I’ve been interning at a talent agency for the past few months, listening in on the thought processes of the people who help decide who becomes famous. This agency most recently wrapped up a job where they had to hire women who were “it” to appear in an ad. “It” is a pretty abstract quality, and that’s what “it” banks on. You aren’t supposed to be able to trace “it.” “It” is elusive, best described by the more abstract, je ne sais quoi. Maybe because of the abstract definition, there was a bit of confusion about who was “it.”
In the initial phases of the project, everyone was researching really accomplished women. We looked at photos of female authors, musicians, curators, and actors. These women were deemed “too real.” The “girls” who were accepted would have to look good in the clothes. The head of the company had told me a while ago that when anyone is scouted off the street, “They have to be aspirational, not depressing.” This translated to our job of finding women with clear talent, who happen to be 5'9". I listened to the comments as I went through the choices. “She’s looking a bit haggard.” “She does not photograph well.” “She’s too big.” This was the week, in a nutshell.
Being “it” seemed to run counter intuitively to being accomplished. Why did we want to call very successful females, “it girls”? Would Forbes or ArtForum or The Economist refer to any of the males they feature, some quite progressed in age, as either “it” or “boy”? Men are writers, women are “it” writers. The term “it girl” belittled the women who were being chosen, and quite a few respectfully declined. These women knew that you are only “it” for as long as anyone wants to look at you. I’m not sure of the greater defeat, the fact that women who are actual role models and who look like women, were rejected based on this very fact; or if the only way that they could have been given the chance to model in this respect was through infantilizing, demeaning language. At the end of the day, the job went to women aged 23 not 43 (still mildly progressive considering most models are 15-22). They will look good in the clothes and that’s about it.
Image credit: http://www.blogcdn.com/blog.games.com/media/2010/12/it-girl-cheats.jpg
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