Model Citizens: Refusing to Live the Lie

By: Claire Biggs, Regular Contributor

When I was 13 years old, I took on my first job as an assistant to a local wedding photographer. I’m honestly not sure how much assisting I did. I knew nothing about photography, even less about love and marriage, but what I lacked in any useful skills I made up for in unbridled enthusiasm for weddings.

Flash forward two years and my love of weddings had morphed into a love of wedding dresses, which, in turn, transformed into a love of fashion. I wanted to know how things were made, what inspired the designers, how celebrities got to wear the clothes. I wanted to go to New York Fashion Week and walk the shiny floors of the 4 B’s in New York City: Bergdorf’s, Bloomingdales, Barneys, and Bendel’s.

I was 15-years-old when I received my first Vogue, and it impacted me in a way that I still see in the way I dress and choose to present myself.

No one told me, however, that the magazine was a lie.

 I’ve had a tab open on my browser for the past three days, and every few hours I stop what I’m doing to go look at it again. Debenhams, a British department store, released an eyebrow-raising catalog. You see, the department store decided to feature - wait for it - real people!


Let me interrupt this post to point out that I love models. I have no issue with models being used to, you know, model the clothes designers create. What I don’t love, however, is the lack of representation in runway shows and on magazine covers. Outside of the fact that the models represent a beauty ideal that isn’t, in some cases, attainable or necessarily healthy, the models are often so heavily edited in Photoshop that they don’t even resemble themselves anymore.

What I love about the Debenhams catalog is that some of these models have perceived imperfections that, while representing a larger portion of society, would normally keep them from being called “models.” I love that people all over the world will hopefully be reminded that there’s a way to produce a gorgeous image that succeeds in selling the clothes while also maintaining the integrity of the model. What I hope is that children won’t grow up, like I and so many others have, thinking that the images they see in most fashion magazines are real.

I hope companies like Debenhams keep reminding us that this is a lie, and it’s a lie we don’t have to believe.

About Claire

claire_biggs.jpgClaire Biggs landed what she thinks is one of the best jobs in the world writing for MTV’s pro-social blog, MTV Act. She’s a writer who watches too much TV and reads even more books. She’s probably on Twitter (@ClaireMBiggs) right now.





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