There’s a popular—and negative—belief out there that runway models are just walking “clothes hangers.” I believe this idea is propagated to decrease the significance of models, and turn viewer attention exclusively to the clothes. However, this point of view is a disservice to the diverse human bodies that want to connect with the fashions on and off the runway. Is fashion just purely clothes, or are the models who wear them equally important?
Models are the liaisons between designers and audiences. They bring to life the creative magic of the clothes through runway performances. When I’m on a runway, I feel like a silent film star, expressing everything through emotion and expression rather than words. I often like to to ask designers what inspired them to create their pieces. Knowing that story allows me to enter into the world they’ve created, and channel it on the runway.
Though it’s easy to form a bond and understanding with the clothes, unfortunately sometimes that sense of connection between people in the industry just isn’t there. The casting process can be cold, mechanical, and dehumanizing—what some people dismiss as “it’s just business.” But does decisiveness really have to mean sacrificing kindness? Are casting directors, designers, and photographers just protecting themselves from the uncomfortable feeling of having to reject someone? Or do they enjoy the power of laying down the ax? Ever the idealist, I’d like to think that some, if not most, people would like to be more human—they’ve just forgotten how.
Here are a couple of things casting agents can do to help models be their very best. First, when posting a casting or audition notice, they could add a friendly reminder that there are a ton of valuable instructional videos on nailing your catwalk available on YouTube (Ford Models and HowCast both have some great content). This will allow the quick-learners to skip some common mistakes and potentially rock their talent just in time for the audition—win-win!
Second, research has repeatedly validated the power of mindfulness and visualization techniques to focus the mind and improve performance. Here’s how this can be worked into the audition process: before models walk, ask them to "walk like they're already in the show and have nothing to worry about." Then ask them to pay attention to what the experience of walking feels like. This might help them focus on their efforts/experience rather than the results. Models are primarily using their bodies for work so a little kinesthetic awareness will go a long way as they develop their craft.
I truly believe it’s possible to keep people focused on the task while still feeling respected. Currently, the thinking is that if you can’t handle the pressure of auditions, you won’t be able to handle the pressure of the stage and cameras, but those are two different kinds of pressures entirely! When people feel supported they are inspired to do their best and even take rejection more easily. As someone who’s been practicing mindfulness meditation and various developmental techniques as many years as I’ve been modeling, it would be a dream to see these two worlds come together to humanize the industry.
Karisma Rodriguez is a published writer and model studying Image Consulting in San Francisco. She was introduced to Descience by the humanistic fashionistas at Melange Productions, Inc. and was immediately intrigued.