The Model Who Hates Modeling

People always tell pretty girls that they should model.

But not all pretty girls like modeling…and I’m one of them!

I’m an old-fashioned girl. 

I don’t understand my sisters’ need to wear makeup every day.

My idea of dressing up for a club is “something comfortable I can dance in”.

I love long skirts and dresses.

I don’t own a bikini and wouldn’t pose in lingerie for all the tea in China.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a conservative Christian family or maybe it’s insecurities or my own weird form of feminism (I just know it’s not Maybelline!).

But between the hyper-sexualized celebrities in magazines, Victoria Secret catalogs and kiddie beauty pageants, modeling just bothers me. …and yet, here I am!

Leanna Johnson model lengha Chicago

Let’s talk about what modeling means.

When people tell pretty girls that they should be models, do you know which pretty girls they talk to?

Skinny white girls with shiny hair and nice teeth.

Cameron Russell, an American fashion model who’s been in the industry for eleven years, addresses this problem in her TED talk:

I am on this stage because I am a pretty, white woman, and in my industry we call that a sexy girl.

for the past few centuries we have defined beauty not just as health and youth and symmetry that we’re biologically programmed to admire, 

but also as tall, slender figures, and femininity and white skin.

 And this is a legacy that was built for me, and it’s a legacy that I’ve been cashing out on.”

Watch the rest of her TED talk here.

Leanna jewelry model wolton

For this reason -among many others- I will never like the modeling industry in general.

It’s home to too many self-image problems, eating disorders, sexism, racism and fake perceptions of beauty.

The industry may be crap, but the job itself?

That’s a different story. Modeling is hard work.

The amount of planning, performing, imagination and technical detail that goes into a photo shoot is amazing.

I have learned to respect everyone who becomes a part of the process.

When you’re not focused on diets and looking perfect to advertise the perfect outfit, modeling can create its own sense of self-confidence.

I’ve become more comfortable in posing front of a camera, acting out my own ideas and learning to distinguish between when I am myself and when I am part of a bigger concept.

Leanna Johnson In the woods model couple

(Images courtesy of Wolton Photography)

Every photo shoot and camera angle has a story line, so all I need is a “costume” and I turn into someone else.

It’s a unique opportunity to help create a marketable concept, whether it be an advertisement, an event collage or promotional material.

Modeling is only one step in the creation process and sometimes, out of all the photography, cosmetology, visual art, scene setting, costume design, story boarding and editing that goes into a single photo shoot, it seems like the least important.

It’s not quite that simple.

The model brings a concept to life, and no matter how up in arms I am about bad messages to young girls or objectification, the role a model plays within the production of marketing and promotion is crucial.

And it will always fascinate me.

But no matter how much I love performing or how absorbed I am by a new marketing strategy, my favorite part of a photo shoot will never change: Taking the makeup OFF!

Leanna no makeup