Betty Sze is the Managing Editor of Models.com, the prestigious platform that it maintains as a reference in the Fashion Industry and definitely, the Number 1 when we are talking about models. Almost 20 years online have proved it, keeping an ads free database of industry members, brands, castings and obviously, models.
Do you think models are having a shorter career due the constant launching of new faces or it is just because is part of the short model life?
Both! It's really such a shame because the constant demand for new faces doesn't allow many models to really develop their personalities. They are in demand one moment, and not in demand the next all before they have even turned 18. One of the reasons I feel like some of the top models of the 90's have staying power is because they were allowed to grow up, blossom and become interesting women and not just a pretty face. The pace is also more intense now. There are multiple show seasons, multiple campaign seasons and more magazines than ever. Now, if you don't come with a fully realized personality or have social media clout (like Gigi/Bella and Kendall), you have a short window to prove yourself before you are no longer in. I hate it frankly. The models deserve much better than that.
A recent positive change is that clients/brands are starting to realize that the public wants not just girls but actual women, so a lot of the models doing well now are the older ones like Tasha Tilberg and Iselin Steiro. So who knows, maybe the best trajectory for young models is to do well for a year or two, go live their life, go to college, have fun, explore what they love and then come back to it when they are more settled, stable and able to handle the ups and downs of the industry. Fashion always loves a comeback!
Is Fashion in a better way to show the diversity of our time? Or is there still a long way to achieve a better and more representative castings?
Models.com has always been a champion of diversity. Fashion, up till recently, not so much. However, that is changing. A really exciting development happened back in February where our Women's Hot List had 14 out of the 28 that were models of color. To me that's unprecedented and bodes well for the business. We only put models on the Hot List if they're working with the top level of brands/clients/photographers so it's a real testament to the casting directors, designers, editors, photographers, etc., who are pushing for diversity! BUT I always want more. I want more Asians, more South Asians, more black models that represent the whole beautiful spectrum of skin tones. The current success of Adut and Anok make me really happy, but I want them to have long careers and not just be the black models that are just in demand right now. I love how well Ashley Graham is doing (that woman is a powerhouse and is headed to household name level) but size diversity is something that still needs to improve I think for the fashion industry. Fashion has been very open to the trans community so that also makes me quite hopeful for the business. As for the men’s side of the industry, the sheer amount of male models of color walking the shows and then being booked for the campaigns and editorials has also been extremely gratifying to see. This definitely needs to continue!
I FEEL LIKE SOME OF THE TOP MODELS OF THE 90s HAVE STAYING POWER IS BECAUSE THEY WERE ALLOWED TO GROW UP, BLOSSOM AND BECOME INTERESTING WOMEN, NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE.
You are a photographer as well, have you pulled it up completely or are you still working on it?
I took a photography class in high school in the 80's but that's about it for my formal education. One of my pictures got chosen to hang in the state capital of New York, in Albany when I was a teenager, but I stopped taking pics then. In my late 30's I picked up a camera again but when it comes to the digital medium, I'm pretty much a self taught photographer who just does it for the love of a beautiful image. A couple of years ago, one of my Siki Im backstage images got chosen for an exhibition catalog on fashion for the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris (located in a wing at the Louvre) so I'm pretty proud of that. I love interesting images and it's pretty hard to take a bad picture of a model, so I enjoy backstage but I don't think I would ever want to be a working photographer. There's too much "politics" to deal with and making sure the client is "happy" is not something I ever want. If I take pictures, it's purely for my own pleasure (or for models.com!)
What expectations MDC and yourself have in a 2/3-years period?
We hope to be an even wider and more popular portal for fashion, to be the first place that more people stop to discover talent and to catch up on what people in the business are doing. Let me know if there things you'd love to see on our site!
Read the full Betty Sze's interview featured in the Fall Winter 2018 - Issue 1. Get your copy here.
Words by Edwin S Freyer.
Photographs by Betty Sze from Models.com