For the latest MMSCENE Magazine‘s print issue 37 our Editor ZARKO DAVINIC reunites with LISA OVADIA Director of The Men’s Board at FASHION MODEL MANAGEMENT in Milan to talk about the changes in the industry coming in 2022, the position of a fresh face and the changing standards of beauty.
Do you think for fresh faces, 2022 is a good year? – I think that it is always a good moment for a fresh face. However, it is also true that now more than ever a fresh face can be burnt by this business in a moment.
Having your life, something you like. It is good for you to try something real first. Afterwards, if you wanna try you can do modelling. But there is a lot of energy you have to put into it. This is a real job. When you do it in a certain way. It is not like “okay today I want to be a model, and tomorrow I want to be a musician”.
So, me, my suggestion is if you are not certain if it is not working out – try your life.
One is passion and one is what works. There are different situations, a model can be pretty, a model can be particular, a model can be bold and fantastic.
Fresh faces today come and go in a blink of an eye. – Yes, it means you can be a fresh face loved by clients. Clients sometimes don’t even want to see portfolios, they just want a fresh face. Polaroids are often enough. To be chosen and to be the one you have to be very lucky. You can be part of a million hopefuls just floating around.
I do think modeling, as I always said, is a profession. More often than ever, it is work. It is not a passtime while you pause studies. Or something to do when you are at a crossroads.
Most people who stop studying to model do not go back to their schooling. – Absolutely, but in the meantime they were having a lot of question marks. Because they were living a life doing something planned every day, waking up, going to school – to sitting at home waiting for a phone call from casting.
For some people, maybe a smaller agency with less competition can even be better. For somebody that can be a good first step. But let’s be clear this does not apply for every fresh face.
Do agents get upset when you pass on their fresh faces they truly believe in? – I really respect working with a mother agency but taking someone which for me would never work, is not respectful.
What is the key to a successful model career? – It’s a mix of personality and look. Either you have it or you don’t have it.
Do you think today there is such a moment when being “too pretty” is actually a bad trait for models? – What I search for, my general idea, is the traditional traits of beauty as well. Those models you can bring to Milan and they work every day. One is passion and one is what works. There are different situations, a model can be pretty, a model can be particular, a model can be bold and fantastic. So more than ever, I don’t want to have only a certain type of model on the board. I would love for us to reconsider gender. Milano is only at the brink of that.
I do think modeling, as I always said, is a profession. More often than ever, it is work. It is not a pastime while you pause studies. Or something to do when you are at a crossroads
On DSCENE 15 we have Aaron Rose Philip, who changed gender and is a model who is in a wheelchair. Gender in two years, could be a thing of the past. For “MMSCENE” as derivative of “MALE MODEL SCENE” but that can also be the case for agencies. – Non-binary is something super interesting for me. Absolutely we have to be open to that. But I think it will take time. Especially for Milan and Italy. This was something we successfully went through when we worked on diversifying the modeling boards.
Less than ten years ago, the runways and agency boards were predominantly white. – Exactly, when I went 10 years ago to London you could see the difference already on the runway with incredibly diverse casting. For Milan that was something still unseen.
Yes, the clients for a very long time insisted on predominately white casting. – It is finally changing.
Do you think the change is now beyond trend? – Now it is finally an honest change, and I think everyone realised that at the end all of us are buying the clothes. So let’s go and truly represent the diversity of our shoppers.
What about the impact of the pandemic? – Today the market is simply requesting a lot of new faces. And this is something I am truly sad about. It doesn’t give us much time to develop a model. And I never ever saw a model as “a piece of meat“. As some people in the business can sadly think. For me it’s a person that sometimes also goes through hard times.
In three years since we spoke the female modeling industry changed to a much better inclusion of different body types. But do you think the male modeling industry is going to go into the same direction exploring the body type direction? – Honestly, I don’t. In the sense that in over 30 years in this business I saw the clothing design circulating in the same manner throughout years. The teens are gonna stay. But what is changing is the height requirement. Since today we see shorter guys starting to work more. Before a model 1.83m tall was not considerable, right now for some jobs they also ask for shorter boys. Which is good. I find so many stunning male models who are only 1.80.
