NYFW Model gives us the Skinny on the Industry 

As New York Fashion Week comes to a close, we bring to you a look at a different side of fashion. I had the pleasure of getting to know Abby Dixon during our years participating in Gainesville Fashion Week. Here’s her take on what it’s like to model full-time.
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Abby modeled for Kanye West during his NYFW SS16 Show
Have you always wanted to be a model? When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
 
I actually haven’t always wanted to be a model. When I was younger it wasn’t ever anything I thought I would be able to do, I was surprised when people started approaching me to do it. I always wanted to work with kids and the education system.
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 “I actually haven’t always wanted to be a model. When I was younger it wasn’t ever anything I thought I would be able to do.”
How old were you when you became interested in modeling? Will you tell us a little bit about what drew you to that career?
My interest in modeling started when I was 18. My aunt is a photography teacher at the Miami Ad School and her students needed a model to photograph. At that point I didn’t really think anything would come out of it, I was just doing it for fun.
During college at UF I became involved in Gainesville Fashion week. From there I did a few shoots with photographers from Florida who had seen my pictures from GFW and contacted me to shoot. I was still just doing shoots for fun and I didn’t have an agency.
When I graduated I got scouted on Facebook. I drove up to meet who would become my mother agent, she liked my look and a week later I moved to New York to start modeling full time.
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“A week later I moved to New York to start modeling full time.”
 
If you had to choose another career, what would it be?
If I could chose another career right now I think I would work with an after school program that served to help under privileged kids, or any non-profit along the same lines. I studied childhood development in school and I’ve always been drawn to working with kids who have difficult home lives and helping them better their education. I’m sure I’ll end up doing something with that once modeling is over.
Would you tell us a little bit about your favorite modeling job?
My favorite modeling job so far was shooting the campaign for Medwinds, a new Spanish brand. We shot three days on a Greek island so it was beautiful and really fun. I always love the jobs where you get to travel and the people on this particular shoot were really friendly and easy to get along with.
Would you tell us about your worst modeling job?
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“It’s hard to pick my worst shoot because there are a lot of different things that can go wrong.”
It’s hard to pick my worst shoot because there are a lot of different things that can go wrong. I did one shoot in South America in the middle of winter. It was for an editorial so it didn’t pay anything. The other model and I were freezing, they had us standing in really high heels on these rocks over the water and the wind was almost blowing us over. We had to change outside, neither of us could stop shaking, and the shoot lasted 14 hours. The bad part was the team didn’t care at all, they just told us to stop looking so cold because we were making the pictures look bad. I think that was the most miserable I’ve been on a shoot.
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“I did one shoot in South America in the middle of winter. It was for an editorial so it didn’t pay anything. The other model and I were freezing, they had us standing in really high heels on these rocks over the water and the wind was almost blowing us over. We had to change outside, neither of us could stop shaking, and the shoot lasted 14 hours. The bad part was the team didn’t care at all, they just told us to stop looking so cold because we were making the pictures look bad.”
Unfortunately a shoot like that isn’t uncommon at all. Most winter clothes are shot in the heat of summer and summer clothes are shot in the middle of winter. So often the models are really miserable and expected not to complain
 
What is one thing you would like the general public to know about models or modeling?
I think the public needs to understand that modeling is a pretty tough job and it’s often not as glamorous as people think. We get criticized every day whether it be for our body, skin, hair, clothes, etc. You have to deal with a lot of rejection. The hours are long and unless you’re a really famous model, you’re often just treated like a human clothes hanger and people don’t care about you at all.
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“We get criticized every day whether it be for our body, skin, hair, clothes, etc. You have to deal with a lot of rejection. The hours are long and unless you’re a really famous model, you’re often just treated like a human clothes hanger and people don’t care about you at all.”
There has been a lot of skinny shaming lately in the media. While I agree that the fashion industry should be diverse in the girls they use, I don’t think it’s fair to condemn fashion models for their size. There are girls in fashion with eating disorders and that’s something that should be addressed, however I know far more girls in the industry that are perfectly healthy. Most fashion models are girls who are naturally thin and always have been that way. So when magazines and internet articles claim that fashion needs to feature ‘real women’ and ‘real bodies,’ it’s very insulting. A woman who is naturally thin is just as real as a woman with any other body type. Women should be encouraged to be healthy and accepting of any body size because to me skinny shaming is just as bad as fat shaming.
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“So when magazines and internet articles claim that fashion needs to feature ‘real women’ and ‘real bodies,’ it’s very insulting. A woman who is naturally thin is just as real and a woman with any other body type. Women should be encouraged to be healthy and accepting of any body size because to me skinny shaming is just as bad as fat shaming.”
 
