Published for INSPADES Magazine, “Issue Quattro”
BY ANISSA R. STAMBOULI
Models are everywhere. Whether they’re smiling from glossed billboards or laughing with excessive jubilee from magazines and media outlets, the modelling industry permeates every aspect of our daily lives.
Up until recent years, the door to a modeling career was a narrow opening, accessible only by agencies and model management. However, with the steady rise of social media, namely Instagram in the 2010s, cyber celebrities have found their way to fame without the middleman of agency representation.
Adam Joseph Chase, an actor-model working outside the sphere of agencies, found his first month on Instagram to prove this to be all too true. “I went to bed one night with 400 followers and woke up with 1,400,” recants Chase. In an exclusive film interview with INSPADES Magazine, Chase reflects on his experience with the industry, including the pros and cons of using self-promotion over working with agencies.
“When I started a year and a half to two years ago, I had a UK brand re-post a picture of me and it flew from there,” recalls Chase. The brand, which had 300,000 followers, drew a swarm of eyes to his page, resulting in “a lot of opportunities” that helped launch his modeling pursuits. “I didn’t see myself, in my thirties, starting to go into modeling, but it kind of ended up going that way,” he admits.
“When I first started I had an agency I was with; it went well at the beginning but then there slowly started to be issues with me getting paid,” says Chase, who had only been with the agency for eight months, “I started to see them for what they were, instead of who they were telling me they were.” While it was bit of a rocky start, Chase feels fortunate to have since experienced such steady opportunity without the severe downfalls and scams he’d heard from others’ experiences within the industry.
Although occasional scams mar the entertainment industry, most model management companies and agencies are legitimate, serving to elevate a talent’s opportunity, which still requires a financial contribution from the model. Outside the representation of an agency, Chase still pays out of pocket for transportation to and from shoots, as well as any other modeling expenses that may come up.
“We don’t want to encourage the thought that there is no initial investment in the industry; modelling is essentially starting your own business,” says Brandon Hall, Creative Director for Sutherland Models in Toronto, Canada. “There are mixed messages out there when you’ve got people saying that you don’t have to invest in the industry, but quite frankly, you do whether you’re in New York, Tokyo, Milan or Paris.”
Launching into the modeling world can include fees for photographers or stylists so that models can collect quality images for a digital portfolio, or perhaps expenses include cosmetic tweaks like hair colouring, skin treatments or gym memberships. However, Hall explains that many of Sutherland’s “strong” models get connected with creative resources, such as free photo shoots initiated by photographers who see specific features or trends in an individual.
Combining the efforts for initial exposure and scheduling in the industry can be costly, explains Dr. Carolyn Mair, founder of the MA Psychology for Fashion Professionals and MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion programs at the London College of Fashion; “Models have to be available at short notice, so they may need to take temporary work at low pay while waiting for a call from an agency. Many have to wait for jobs to come in sporadically. This can lead to financial hardship.”
For models like Chase, who bartends with a flexible schedule to support the bulk of his income, he was able to weather the storm of delayed cheques, which were sometimes four to six months late. After parting ways with his agency, he was fortunate to already have other job opportunities lined up.
“I lucked out because a lot of people I met in the industry remembered me,” says Chase, who viewed every shoot as a networking opportunity; “When I go into any job I do, I try to say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to everybody that I interact with in the day – I treat the first person I meet to the last person I meet the same way. Through that, I ended up getting some background TV work.”
Since striking out on his own, Chase has collaborated with brands like Daniel Wellington, a designer for sophisticated watches, modeled for Canadian Tire’s catalog and appeared on the cover of a novel by Celia Aaron.
“When it comes to getting paid by clients, I work out everything beforehand,” says Chase, whose self-representation has enabled greater “control” and “progress” in his career.
However, being your own boss can be tricky if you can’t strike a balance between your personal and professional life. “An average day for me isn’t the average person’s day. A lot of my work is done on my computer or phone,” says Chase, who’s typical day involves a trip to the gym, a bartending shift at night and keeping up to date with emails and the Instagram community throughout.
“Someone once told me when I first got into this, ‘Every time you’re not working, there’s someone else working harder to pass you,’ so I try to keep myself motivated,” Chase shares, but he finds it’s not always easy to stay on top of his career and connected to a screen for most of his waking hours.
“I’m really lucky my fiancé helps me out a lot and is very supportive of what I’m doing,” he adds, “but it can be hectic at times; we’re both working different hours and don’t see each other for a few days, and then I get home and we’re sitting and watching a show or something and she looks over and I’m on my phone sending back an email.”
