Girl Model (DVD Review)12 Jan, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Prebook 1/15/13; Street 2/12/13
Box Office $0.02 million
Making it in the world of modeling is akin to catching lightning in a bottle. Success rates are on par with getting paid to be an actor or professional athlete — nil to none. Still, the lure of success and veiled narcissism prompt myriad agents, photographers and even parents to enter pubescent girls in cattle calls looking for the next Kate Moss.
In the opening scenes of engaging documentary Girl Model, dozens of skinny Siberian girls parade around in bikinis under the pretense of a regional beauty pageant — with a plastic tiara and promise of an $8,000 modeling contract to the winner, a 13-year-old ingénue named Nadya.
The modeling contract is Nadya’s ticket out of a barren (but seemingly happy) life on the family farm — despite a mother’s concern — to Tokyo, ground zero of a country’s insatiable fashion demand for very young Caucasian girls.
With less than rudimentary English skills and even less Japanese, Nadya arrives in Tokyo alone and lost. Luckily, filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin steer Nadya to the appropriate location — a drab apartment the teen shares with another wannabe model from Russia.
The girls sign contracts (with no representation) and are sent to auditions where pictures are taken under the guise of building portfolios. In reality, photos show up in magazines, and the girls are never paid. Worse, the models actually owe money (for rent, food, etc.) at the end of their visas.
At the heart of the Siberian-Japanese exploitation is a former model named Ashley, whose job as talent scout merely masks a disturbing soul. Interviews with Ashley and others underscore an obsessed industry that takes advantage of youth while paying lip service to real beauty.