In 1988, a teenaged Kate Moss—all knees and elbows, charming snaggletooth, with slightly too big ears and slightly too short legs (by modelling standards)—caught the eye of a forward-thinking scout at JFK airport.
Had Moss been born a millennial, however, her discovery story may have gone something like this: An unusually beautiful-looking teen posts an Insta selfie (#familyvacay #model #backtoEngland) that’s “double tapped” by the right person. One direct message later and a career is launched.
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Moss is the pioneer of the age of the jolie laide model, where unique beauties such as Binx Walton and Molly Bair get as much play as the Cindys and Lindas of the past. And Instagram has become the underground wellspring for this anti-glamazon, giving access to real and raw muses who might never have been traditionally discovered. Women who are more, according to model scout Ashley Brokaw, “your best friend’s sister. You know, the girl who’s not on the cheerleading squad,” she told The New York Times.
Model Eva Collé was scouted on social thanks to her Steven Meisel-esque shots showcasing her killer bone structure and androgynous buzz cut. “I only made [the account] three months ago and since then I’m basically travelling everywhere to model,” she said backstage at the Spring/Summer 2016 Vetements show.
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Tyra Banks stumbled across Winnie Harlow, a Canadian model with vitiligo (a skin condition that causes pigmentation in the skin), while cruising Insta. The Toronto native has since starred in Diesel and Desigual spring 2015 campaigns.
Savvy model management firms are also embracing this subversive scouting method. In 2014, industry giant IMG—they rep everyone from Karlie to Kate—launched “We Love Your Genes” a global Instagram campaign asking aspiring Kendalls to post photos in the hopes of getting a modeling contract. “Model” looks almost seemed a second priority to IMG, who, on their website said they were seeking “that indescribable charisma.”
And where can you find that? Well, social media. “Finding what’s different about you and really showing it off creates a new level of connection between you and the people supporting you,” says Gigi Hadid, who has over 11 million followers on Insta. It can also mean wayyyy more bookings. “These days Instagram can be a huge contributing factor to whether a model gets a job,” says New York-based casting director Jennifer Starr, who has worked on runway and advertising campaigns with brands from Narciso Rodriguez to Dolce & Gabbana. She says more than half of her clients want models with a strong online presence and personality.
Some brands are even skipping agencies altogether. Marc by Marc Jacobs designers Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier cast their fall 2014 campaign with real people via an Instagram contest. It was so successful—there were 70,000 applicants—they ran the #castmemarc competition for spring 2015 too. Rimmel London, Asos and even Cara Delevingne (for her DKNY capsule collection) have all sought out fresh faces in these digital casting calls.
It’s beauty, democratized. And the effects have spilled over into the public psyche. Models or not, our freckles, frizz, big ears or crooked noses are what make us unique and beautiful. And that’s #forwardthinking.
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