Embodiment of Beauty, Enactment of Self

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: Booth 66
Oral Presentation
Sylvia HOLLA , PhD candidate Sociology & Anthropology, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The paper presented entails a sociological study of how beauty is defined within the transnational field of fashion modeling. Based on ethnographic and interview data - collected in the modelling industries of Amsterdam, Paris and Warsaw – this presentation aims to illustrate what male and female models do with their bodies in order to attain professional beauty standards and how they integrate these body practices into their everyday lives. Models’ share several clearly defined professional demands with regard to their bodies, but go about achieving them in various ways. However, virtually all models are engaged in physical exercise and surveillance of food and drink intake. These practices are limiting, for they have a restrictive effect on models’ everyday life routines. On the other hand, these practices are constitutive to a models’ self. Models are not just corporeally involved in their profession: their entire daily lives are profoundly affected and directed by the professional mandates of becoming and staying beautiful. Models’ ultimate bodily involvement in the professional production of beauty makes for the negotiation of self to become a necessity for most models: they frame their own body practices as in need for legitimating, as these practices are constitutive not only to their professional, but to their ‘entire embodied selves’. Clearly, in fashion modeling, labor, body and self are intertwined in an exceptionally radical way. Modeling as a profession should therefore not be categorized as simply a form of aesthetic labor (Entwistle & Wissinger 2006). Models’ entire day-to-day life rhythm, their social surroundings and everything they drink and eat, are geared towards the aesthetic pursuit of becoming and staying beautiful. I therefore go as far to argue that fashion models are the ultimate embodied selves.