It is an interesting and sometimes compelling look into the ugly side of modeling, however, it lacks a satisfying conclusion to tie it all together.
Nowadays Toddlers & Tiaras and the like are mega successful TV shows that glamorize rather than exploit the modeling world, so it seems like great timing for a documentary to show the real side of modeling. Girl Model reveals that there is a lot of corruption in the modeling world in the form of prostitution, underage modeling, and agencies practicing shady business tactics. It is an interesting and sometimes compelling look into the ugly side of modeling, however, it lacks a satisfying conclusion to tie it all together.
The opening scene fantastically sets the tone for the entire documentary, model scouts examine the room full of girl candidates looking to become a professional model. Scouts speak openly in front of the girls about their flaws and why they will not be accepted. They are paraded around in single-file fashion, while scouts determine if the girl meets dehumanizing measurement standards as if they were pieces of meat. The level of disturbance reaches a whole new level when it is said that many of the girl models are only 13-years-old.
That is when Nadya comes in. Nadya is a 13-year-old girl from Siberia who looks like she ate her last meal days ago. She is recruited by the model scout named Ashley to travel to Tokyo to hopefully become the young new face in Japan. The documentary spends the majority of its time following both Ashley and Nadya as it attempts to capture both sides of the modeling business.
By the 30 minute mark the documentary reveals the fact that Ashley used to be an ex-model herself. This is interesting because she talks about all the horrors of becoming a model, yet somehow she has stayed in the business for the last 15 years. Ashley tries to justify the reasoning of staying in the business by stating that because she knows first-hand what these girls are going through, so she can look out for them. The documentary does a good job balancing the different sides of Ashley to make her seem both hypocritical and sincere.
Because models are essentially selling their bodies for money, it is easy for them to accept the mindset of prostitution. A lot of times models choose to do both to earn money. It is a dark area of the business. The problem is some of these dark areas of modeling are alluded to by Ashley but never actually explored further by anyone else. It would have been nice to get answers by investigating whether prostitution or sex trafficking actually happens by confronting modeling agencies or even better, other ex-models who may have gone down that path. Without digging around for any validity, we must simply take Ashley’s word for it.
Girl Model shows that there is not as much beauty in the modeling world as one might think. The opening scene will hook you in but by the end you will be left wanting more. Because many of the dark aspects of modeling were mentioned but rarely shown, the documentary suffered from telling-not-showing syndrome. Unfortunately, the majority of the runtime is spent on the surface rather than deeply exploring the topics that are brought up.