By taking the time to appreciate “quality moments” with his fiancé and six-year-old daughter, even if it means responding to emails and messages at a later time, Chase makes a point to achieve relative balance so that he never fails to enjoy what matters to him most.
Yet while representing himself has been a positive experience so far, he doesn’t see it taking him to the pinnacle of his career; “The only thing that might be negative about self-representation, is that I think it’s going to top out, and that’s when an agency can help you get over that hump. There’s only so far that you can go on your own.”
Having an appearance and talent for modeling doesn’t always ensure a job and Chase has found his height to be an obstacle for widening his exposure. “I’m not the typical ‘model look’,” he explains, “My height has really affected my growth in the industry.”
Although his tasteful tattoo collection and coiffed beard tap into current trends—think Diesel campaigns and the cultish beard lovers on Instagram—the height factor affects Chase when modeling alongside others. “With print modelling, the height is only a factor for me if I’m modelling with somebody. A lot of the girls in the industry are about 5″9 and higher.
You have to get a bit of a tougher skin,” he explained, “It’s a very physical industry—it’s all looks-based. I would go to auditions and I’d be standing there, introducing myself, and I would look over and the people behind the table are not looking at me, but are talking amongst themselves, or they start critiquing me while I’m standing there. Sometimes they talk to you like you’re a piece of meat.”
Although the gaze of fashion and film has, at times, objectified Chase, he asserts that the experiences between male and female models are “one hundred percent” different. “The few times I’ve worked with women, just seeing how they’re treated differently than a man is sad and scary sometimes, the way they’re talked to.” While aging men are considered distinguished and the ‘dad bod’ is trending for its approachable and sexy physique, Chase laments how standards for women continue to be unfair, unrealistic and unhealthy.
“The male industry and the female industry are very, very different I think, just in the way that women are portrayed and the way they feel about themselves at the end of the day,” Chase observes. He recalls a bridal shoot with a “good-looking, healthy” woman who couldn’t find representation with an agency because she was considered “too big”. Yet, while this female model was considered oversized for industry standards, she had the perfect, natural look for the client, a bridal company whose blog was looking for a realistic woman to “fill out the dress perfectly”, according to Chase. “It would be very tough to be a woman and be hearing that all of the time,” he adds.
“When brands use images of diverse populations, the response from their consumers is positive, yet, the industry is very slow to respond by using a representative sample of models,” contributes Dr. Mair, whose research continually identifies, understands and intuits human behavior within the world of fashion, particularly in terms of how beauty standards influence public perception and views of the self.
“Many bloggers are perceived as representing a particular group of the population that has been ignored by fashion,” she continues, “It is likely that consumers would feel better about themselves if they saw images of people they could relate to. This is likely to be translated into more brand loyalty.”
While some consider a person’s body mass index (BMI) to be a controversial weight classifier, it is still used for standard sizing in the fashion industry. Most runway models average a BMI under 16, a rate considered to be “severely thin” and malnourished by the World Health Organization. Such models, who dominate the norm of high fashion, starkly misrepresent the “normal range” of 18.50-24.99 for women, and yet such models are the physique that average women are constantly bombarded with. The industry’s BMI standards are a single strand of hay in a stack of beauty standard issues, exemplifying the distorted expectations placed on current and aspiring models. Such issues of body measurements disillusion the image of beauty.
“Continued exposure to the narrow stereotype of beauty can lead to many problems including, but not limited to, body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low self-esteem and low confidence,” says Dr. Mair, who believes that such negatively introspected opinions can lead to adverse effects in “all aspects of life”, including “relationships, work and leisure.”
“I don’t think I would want my daughter getting into the industry unless it changed a lot,” Chase comments, already noticing the frequent compliments she receives for being “pretty” and “cute” when he takes her on outings. “She’s really smart too,” Chase says in response to remarks on his daughter’s appearance; “I try to reinforce that she can do anything, that she doesn’t have to be put into a box.”
As the continual popularity of Instagram bloggers brings a versatile array of physiques to the public mainstream, and body-positive activists in the modeling industry such as Rosie Nelson and Ashley Graham confront unhealthy weight standards, perhaps beauty imagery in the industry will become more representative of the actual population.
To hear more about Chase’s modeling career through Instagram, check out his filmed interview, now available on our INSPADES Channel.