Being a Good Role Model in the Fashion Industry

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Modelling is not just standing in front of a camera and looking pretty. A lot goes on behind the scenes including nutrition and exercise, travelling and being a good role model.

Being in the public eye brings with it certain demands that one might not expect or want. Nevertheless, there comes a certain amount of responsibility when someone has the ability to influence others. Models are some of the most influential and aspirational figures of our time, which means they hold a lot of power over the general public.

Read on to find out more about the moral responsibilities a model has.

What Does a Good Role Model Look Like?

A good role model is someone who inspires good choices. Most of us have a pretty clear idea of what we think of as “good” and “bad”, but there’s no rulebook – for example, we all know murder is bad, but not all of us think drinking alcohol is bad. That means what constitutes a “good” role model is open to interpretation.

However, we can all agree on similar aspects of being a good role model, particularly where children are concerned. Many of us would not swear or smoke cigarettes around children because we know this is setting a bad example. While we may grow and choose our own vices or “bad” habits, we don’t want to actively encourage others to take up these negative behaviours.

So where does these leave models? By choosing to be in the public eye, have models inadvertently signed up to being a role model? In a word – yes.

Whether they like it or not, models have influence over the general population, and they must decide how much positive influence they wish to have. Similarly, they must choose what “bad habits” they don’t mind others copying – even youngsters. Most top models would hate to think a young teen started smoking in an attempt to copy them – so many models choose not to be seen smoking (remember, this is just an example – most models don’t smoke at all as it’s so bad for your health).

So how do model’s influence others?

Social Media

It’s a model’s job to influence the general public. That’s why they’re hired – because they have the ability to make any product, service or event look good. Models themselves tend to have aspirational looks, and spend a lot of time ensuring they appear to have idealistic lives, too.

The rise in social media, and its use by young people, means celebrities (and models) that use platforms like Instagram or Facebook must do so with thought and care. Instagram has become infamous for its usage and ability to sell. One photo can turn a profit for many businesses and companies. Unfortunately, that means that social media can also be used to negatively influence people – whether intentional or not.

Youngsters are the most likely age group to be heavily influenced by the media because they have not yet learnt what to take with a pinch of salt, what clickbait is, and how much is altered and edited online. However, even the older generation can be fooled or hoodwinked. While there are processes being put in place to prevent this, not enough is being done yet to protect social media users. That means users must educate and protect themselves as much as possible. It also means influencers must do what they can to protect their followers. For example, a lot of influencers now say when a photo is heavily edited, or when they have been paid to promote something.

Many top models actively choose to influence the general public in a positive way, and social media is a great place to do this. They use their “role model” status to do good in the world, whether that’s to inspire others to give to charity, help to spread awareness for deserving causes or encourage others to do better.

Is It a Model’s Responsibility to Be a Good Role Model?

If you’re choosing to be a model for a living, you are also choosing to be a role model for the general public – and, like it or not, that’s a responsibility you will have to live with. Even those models who do not consent to be positive role models have no choice – models are constantly being hounded by the paparazzi and news sources who want to see into their lives. The more successful and famous you are, the more responsibility you have. Any skeletons in the closet will likely be discovered; it’s very difficult to have a secret or “bad habit” that won’t be brought to light.

Of course, no one is perfect and we all have our vices. However, how we choose to pursue these vices may make the difference between being a good and being a bad influence.

Take smoking, for example. While it is an unhealthy habit, it’s a common one. Most top models choose to live healthy lifestyles, so it’s unusual to see a top model who smokes – however, it’s not completely unknown. Celebrities including Kylie Jenner, Nicola Peltz, Elsa Hosk and Dakota Johnson have all been seen puffing on a cigarette. Some of them claim they don’t “really smoke”, and that the cigarettes are just “props” – but this is still sending out a message to their impressionable fans. In fact, a 2015 study showed that young adults who were shown cigarette use on social media were more likely to smoke themselves.

Remember that even props can also make you appear contradictory and hypocritical. If you are busy telling the press and the public that you lead a healthy lifestyle, but you are seen doing otherwise, you may lose credibility with your fans – perhaps enough to damage your career. You may not be actively participating in the bad habit yourself, but you are selling it merely by sharing a photo of you doing it. One single photo on Instagram by a top influencer can do more for sales than a smoking brand’s whole marketing campaign.

How to Be a Good Role Model

To be a good role model, you must simply be mindful. When out and about, you could be seen and recognised by anyone at any time. Would you feel happy or proud to be captured doing something that others may find offensive, vulgar, unhealthy or otherwise “bad”? If so, don’t do it (at least, not anywhere you can be seen).

There are other things you can do to help be seen as a good role model:

  • Give to charity. Helping others that are less fortunate than yourself is a worthy thing for everyone to do.
  • Educate people on things that are important to you. It doesn’t matter what – the environment, littering, stopping animal abuse – if you’re passionate about something that will make the world a better place, share it.
  • Don’t break the rules. A bit vague, but let us explain; people who break the rules (whether it be the law or something less serious) are going against the grain. While it can sometimes be a good thing to speak up or counteract something, other times it can be very bad. For example, stealing a necklace (like Lindsey Lohan) earned her very bad public attention. Breaking lockdown rules (like Rita Ora) lost her some respect and fans.
  • Seek help for serious vices. Many people struggle with things like addiction or eating disorders. While some celebrities may be seen as negative role models for it, those who seek help are often redeemed in the eyes of the public.

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