CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 18. . . .January 14, 2011.
Strutting It! The Grit Behind the Glamour.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2011.
88 pp., pbk., $19.99.
Models (Persons)-Juvenile literature.
Models (Persons)-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.
Review by Amy Dawley.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Any girl who thinks the world just revolves around her and who develops an egomaniacal, divalike attitude will quickly learn that there’s not much room for her in the industry. People abhor working with difficult, self-centered subjects, and if there isn’t mutual respect among all members of the team, the end result usually suffers. And remember, as special as a model may be, anyone can be replaced.
In fashion, as in most businesses, relationships are instrumental in making things happen. A strong work ethic, coupled with a pleasant personal demeanor, goes a long way. It is essential in not only establishing a model’s career, but in making sure her career develops and advances.
Jeanne Beker is no stranger to the fashion industry with her extensive and impressive resume as a fashion writer, editor, journalist and broadcaster, not to mention her stint as a judge on the reality television show Canada’s Next Top Model. In Strutting It!, Beker has written a guide to the modeling profession for young people who are interested in fashion and for aspiring models who are considering their career prospects. With chapters such as cultivating personal style, the process of getting discovered, the ups and downs of life on the road, and developing a modeling career, Beker has shared her years of knowledge in a format and style that is accessible to young adults. While the book does a solid job of describing the details of a model’s day to day life and experiences, Strutting It! also provides tips and insight as to the qualities and talents that make for a successful modeling career. Placing huge emphasis on integrity, work-ethic, maturity, and the ability to “roll with the punches,” Beker stresses that the most successful models are not just a pretty face. They are hard-working, serious professionals with a good attitude who dedicate their lives and bodies to the fashion industry, be it for high fashion or to sell the latest product.
Strutting It! takes on a very conversational tone as Beker unpacks the mystique and glamour that surround models and the fashion industry. Black and white photographs are interspersed throughout, depicting everything from models back stage at a fashion show to informal shots of the author with famous models and industry professionals. Some of the most compelling photographs are the “Transformations” in which two side-by-side photographs feature the same model, only one photo is shot without any hair or makeup work done. The difference between what a model looks like before and after being styled by her agency is striking, and any girl who does not think she’s pretty enough to be a model will have her eyes opened by these images of girls who look remarkably normal. Also interspersed throughout the book are information boxes that feature biographical details of famous models. At a glance, readers can find information on their favourite model’s nationality, age, career highlights, and how they were discovered.
One of the most appealing aspects of Strutting It! is Beker’s devotion to communicating the true and sometimes harsh realities of modeling. For example, she advises would-be models to remember the importance of education in a profession that might only last until a woman is in her mid-twenties. One of the most sobering aspects of the book is when Beker describes that many young models will be in the height of their careers while still in their teenaged years. So many beautiful and talented models never “make it” in the industry, and Beker clearly distinguishes between “supermodels,” like Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum, and the average model who may have a productive career but will never be wildly famous. For those who want to make their modeling career last, they will need to cultivate other skills and interests alongside their runway dreams. She provides helpful details of alternative modeling careers, such as being a hand or hair model, for those who don’t fit the “cookie-cutter” model profile.
While Beker’s effort to portray the real life facts of modeling is commendable, there is a lack of detailed explanation of the health hazards of choosing modeling as a career. Indeed, there is only a cursory mention of the negative impacts being a model can have on young women. The prevalence of eating disorders, loneliness, and drugs and alcohol abuse among models are briefly mentioned and sometimes only alluded to. For a book that seeks to uncover the “grit behind the glamour,” Strutting It! is a little lacking in the grit department. Also potentially confusing is the almost overwhelming mention of the names of models and industry professionals. So many names are dropped throughout the text that those unfamiliar with the fashion industry would need to be searching online as they read to keep up with Beker’s explanations of the movers and shakers in the industry.
Overall, Strutting It! is a compelling account of modeling as a career and would be an excellent addition to vocational guidance collections for young people. For teens who are considering modeling as a career choice or for those who are already in the first few steps of developing a modeling career, this book would be an excellent starting place to gather information. If anything, Strutting It! would be a good book for would-be models to read to be sure they really understand what they are getting into, and also a great educational resource so they can be sure they are asking the right questions of the right people.
Amy Dawley is the teen librarian at the Prince George Public Library in Prince George, BC.
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