Model Sara Ziff and her director boyfriend Ole Schell. Image source.
Being a UC Berkeley student and being a model seem to have two things in common: the demands that both occupations make can get over-the-top, challenging, and stressful. The fashion industry is often chastised for its idolization of impossibly skinny women, making eating disorders common. However, very few people have come forth to address this problem in an effective way. Models in the ads look like nothing but perfection, so it is very hard to imagine them as unhealthy. Yet Sara Ziff, a model, and her co-director boyfriend, Ole Schell, have created a documentary that exposes more than mere eating disorders as a problem of the fashion industry. Shot over a period of five years, "Picture Me" exposes the need for some type of regulation in this industry that is very detrimental to the physical and mental health of those who enter it.
Most models start working when they’re young, some as young as 12. Ziff waited until she finished high school to seriously pursue her career, yet no amount of maturity could prepare her for what she was faced to endure as a model. Ziff's story takes her from being a bright-eyed girl full of zest and anticipation, to being close to having an emotional breakdown. She is often filmed crying over sheer exhaustion, or from comments that the professionals make about her. Clearly, models are treated like cattle, herded and prodded and painted until they are no longer useful. The issues of drugs and sexual abuse also come up.
I think that this documentary is very important for opening the public's eyes to the fashion industry. Because the industry is pretty closed-shop, not many people get to see what happens behind the scenes. The models look pretty and are paid a lot, so it seems as if they have no reason to complain. The hidden emotional abuse cannot be seen. We often hear about eating disorders being a problem, but never actually see its affects, or see what is actually causing the disease. It seems to be more of a problem within the industry than a personal one, which I think the public has not really been made aware of. These are not insecure girls longing for fame. These are young women hoping to pursue successful careers that are being cut down by their employers and competition. I really do hope that there are some regulations made on this industry within the next few years, in order to preserve fashion as the art form that it really is, instead of the superficial ideas that have permeated it.