Think of someone who presents themselves as ‘a model’. You’re probably thinking thin or chiselled, tall and flawless – and you’re probably wrong.
Studies say we’re very confident
Maltese people ranked highest in a recent global study on body appreciation, which surveyed almost 57,000 participants across 65 nations. The research was conducted by Anglia Ruskin University.
Yet, according to the World Health Organisation, Malta ranks second place for overweight and obese adults among 53 countries. We’re in third place for children aged 5-9 and in second place for children and adolescents aged 10-19.
When The Journal met with Malta Models’ Managing Director, Jeanette Bezzina, we felt the urge to question her about this apparent contradiction. What she told us makes sense of these two separate findings: the days when models had to adhere to skinny standards are far gone.
Are we confident or are we not?
Although Anglia Ruskin University claims we are oozing confidence as a nation, Jeanette Bezzina believes otherwise. According to her own experience, Maltese female models are not as confident as their foreign counterparts.
Malta Models is home to around 200 models that hail from all over the globe, as far as India, Ukraine, and Serbia. Jeanette is adamant that, although Maltese models have beautiful features, they tend to be much more self-conscious and downright lacking in self-confidence.
When we point out that non-confident models sound like a contradiction, she explains that some people, in fact, join the Agency because they need to bolster their sense of confidence in life, on the catwalk, and in front of the camera.
Jeanette explains that it is her belief that Maltese women are far more concerned about the angle in which their face is photographed, their body shape, and their height. Those three factors, according to her, are what weigh on women’s minds the most.
For Maltese men, though, it’s a totally different ball game. “As soon as a man is on set or placed in front of a camera, he’s good to go. We almost never have any issues related to self-confidence among men,” says Jeanette.
Filters are filtering
An interesting phenomenon that Jeanette observes pertains to the current teen and adolescent generation. Herself in her early thirties, Jeanette acknowledges that younger ones today are more than happy to go out wearing no makeup, hair undone, and dressed very casually.
Great, we think. That’s a sign of self-confidence right there!
Jeanette makes us think again. According to her, these young ones seem to be aware that there’s a filter for every occasion. Should the need to look presentable arise, it’s probably for the virtual world, and it’s probably doable to fix and touch up their looks by the pressing of a button. Therefore, it’s not that they are so self-confident that they do not need any real modification such as make-up and blow-dried hair. Rather, artificial intelligence can get those modifications sorted for them.
We ask Jeanette whether people’s self-confidence takes a hit in the privacy of their non-filtered world when they compare their real images to filtered versions of themselves or others. She doesn’t think so.
“Practically everyone knows how to filter things nowadays. It’s impossible to feel inferior, when you know you can achieve the same level of filtering just by playing around with your phone. And when you look at an image, you can almost rest assured that it has been doctored in some way or another. You know it’s not real,” she insists.
Very thin models are a thing of the past
If there’s anything that’s being filtered out, it’s the image of very thin, very tall models. In fact, the industry is asking for the opposite.
“Size 12 is as model-worthy as Size 6. At the moment, it is much more in demand,” reveals Jeanette. “A Size 12 model is now perceived as having much more of a presence, and customers now believe that people of this size look better when promoting their items. They have a greater presence and attract more attention.”
She adds that clothing companies in Malta are also opting for models in the 12-14 size range, because they now believe that clothing sits much better on them. For fashion shows, the demand for models ranges between sizes 6 and 16.
In saying so, she is very careful to emphasise that all sizes and shapes are beautiful in their own way, and there are no size limits to modelling.
“It’s great to see that there are beauty standards that go beyond one standard size,” says Jeanette.
We ask whether this phenomenon is specific to Malta, and she assures us that it’s not. In fact, she adds, fashion shows abroad are moving away from sizes 0 to 4, having that the constant portrayal of these body types as the only beautiful ones was leading to many cases of anorexia and other harmful eating habits.
This sense of diversity does not only pertain to sizes. Jeanette explains that her clients ask for all sorts: from models with tattoos to models who look older. It all depends on the client, and what sort of image the client wants to portray.
One thing that the world of marketing is fully understanding nowadays, and that could be contributing towards a demand for all sorts of models, is the concept of relatability. In short, people respond better to a product when they can relate to the person who is selling it to them. Therefore, it stands to reason that clients are demanding models who look like good-looking versions of all of us, in all our different shapes and quirks.
Hand-holding towards a path of self-confidence
Jeanette, whose Agency has models from the age of 1 to the age of 60, explains that she can tell when a model lacks self-confidence. Her scouting sessions kick off with an initial meeting.
“A typically timid model will ask things such as whether her mentor will be there all the time and whether she will be guided through the poses during her photo shoots. We take note of these types of models and we hand-hold them as much as possible, until they learn and stand on their own two feet,” says Jeanette.
She further explains that some models worry about the slightest of things, such as how to smile for the camera.
“Such a natural act can become a source of intimidation. This is actually quite normal, and we are used to it. We accept everyone and guide everyone towards a path of self-confidence,” she adds.
Still phased by the fact that there are models who need to be coached into feeling confident, Jeanette assures us that it is much like being an artist. “Anyone can paint, but some people are born artists, and others need guidance to learn the right techniques,” she explains.
It’s not as cruel as it is portrayed to be
Many of us will remember episodes of America’s Next Top Model, in which models are forced to do whatever it takes and are puppets pulled by a client’s strings.
Jeanette assures us that, at least for her Agency, this is not the case. When a model is not particularly comfortable with what she is told to do, alternative solutions are found. Some models, for example, are not comfortable at all with having their hair styled upwards. Jeanette recalls another example, when her models were not comfortable being filmed at very close range when walking out of swimming pool. In such cases, alternative hair styles and filming styles were found, in agreement with the client.
“If you’re into the world of fashion, nowadays you can just go for it!” says Jeanette.
Although she doesn’t believe that the Maltese are exceptionally body-confident, she is working to help make them so.
“Love yourself as you are, and the world will love you for it,” is her final word of advice.
Main photo credit: Matt-photography