Sky Ferreira’s been on the scene for years, but the making of her debut album Night Time, My Time, which was released on Tuesday, was not an easy endeavor. After five years of battling with her record label and a series of calculated changes of her image, the album was very close to not getting made. According to her recent profile in New York Magazine, she used her own money to finish it — money she earned from her successful modeling career.
The 21-year-old singer has garnered a large following in the fashion world due to her ties with Hedi Slimane, who shot her for the Saint Laurent Pre-Fall 2013 lookbook, and early support from designers like Riccardo Tisci and Jeremy Scott. She also walked the runway for Marc Jacobs at his Spring 2014 show and has become a fixture on Terry Richardson’s website.
This year alone, Ferreira starred in a Coachella campaign for Forever 21, a colorful fall campaign for Benetton (pictured), and in the fall ads for Eleven Paris. Earlier, in 2011, she was one of the faces of Calvin Klein’s revival of the ck One fragrance, one of her biggest campaigns to date. She told Rolling Stone in a recent interview:
I use the money from modeling for my music. I use it to support myself… It gives me the freedom to do what I want musically because I don’t have to rely on someone else’s money to do something. I like doing modeling. It’s more than a hobby obviously because I get paid for it, but it’s a big part of my life.
However, her flourishing modeling career may be in jeopardy. After her arrest for Ecstasy possession in September, it’s likely that some brands won’t want to attach themselves to Ferreira, despite her youthful appeal and inherent “cool” factor.
While Ferreira’s music career is her primary focus, it’s not the main source of her livelihood. “I’ve lost a lot of modeling contracts because of this whole thing,” Ferreira told the magazine. “I can’t really say the names, but for the more commercial jobs, I get it because big brands can’t be associated with drugs and stuff.” In the age of the Internet, the music industry isn’t as lucrative as it once was, and without a physical album or an international tour under her belt — she was forced cancel recent dates due to a vocal cord injury — the singer admits she hasn’t earned much money off of her music yet. But will her legal slip-up bring her modeling career to a halt?
“As a model or singer it’s part of your job that you are under an intense public scrutiny, in particular if your actions not only affect yourself but also a brand,” Sylvie di Giusto, a personal branding specialist at Executive Image Consulting in New York City tells us. “Companies expect their spokespeople to project a credible image in terms of expertise, trustworthiness, or objectiveness–it totally depends what their own brand stands for and what is acceptable to their target audience. They often chose their spokespeople based on the similarity to their audience, and Ferreira’s attitude could only be positive for a brand if the brand stands for such a ‘rebellious’ behavior and lifestyle.”
This is an issue models and spokespeople often face in times of scandal, the most notable example in fashion being Kate Moss after she was caught doing cocaine in 2005. But rarely does it irreparably damage their careers. Moss was famously dropped from her long-running campaigns for Burberry, H&M and Chanel, but she reemerged even more successful.
“Kate’s challenge, however, is that it’s still part of her reputation, people didn’t ‘forget’ about it,” di Giusto says. “She will always be the one supermodel who was on that video taking drugs. It’s her, it’s her brand, and it’s part of her because she didn’t apologize.”
Most of Ferreira’s campaigns thus far have been one-off castings (Benetton confirmed to us that she was only contracted for a single campaign), so we don’t know for certain which contracts were in effect at the time of the arrest. Luckily, di Giusto thinks there’s no question that the singer will, like Moss, be able bounce back–and on her own terms. “To repair her reputation, [Ferreira] could apologize in the short-term, or instead stand for what she does and says and make it part of her brand.”
Ferreira has shown great promise in the time she’s been on the fashion scene, and while it’s probably best that brands that cater to a younger crowd separate themselves for a season or two, we don’t foresee her going anywhere fast. Like the title of her album suggests, this is her time.