Today the market is simply requesting a lot of new faces. And this is something I am truly sad about. It doesn’t give us much time to develop a model.
But what do you do when you find somebody shorter but promising? – Before I had to say no. But I do think that change might come.
But now we see the plus size girls becoming supermodels. But a plus size guy becoming a supermodel? – To be honest, if this happens I would be very surprised. Maybe for the guys at an older age, the size won’t be really important.
You mean, 40-45? – Yes. So these could be the two changes in the male modeling that I could speculate on in the foreseeable future.
To reverse, how young is too young to start working? – This is very important. When I get an introduction of a 16yo, it is not something I am thrilled about. As a mother myself, I also think how a 16 year old needs to be at home going to school. So my personal opinion is that when they show me a 16 year old, I can say he is an amazing guy. But a model that young, would only come with a vision of him being able to work close to his home.
You mean not traveling to another country? – Yes. But a lot of agents unfortunately do not think the same way. For me sending a 16 year old to let’s say Milan on his own. Is absolutely wrong. If they come at 16, they have to be with a parent. Never alone.
For boys it is harder, they are often sent to travel alone. And they often have to keep up the appearance of always staying strong. – I do think in addition to age, personality also plays a big part.
Do you think since we talked three years ago, the influencer momentum has changed? Is it more important? – Influencers are in a completely different market when compared to fashion models. Maybe the agencies are also into representing influencers as if they are fashion models, but I always thought mixing both on the same boards is not the right idea. A model has to be very good as a model. We do have models who are also defined as Influencers. But I think overall the mix is not the answer.
But at Fashion Model Management you do have a talent/influencer division.
We do, but it’s a different team. But I think if I am able to get work for models, I am able to get work for models. I do not have a structure in place to rightfully get work for influencers the same way I can for models. I do think you need agents who are dedicated only to the Influencers Market, as we do in Fashion for our board of Talent.
But do clients still care about a model’s number of followers. Let’s say Kit Butler, who has thousands of followers? – The client is not booking Kit only ’cause of his followers. Today the clients are not asking that often for a number of followers. But we already have the social media accounts linked in portfolios of our models. Many clients like to check out the social media of a model as well.
What do you think about the TikTok trend? – For me at the moment, being on Instagram is enough! [laughs]
You spend a lot of time on IG, do you still scout there as well? – Yes, often. And I have to say I even do it off the clock. I can’t stop scouting! But I have to say if I find a model online and they have an agency representation already, unlike many agents, I am never going to contact the model. And I always ask a model if they have a mother agency.
But you also scout even on the street? – I found a Japanese guy, who was working in a restaurant in Milan only recently. I am very happy when I find somebody like that. He already walked his first runway in Milan. Very proud when something like that works out.
Do you think the shows are still necessary? – Personally, I believe no. But a lot of people are against that. Seeing all these digital runways and videos, they are perfect to get the message across. But for sure this is not helping the economy and the industry around the Fashion Weeks. The cities still need the economy of the Fashion Weeks.
There is surely amazing video production today, like Gucci runway films. – And they were using 100s of models for the same. It’s also a lot of work at home I have to say though. For many clients today with increased production we do have to work 24/7. This is something that came with Covid.
What do you think is coming for the already devastated industry of print magazines? Honestly, I do not see the big future. I am sorry to say that, cause I love print magazines. I love to touch the paper. Nothing is as amazing as seeing something in print. But unfortunately I do not see young people having interest in print magazines.
You are close to celebrating 30 years at Fashion Model Management. – I have been working for 40 years already! My job is my passion. For me I still have the thrill of developing new faces. Finding new stars. This is what I love to do. This is exciting. To get someone who is totally new, and get them these amazing jobs.
Keep up with Lisa on Instagram @lisafashionmodel
Originally published in MMSCENE Issue 37 available in print and digital.