Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Male Models - The Unknown, Familiar Faces

Male Models have more media exposure than pop stars. How come they have no PR?

Two male models, both had major campaigns for european designers and are runway regulars since many seasons, arrive at the airport in Milan. Nobody is there to pick them up. They take the public bus into the city. One model`s cell-phone rings with his agent calling. The model asks if he is going to have a driver (to transfer him between the shows, which are located all over the city taking place only one hour apart from each other) during fashion week. The agent sais no. So the model starts explaining he couldn`t walk properly (let`s ignore that he was healthy enough to skateboard before getting on that bus). Apparently this is not what an agent likes to hear from his model during fashion week, so the model backs off a little, explaining he could do runway but couldn`t walk long distances. The phone-call ends with the models getting no driver and excessive swearing about their agency after the phone was hung up.

So this is the treatment you get, even when you reached a status where clients pay hundredhousands of dollars for your face? Taking the bus and running through the streets of Milan in the unbearable summerheat? Not very glamorous.

The male model business is said to be unglamorous because the competition is as big as in the female business with smaller wages but the dream is the same; the success, the money and in the end: being a name, not just a face.

Male models get mass expose. They are more visible than movie stars or pop stars, yet who they are remains unknown. Even though it is said there were no male supermodels, Will Chalker was nominated as "British Model of the year" along with female topmodels like Lily Cole. Award shows and magazine covers determine celebrity and celebrity needs PR.

So, do male models need PR? Or more precise; can they afford to have PR? PR is there to shape the character of a product and make it more desireable but what if your product is "projection space" for other peoples products? Could a wild private lifestyle keep conservative clients away? Could conservative personal views not be hip enough for the latest fashion fragrance? Is the "air of mystery" crucial?

There seem to be different views about this question from different agencies. While some american agencies make sure their, already famous male models get media exposure and make sure there are VH1 camera teams filming them entering exclusive parties during fashion week, creating a glamourous image, some Milan agencies don`t even bother to respond to interview requests for their male models.

Fact is that most male models want PR. Contrary to the common predjudice, not all of them are "laid-back low key" personalities. The majority of them are not farmer-boys from the country, who are willing to go through all obstacles of this ungrateful business and they are not easy to impress. Most of them are aspiring actors or designers who get into this business to not only put their face out there but also their talents and personality.

On the one hand they experience VIP-treatment during fashion week; free entry into clubs and the most exclusive parties, agents paying their drinks and expenses, designers loving their looks but on the other hand they don`t even get a driver.

Male models do not get the same recognition as their female counterparts because they don`t have the same role-model function in a society where men compete with jobs, money & success and women compete with their bodies.

The male modeling business is a coin with two sides but maybe the differences between the glamorous side and the ungrateful side will grow smaller since the market for mens fashion and beauty is growing and therefore the importance and exposure of models grows as well. Hopefully the agencies will some day help their models getting PR by letting them give interviews and by that bringing them closer to their goal; being a name, not just a face.