“Oh You’re A Model? You Must Be Dumb Because You’re Beautiful”

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By Mallorie Carrington

“This is my best friend Mallorie, she’s a model” used to be a fun way to be introduced when it was coming out of the mouth of my junior high best friend. As I got older – it got old. And more than that, it got embarrassing. I do not take a compliment easily and I’ve spent a significant part of my life trying to figure out why I feel that way.

At about 9 years old I entered a talent search at my local mall to model in their runway shows for the stores. After being accepted it quickly became one of my favorite things to do. And while I was a little bit of a brat occasionally – refusing to model the overalls the mall stylist chose from Sears – I was just happy to get dressed up and confidently strut my stuff. After a couple years the shows ended and I went back to being a pre-teen academic nerd who got good grades and followed all the rules.

When I was about 16 years old I was finishing up a recital for my dance school, and as one of the older girls, I was waiting on the stage for all of the younger kids to get picked up by their parents when I was approached by a Ford model. She apparently was a friend of my dance teacher and had picked me out of the crowd of sequin covered dancers. She told me about modeling courses she was teaching – and when I showed reluctance – offered me a discount because she really believed I could be “talented.”

During the classes we learned runway walking, how to pose and move in front of the camera, and even how to apply our own “natural” makeup look. I left the sessions having had fun – and with some now embarrassing child model photos – and thought that was that. My coach, however, decided that she would help me get a manager if I really wanted to pursue this career. And after one meeting with my mother and a man I can’t really remember I decided against it. Something about it just made me uncomfortable even though the modeling itself was fun, and I went back, once again, to my academic studies and after school activities.

Once I started attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, I made fast friends with a fellow design student who was accepted into their yearly runway show competition against Parsons School of Design. Knowing that I was A) her friend and B) tall, she asked me to model for her. In order to do so I had to attend the model casting and to my shock and surprise 3 more designers cast me as well. I had always enjoyed walking the runway so this became my annual modeling ritual.

It never crossed my mind to do this professionally, and I attribute that to my upbringing. While yes I did grow to have the genetic makeup of someone who could or should model my parents never put any emphasis on my looks. Only my brains. I can’t even remember them complimenting my looks as a child or young adult. I didn’t see myself as attractive or beautiful and while I was confident, outgoing, and personable, I never for a second thought any of that was tied to my appearance.

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As I headed into my fourth year of college I began to date an actor who had just moved here from Texas. He was an over confident, pretty, blond boy who upon hearing that I modeled in a couple runway shows here and there became obsessed with the idea that he had moved to New York City and was dating a model. The idea that I was a model seemed absolutely ridiculous to me. But he insisted I get some test shots, and try to get some paid jobs. I threw together a portfolio and began freelancing with agencies. At the time, I took his encouragement as support and motivation, except one thing was missing.

I had no passion for modeling. It was not what I wanted to do. I was passionate about fashion design, art, and teaching but it is a lot more impressive to say my girlfriend is a model than to say my girlfriend is an artist or teacher. So model it was.

But within me was an uncomfortable feeling receiving anything purely for my looks. From money, to a job, to respect, or attention; if the reason behind it was because of my appearance, it never sat well with me.

When my agencies suggested I shouldn’t cut my long, thick hair I shrugged them off and chopped it. When they suggested I should stop at my one small wrist tattoo (which they already hated) I just continued to get more. And when I would get calls from my agency that consisted of “Are you more of a size 2/4 or 4/6?” my response being “Definitely a 4/6” their answer of “Oh great, they are looking for big girls.” never phased me. Because modeling was not my passion. It was something people threw onto me. And my body, my tattoos, my hair, and my self respect were always much more important.

Eventually I stopped modeling. It was never something I wanted to put any effort into. But beyond that, while getting your makeup and hair styled is fun, and receiving interesting and artistic photos of yourself is exciting, at the end of the day, no one cared what I had to say, what kind of person I was, or what passions I had. Yes I may have the stereotypical body type that is desirable for clothing campaigns but I have so much more than that. So when someone introduces me and says – “This is my friend Mallorie – the model” I take offense.

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I take large issue with the lack of diversity and reality in advertisements. And in my current fashion line I refuse to subscribe to it. I do not hire models – even if some of them have modeled before – I hire women. And they are women of every size, shape, race, height, and personal style. And yes this does include 5’11, size 0 women, just as it includes those who are 5’2 and/or a size 22. I want them to look like themselves not this imaginary idea of a customer I as the designer have created in my head. I do not allow my photographers to retouch these women or my clothing.

In real life, women have flaws and clothes have wrinkles and folds. That is what makes them beautiful, unique, and a part of reality. The end result is not your typical fashion editorial spread. They are gorgeous photos of happy, confident women and they represent everyone not a select five percent.

There is a real disconnect in society today between beauty and brains. It is very often assumed that a fabulous, stylish, and beautiful women can not also be intelligent, well read, and driven. This is an issue I have struggled with all of my adult life. It is impossible not to judge others and I know others judge me. However when people judge me and say I must be unintelligent because I am fashionable or attractive, it is the most difficult thing for me to handle. It is possible for a stunning, confident woman to be extremely smart just as it is possible for an incredibly intelligent woman to be gorgeous.

Women are not made to come from two categories and two categories alone. It is not either/or. We are all a wonderful mixed up make up of beauty, brains, brawn, and balls, and it is what we decide to do with it that matters.

mallorie-carrington

Mallorie Carrington is a NYC based Fashion Designer. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute she had many corporate design jobs before deciding to switch to a life of freelance work. She also launched her own line called SmartGlamour which is a line of affordable, customizable fashion basics for women of all sizes. It is inspired by women’s body image issues and the lack of accurate representation of women in the media. Mallorie envisions SmartGlamour to grow into a movement of body positivity and overall wellness for women.

You can find her on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/smartglamour
Twitter and Instagram – @smartglamour
Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/smartglamour

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