Tyra Banks, the model who created and hosts the gripping intellectual enterprise that is America’s Next Top Model, is opening a theme park in Los Angeles called ModelLand. This will no doubt come as great news to the world’s “modelizers”, that breed of dead-eyed, hair-slicked, suit-wearing, over-moneyed, puddle-shallow men in early middle age (think of the Trump boys) who, says the Urban Dictionary, “associate habitually with models”.
“Associate”. Classy. Like Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson “associate” with models.
Such men will be envisaging — as I confess I briefly did — a sort of gigantic open-air brothel. A twinkling festival of fillies with all manner of wonderful “rides”. Park up, pay your entry fee and then, well, enter. Inside ModelLand, all the girls are six foot three and the colour of butterscotch Angel Delight with hair like a freshly blow-dried golden retriever and are genuinely impressed that you own (well, lease) a Ferrari. A place where you can slip on a white hotel bathrobe and slide into the House of Harvey for a spot of “I thought it was consensual” fun with a lot of shy teenagers who genuinely believe you can get them into the movies, while giving a wide berth to the Chamber of Horrors, with its squawking MeToo activists, feminist killjoys and whistleblowers, abuse trials and investigations by Ronan Farrow.
But that isn’t what ModelLand is, alas. What it is, is much worse. It is a place where tickets start at $59 rising to $1,495 and the target customers are, get this, women. Women!
For Tyra Banks says she wants to “bring modelling to the masses” so that you too “can live the modelling fantasy”. According to its website, ModelLand will be a pioneering attraction that “features fashion AND beauty, photoshoots AND runways, shopping AND theatre … And most importantly YOU.”
Sign up for the $540 “Fantascene photoshoot” (I’m not making it up any more, this is real) and you will get hair and wardrobe styling and “tasty indulgent treats” (some of which you may even be allowed to swallow) while a step up to the $1,495 “Fantascene dream” ticket will get you additional wardrobe changes (spend all day taking your clothes on and off just like an actual prostitute!), “additional high fashion photographs” and “veiled VIP seating”.
To which realistic facets of the fashion model’s daily life one might also add (although the bumf for ModelLand does not), “a regular supply of cotton wool swabs soaked in orange juice to replace meals, endless personal criticism from strangers about your body shape, skin colour, teeth, nose, eyes, bum and way of walking, all sorts of mental health issues, almost inevitable professional failure, total loss of self-esteem and a brief marriage to Bernie Ecclestone”.
Why does Tyra Banks think girls still dream of being models? Do girls still dream of being models? How can they possibly? This is the age of TimesUp and MeToo, women on equal pay, women in the boardroom, women in government, women on the streets protesting about, well, practically everything. So how can they still want to be hired on the basis of the shape of their bodies and arrangement of their facial features, to spend the rest of their lives prancing up and down a catwalk, half-naked in front of a thousand people, with that weird, hip-swinging equine dressage gait where both left and right foot have to come down in a straight line so they always look like they’re going to fall over, with a smacked-out zombie look in their eyes? How can that be an aspiration?
I am not asking how modelling can exist. Obviously models are needed to promote the exploitative products of an industry run by (sadistic, narcissistic) men who hate women and want to humiliate them by dressing them in clothes they know make them look ridiculous to demonstrate the ugliness of heterosexual desire. What I am asking is how doing that silly, pointless, objectifying, intellectually demeaning, environmentally catastrophic, sexually compromising and unsisterly job can still be, as the emergence of ModelLand seems to suggest, “every girl’s dream”?
To aspire to that is like aspiring to be sex-trafficked and I cannot begin to understand why women, who have finally begun to put up such a brave fight against exploitation in most other areas of life, still hanker after a role in this ancient conspiracy. Which is why ModelLand is the last place on Earth I would ever take any daughter of mine. And I do not say that lightly — I’ve been to Legoland.