No Longer Just a Pretty Face: How Social Media Has Changed the Modeling Industry

15 years ago, all a model had to do was show up and look pretty. But in today's social media-saturated world, a great pair of legs and killer cheekbones do not a supermodel make. More and more, a model's earning power is derived not only by how many shows she walked or magazines she covered, but how many Twitter followers she has, according to the AP. Name recognition has always been a powerful asset in a model's career, but whereas in the past the public mostly got to know the industry's biggest players through countless covers, campaigns, gossip columns and paparazzi photos, today's social media has enabled models to make names for themselves. Now, any business-savvy model can get her name out there--and control her brand--through Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.
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Hayley Phelan
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15 years ago, all a model had to do was show up and look pretty. But in today's social media-saturated world, a great pair of legs and killer cheekbones do not a supermodel make. More and more, a model's earning power is derived not only by how many shows she walked or magazines she covered, but how many Twitter followers she has, according to the AP. Name recognition has always been a powerful asset in a model's career, but whereas in the past the public mostly got to know the industry's biggest players through countless covers, campaigns, gossip columns and paparazzi photos, today's social media has enabled models to make names for themselves. Now, any business-savvy model can get her name out there--and control her brand--through Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.
Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

15 years ago, all a model had to do was show up and look pretty. But in today's social media-saturated world, a great pair of legs and killer cheekbones do not a supermodel make. More and more, a model's earning power is derived not only by how many shows she walked or magazines she covered, but how many Twitter followers she has, according to the AP.

Name recognition has always been a powerful asset in a model's career, but whereas in the past the public mostly got to know the industry's biggest players through countless covers, campaigns, gossip columns and paparazzi photos, today's social media has enabled models to make names for themselves. Now, any business-savvy model can get her name out there--and control her brand--through Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

The new crop of social media friendly models--like Coco Rocha, Doutzen Kroes, and Karlie Kloss--may even see the return of models to the covers of magazines--or at least making some headway on the celeb covers that are de rigueur--said Wilhelmina president Sean Patterson. “With fan sites, blogs and Facebook, all of a sudden you can follow a model and know who she is,” Patterson told the AP. Plus, it doesn't hurt that having a big social media fanbase can bring instant buzz to any brand that hires the model. “I imagine, for example, that Victoria’s Secret likes that Doutzen (Kroes) has so many Twitter followers and that she tells them, ‘Watch the Victoria’s Secret show I’m in at 9 p.m.,” Patterson told the paper.

Of course, it isn't just brands and agencies that are benefitting from the new trend: Models are relishing their newfound power and voice. "Because I have a voice and I’m sticking to having that voice, I feel like I have extended my career," Tweeting-machine Coco Rocha, told the wire. Model Heide Lindgren agrees: "You can make yourself into more than a model this way...It introduces me to a new audience, and it might be more people seeing my posts than something that’s in Vogue."

Lindgren and Rocha have a point. Now that models can communicate to the public directly, there's more opportunity for them to craft a unique persona which could help them book jobs. Most importantly, though, it's given models a vehicle to express their thoughts and opinions--something that, historically, the industry hasn't had much interest in. "When I started, models were booked only for their cheekbones," Rocha said. "Now I think I get bookings because people will say they respect me, or we stand for the same things, or they think what I have to say is interesting. It’s better to hear that than just, ‘You have gorgeous cheekbone structure.’”

But while a large social media presence is no doubt a useful tool, does it really equal more success? Some of the year's biggest models--Arizona Muse, Lara Stone, Abbey Lee Kershaw--have little to no social media presence. On the other hand, Rocha, Doutzen Kroes, Karlie Kloss and Chanel Iman have practically made a business out of their Twitter accounts--and they have all graced countless covers, editorials, Victoria's Secret catwalks, and campaigns.

But social media savvy or not, what all top models have in common today is personality. The best models are much more than hangers. "If you can’t walk and talk, you can’t really be a successful ambassador of a brand," Scouted's Michael Flutie said. Indeed while Arizona, Lara, and Abbey Lee may not have active Twitter accounts, they certainly have individual personalities that come across in their 'model-off-duty' street style photos, and the candid interviews they grant. And that, it seems, is what counts.