Directed by Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, the story told by Girl Model was heartbreaking, to say the least. A self-described “gray mouse” sharing a bed with her doting grandmother, thirteen-year-old Nadya Vall is chosen from hundreds of girls to become a ‘top model’– a huge honor in her tiny Siberian village, where they think that “models are not only beautiful and charming, but also rich!” Nadya’s parents hope their daughter’s earnings will fund an addition for their house–but when she’s sent alone to Japan, things go awry. Nadya returns home, $2,000 in debt and with hardly any portfolio work to show for it.
A sub-story focuses on Nadya’s scout Ashley Arbaugh, a former model herself who once despised the industry for being “boring” but can’t seem to break away. It was Ashley who initially suggested a documentary to the filmmakers, about models who turn to prostitution. The film depicts Arbaugh as a paranoid weirdo (and that’s putting it lightly) who shares her Connecticut home with two naked baby dolls (she had dismembered the third). There’s also a scene where she has a hairy cyst removed?
The film was an eye-opening wake up call (and not just because we were grossed out by the cyst scene). Everyone can connect with being a self-conscious and unsure adolescent. The first-hand experiences shown in Girl Model put a name and a face to the horror stories we’ve all heard about the fashion world. Nadya was a victim of an uncontrolled system which took advantage of her vulnerability–summed up by her modeling contract, which absurdly stated “the agency has the right to change the terms of the contract at any time.”