If you could offer advice to someone contemplating a career as a model, what would it be?
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“My advice to any aspiring model would be to develop really tough skin.”
My advice to any aspiring model would be to develop really tough skin. This is a career with many beautiful girls who never end up making it big. It’s often all about meeting the right person at the right time and having them like you. Models have to be really careful not to let the criticism they hear every day beat them down and ruin their confidence. That’s much easier said than done, but in this industry you have to maintain belief in yourself if you want others to believe in you.
Are their any double-standards for men and women in your industry?
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“There is a little bit of a double standard. Girls usually have many more castings than the guys do and I think we’re criticized a lot more on our appearance. It is an industry where women are consistently paid more than the men, so that’s something different from most other jobs.”
Do you think changes need to be made in the beauty industry?
Going back to what I said about skinny shaming, I think we need to celebrate all bodies. People also need to understand that some of these girls work very hard to be healthy and in really good shape. It’s not something to criticize, it’s something they’ve put in a lot of effort for.
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“The girls don’t look like that in real life.”
I think consumers also need to understand that most pictures are really highly edited. The girls don’t look like that in real life. On a shoot you’ve got professional hair and makeup, lighting that makes your skin look perfect, and then you have photoshop afterwards. Even a lot of Instagram photos are edited now. The models generally don’t have any say in the editing process, and often they’ll edit you and make you look totally different. So when people are comparing themselves to pictures in magazines they need to understand that those pictures often don’t represent what a girl really looks like. It creates an unattainable standard of beauty and I think that can be very damaging not only to consumers, but models as well. It is really hard to see an edited picture and love it, but also know you don’t look that way without a lot of work.
 
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“It creates an unattainable standard of beauty and I think that can be very damaging not only to consumers, but models as well. It is really hard to see an edited picture and love it, but also know you don’t look that way without a lot of work.”
Are there any general general misconceptions about models that you would like to set straight? 
I think there’s a general misconception that models are perfect or that they’re not like real people. Of course there are always going to be the girls who change or become conceited with fame, but a lot of the girls I know are down to earth and have insecurities the same as many young girls.
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“We get blemishes and have bad hair days, those just aren’t the things you ever really see.” 
As I was mentioning before, the way a model looks in person is different than the way she looks made up in a magazine. We get blemishes and have bad hair days, those just aren’t the things you ever really see. I think a lot of people also think it’s just a really easy career, but it isn’t. When you go to a casting in a city like New York, you’re often competing against dozens or even hundreds of girls for a job. It can be really tough to book things.
 
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“So you can work a really long time without getting a paycheck, sometimes it takes 6 months or longer.”
Starting out, a model will stay in an over-priced and over crowded model’s apartment that puts her into debt with her agency. So you can work a really long time without getting a paycheck, sometimes it takes 6 months or longer.
The hours are long and constant travel can get really exhausting. In the past year I’ve lived in 6 cities, and while that’s exciting and I love seeing different places, it’s also really tough to pack up and move every couple of weeks or months. It’s a rewarding career, but it definitely isn’t easy.
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“It’s a rewarding career, but it definitely isn’t easy.”
Abby Dixon is 23 and from Fort Pierce Florida. She attended UF before beginning her full time modeling career at age 21. She currently lives in New York City, but has traveled and worked in Miami, Milan, London, Santiago Chile, Barcelona, New York, and Tokyo.