ‘What I try to do is… I draw on my own experience,’ explains Alessandra. ‘[Models] get very stressed out in their first year – there’s a lot of rejection, but it’s a learning curve, so it’s making them understand: the more they know [about the industry] the more they become comfortable with it, and the more they practise, and the more they train. Everybody wants to jump straight onto the cover of a magazine, but it doesn’t work that way. They’re very young, so the slower they go, the better, because they become better professionals.’
Having seen her in action, I can’t but help ask whether Alessandra considers herself a hard taskmaster. ‘I am, yes,’ she says unrepentantly, ‘because they’re young, and all they think about is having their pretty picture on the front of a magazine. They have to understand that it’s not all about that – that’s the last step. They need to know that this is a business. They need to be financially aware, they need to be socially aware, they need to have interpersonal skills, PR skills. It’s not about being pretty – all models are pretty. What can you bring to the table?’
Luz explains that the ‘Mediterranean look’ (brunette, dark eyes) is particularly sought after in this region, but surely there’s more to being a professional model than eye and hair color? ‘If you have a certain personality, you need to portray that personality [in a photoshoot], and you can personify a certain style of clothing and make it jump out of a magazine. The same goes for the catwalk – you have to have somebody who walks beautifully, elegantly and, again, according to what [brand they’re modeling]. A lot of models nowadays are so rigid.’
Alessandra believes the industry is very different now to when she used to spend her time in front of the camera. ‘In my day, we really needed to be professional because we [were shot] in film – it cost money. We were told: “You have 20 films and that’s it.” We didn’t have Photoshop, so we needed to have good skin; we needed to have a good night’s sleep.’
Speaking to Alessandra all but extinguishes any hopes I had of being spotted, recruited and given huge amounts of cash to attend various fashion weeks around the world. Which begs the question: is there any kind of vetting process for the academy?
‘You have to be realistic,’ admits Bareface general manager Elisa Galbraith. ‘But the good thing about Bareface is that we have different divisions – we have the Model Agency, we have Cast & Kids, and we have Entertainers. In Cast & Kids, for example, we have a lot of people who could be great supporting actors, extras, people who are perhaps a bit quirkier – all age groups, all different shapes and sizes, and all different looks. The key thing about this course is to educate people so they realize there are different kinds of models, and trying to find out which one suits.’
The students’ five-minute break is over, and Alessandra’s vociferous personality once again commands everyone’s attention. I may not be catwalk material, but I take some comfort in the fact that it takes more than a pretty face to make it in the modeling industry. Besides, I can’t complain – maybe a career in local TV commercials awaits.
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