The Fashion Industry’s 2021 AI: Beautifully Brained Fashion Models

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I searched the Internet and leveraged my social network to identify potential gigs. There was no section for academic achievements on the casting application or request to include any educational details in the email submission requests. Those casting applications and model requirements focused on the physical aspect (looks and appearance) because they are pre-requisites before interfacing with you further. The next emphasis on the application was the model’s experience on the runway/print work.

THE HUMAN INTELLIGENCE OR THE ATTRACTIVE INTELLIGENCE (AI) OF TODAY’S FASHION MODELS. WE ARE THE OTHER AI (ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE) IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY.

— Dr. Bonita “Bo” Best

As a 27-year IT/cybersecurity professional with a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA), I entered into the fashion industry as a freelance model. I attended castings and model calls in hopes of being selected for the modeling opportunities regardless of my age. When I submitted applications and emails to the casting directors and modeling agencies, I cringed for two reasons:

  1. They ask about what they see: Age, height, measurements, and how I look today. Here’s a birdseye view into my thoughts as I complete casting applications: I am older than the fashion industry’s standard. I am at least 5’8″ in my platform stilettos and have an athletic build that is above sizes 0 and 2. I am brown, bald, and don’t “look” my age.
  2. They don’t ask about my brand’s secrete sauce:
    • Strategize with you
    • Grow your business
    • Help protect assets with cybersecurity techniques and technologies (e.g., employees, customers’ data, trade secrets, and designs)
    • Streamline processes
    • Implement change (process, people, and technology)
    • Like learning and have evidence (e.g., college degrees and certifications)

However, I am domestically and internationally published, have served as a brand ambassador before, have walked in several fashion shows including during New York Fashion Week (NYFW), can offer you an adaptable runway walk, have a can-do or let’s try it attitude, am professional, respectful, and flexibility. Oh, and I’m open to wearing a wig to change my “look .”

Hi! I am Dr. Bonita “Bo” Best; I believe that the brains and beauty or Attractive Intelligence (AI) can benefit models and the fashion industry.

As a freelance model…

I searched the Internet and leveraged my social network to identify potential gigs. There was no section for academic achievements on the casting application or request to include any educational details in the email submission requests. Those casting applications and model requirements focused on the physical aspect (looks and appearance) because they are pre-requisites before interfacing with you further. The next emphasis on the application was the model’s experience on the runway/print work.

Initially, I thought it was a mistake or an oversight on the paper and online applications. Whenever I saw an “Other” section, I’ve often used it to add my academic achievements because it’s part of my personal brand, just like fashion houses or fashion designers have a corporate brand. Our personal and corporate brands include some common elements:

  • Purpose
  • Values
  • Strategy
  • Customer or Client’s Perception
  • Skillset
  • Market Share (or followers)

On the surface (pun intended), it was a clear indicator when I completed the applications that education, academic achievements, or the model’s intelligence (I) were not high on the fashion industry list or the players involved in the selection process. The model’s attractiveness (A) was more important than intelligence or educational strides. To me, this creates a perception that education is not important, which is completely untrue. In other industries, some hiring managers place a value on candidates with a college degree.

I often thought, maybe I can start a movement like the No Pay No Runway Campaign and try to recruit 200 change agents or ambassadors to support the cause among the seven (7) continents. I couldn’t think of a catch campaign name besides, Go Beyond the Looks because it’s the preferred call of action and look beyond the traditional model standards. The Go Beyond the Looks change agents will try to increase awareness about the importance of education, celebrate beautifully brained models, and advocate to include an “education” section on applications to capture degrees and other fashion-related training to advance the fashion industry. Not including an “education” section on applications gives the allusion or notion that education is not important or viewed as an asset for fashion industry models.

Susan Finkbeiner, PhD

Illinois-native Susan Finkbeiner is not only a devoted scientist but also a successful international runway model. She started modeling while studying at Boston University and began her international modeling career at London’s Fashion Week (LFW). Finkbeiner has several degrees from different universities and a Ph.D. in entomology and evolutionary biology. While entomology is considered the opposite of modeling, Finkbeiner blends the two perfectly and still finds time to live her life to the fullest.

She applies her model training to maintain her balance in muddy streams while researching tropical forests. She always finds time for both her work and modeling by blending work-life-dreams. In 2018, Finkbeiner had to combine fieldwork, photoshoots, and her return to LFW. “Your brain is the most important tool you have,” said Finkbeiner in an interview with Fox News. “If you can apply what you learned in school to those other projects…nothing is too far out of reach” she concludes. Sounds like the beginnings of a #GoBeyondTheLooks supporter (or at least, I am putting it out there into the Universe).

Karlie Kloss

Supermodel and tech entrepreneur Karlie Kloss began her career at the age of 14 years after discovering at a St. Louis shopping mall. For 12 years, she has blended her illustrious modeling career and academic aspirations. “I’ve learned to multitask and work smarter, not just harder,” Kloss said in an interview with USA Today, “The juggle of work and life is something that we’re all constantly figuring out.” 

In 2015, Kloss took a break from modeling to study at Gallatin School in New York and learned how to code. Kloss has appeared on the cover of Vogue 40 times and worked for major brands from Victoria’s Secret to Christian Dior, Versace, Chanel, Hermes, and more. She also founded Kode with Klossy to give girls aged between 13 and 18 the opportunity to learn how to code. “I feel that sometimes the line blurs, and they are one,” she concludes. This is definitely a #GoBeyondTheLook moment and a fellow #girlswhocode supporter.

Go Beyond The Looks logo

Cameron Russell

Cameron Russell’s accomplishments as a model are pretty impressive. She graduated from Columbia University with majors in economics and political science. Her modeling began at 16. She has worked for major brands like Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, and many more. Russell uses her background in economics and political science to address social inequality in fashion modeling. In a 2012 TED Talk, Russell analyzed how socially constructed standards of beauty contribute to social inequality. Her take on this issue went viral. Wow! Another #GoBeyondTheLooks moment!

Go Beyond The Looks logo

Whether it is Finkbeiner Ph.D., tech entrepreneur Kloss, or economist Russell, it is undeniable that their academic accomplishments contributed to their illustrious modeling career and vice versa. Putting education higher on the list of requirements will benefit all stakeholders in the fashion industry. 

Other models with degrees or masters include Gigi Hadid, who studied criminal psychology, Kate Grigorieva, Sasha Pivovarova, David Gandy, Joan Smalls, Julia Nobis, and many others. 

Let’s enhance the educational culture in the fashion industry by supporting the Go Beyond the Looks Campaign. #GoBeyondtheLooks #TheHeloEffect #TheOtherAI

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