Models in Skopje – Oppressive or Empowering?

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” According to Rachel Zoe, a famous US-American stylist and fashion pioneer, the way you dress yourself can be just as expressive as words. Fashion is communication and every outfit can be a statement. Since the rise of social media the fashion industry has been revolutionized. Before it was nearly impossible to get scouted as a model or recognized as a fashion icon – nowadays you can get yourself discovered.

As everywhere in the world, small model agencies are growing in Macedonia. One of them is ZOA models, which is based in Toronto and present in London, Los Angeles and Skopje as well. “I was taking modelling classes at an agency here in Skopje and was noticed by Zonde, my current agent, he helped me shape myself as a model and grow professionally”, explains Mia Giraud, who is currently one of the faces for the Skopje Fashion Festival. While she was discovered by a scout there is also the possibility to apply yourself online on the website of ZOA or other model agencies in Skopje, as well as the opportunity to gain attention through an appealing social media presence. “About four years ago, I followed the Models in Agency on Instagram and just a day later they contacted me and invited me for a meet-up. Since then I have been working in the model industry”, describes Veda Evtimova, who is currently under a contract at Models in Agency.

Both of them work for a variety of occasions such as photo-shoots, runways and campaigns. They have been standing in front of the camera for years, are quite successful and not even twenty years old. What kind of impact does it have to work in this field as a young woman?

Mia tells me she loves working as a model, as it was her dream since she has been a young girl. For her the advantages of her job include meeting and working with a diversity of people, her professional growth and the adventurous nature of the fashion industry. She adds, that working as model has also improved her confidence greatly and makes her feel empowered. This corresponds on what I hear from other models.

Of course modelling is not just fun though – it is hard work. “It can sometimes be mentally and physically exhausting”, admits Mia, “but that’s what comes with shaping character and becoming better in what you do”.

As a model, your body is the resource for your work. You need to treat it carefully, stay in good shape and be aware of your appearance even more than others. Of course this impacts your mind and body. “Comments about your weight by people you work with can be made here and there and it can affect you”, is what I am being told, “Modelling can be very challenging. Many models – if not most of them – face pressures from the industry that lead to anxiety, eating disorders and so on.” So while working as a model can be very empowering and good for the self confidence on one hand, it can also lead to the exact opposite on the other. If you want to survive in this industry you need to have a thick skin and cannot let comments about your body, get the upper hand of you.

In addition to that there is also the danger of encounter frauds and manipulation. Many young models are being pressured and tricked into working without payment. “Not having enough experience can easily lead you into such a thing, so it’s important to find a good agent”, warns Mia. It is important to carefully choose the employer or the agency you want to work with. Especially models are also in danger of sexual harassment, which is why it is from uttermost importance for them to double check the reputations of people they might work with and take safety measures. Even though it is a very though work environment, Mia concludes: “The working conditions are usually good, I’ve personally never had a bad experience with this in particular.”

For the models I talked to, their job is a way to express themselves, something that gives them confidence and makes them feel empowered. They are learning how to use their body to their advantage and gain a lot of working experience as well. Working hard pays off. For some of them modelling is a nice part-time job, while others want to continue their careers in the field. In any way they followed their dreams and took their fate into their own hands. Modelling is not for everyone, but we can all be inspired by the hard work, time and energy they are putting into it.

Angelina Berndt

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