I recently had the pleasure of meeting and shooting with Delanie Dischert, America's Next Top Model contestant.
The modeling industry affects beauty ideals and body image for everyone. As someone who has been IN the industry - on America's Next Top Model and professionally modeling for over 10 years - I interviewed Delanie on what her experience is like in the thick of it.
Delanie has heard it all when it comes to what her appearance "should" be. She grew up being bullied for her weight, and later in life was eliminated from America's Next Top Model for being "too pretty."
This just struck a chord with me - how people have been telling her whole life the way she looked just wasn't right, which I think as women we can all relate to. As a professional model, she continues to hear different criticisms all the time. My question was - has it gotten any better? For her sake, and all of ours!
Q: The modeling industry affects beauty ideals and body image for everyone. As someone who has over 10 years experience in it - who's been on America's Next Top Model - what's your personal experience like?
Delanie Dischert: I always say one of the best words of advice I got was from Janice Dickinson: if you're not here for passion, and you are just here to say that you're a model, then you should run like hell because this industry will eat you alive.
Now that I'm older, I realize she meant you are going to be told your flaws over and over. You are going to be told you're not good enough all the time. You're going to be told that you need to change things that are only fixed by plastic surgery. You're going to be told to lose muscle or fat. There's just endless things that agents and clients will tell you.
And if you don't have a strong enough sense of self to kind of remove yourself from that bubble, you will go crazy because you have to realize this is just an industry. It is not personal and you don't have to kill yourself to fit in because there really is room for everyone.
What I realized is that there is a seat for everyone - but the people that are telling you this are just trying to fit you into every possible booking that they could possibly get. In reality, whether you're curvy or whether you're athletic or relatable, there is a place for you.
Q: It's crazy to hear that you received all of these critiques and still are modeling! How do you think you got your thick skin?
Delanie Dischert: I know everyone goes through a certain level of bullying because kids are mean. I weighed more and was shorter in school, until I had a growth spurt. If I was sitting in front of them in class or calling my phone and telling me I need my stomach stapled or that I'm fat and I should kill myself. Like I heard it all. And it was really hard.
And then I kind of had that ugly duckling transformation where I saw people that were mean to me, acting nice to me and accepting me all of a sudden, just because visually I looked better to them, but I just of it damaged my view of people for awhile, because I was like, you know what, screw them. That is so wrong that they like me now that I'm what they consider pretty, because I remember what they acted like or how they treated me when I wasn't.
So that was like a huge growing experience. And I think I'm so thankful for it now that I'm an adult.
Q: So you went from being bullied for your looks to being eliminated on America's Next Top Model for being "too pretty?" When I saw that, I just felt like - what do people want from you as a model and a woman? How did you feel?
Delanie Dischert: I feel almost like people are going to misjudge me because I've been through so much that I would never ever think that I'm better than anyone else ever. It was sweet for her to say, you're just too pretty, but it's also like consider the competition where they want you to be edgy and editorial.
It did feel for a second, I can't win no matter what, but it worked out. She was helpful in directing me where my path would be successful in commercial, e-commerce and beauty.
Q: Have you noticed any changes in the industry since the self-love, body positivity, and authenticity movements have taken off?
Delanie Dischert: Yes. I think people have spoken up. I would say in the past, only three years or so it's changed. But when I was coming into the industry, it was still very much from an agent's perspective: they want you to fit show room clients, which will be sample sizes. And back then it was sample size, like zero two. So for me, they would say you need to lose like 15 pounds. And I'm like, but how?
So it's changed in the sense that people have said, we don't like to see clothing on people that aren't relatable to us. Like we want to see this clothing and how it fits realistic bodies and not see them photo-shopped. It affects these young girls that are growing up thinking that these unrealistic standards are achievable.
And we want to more so press that whatever you think is your flaw is actually so cool and so unique. As far as agencies go, I think they've been more open-minded there's a lot more agents and clients that are willing to book all different shapes and sizes. So now it's more often, you're a great the way you are and we're gonna figure out a place for you.
Q: What do you think helped bring more inclusivity into the industry?
Delanie Dischert: I think each generation has a trendy look. In my mom's day in the 80's, you had to be bone thin and have the tiniest waist. In the 90's it was the supermodel era and you had to be a 2-4 and 6 foot. So then it was super, hardcore unrealistic. In the 2000s, it was still: we want skinny, we want skinny. And I don't think customers spoke about it much.
So I will say that pop culture, and people like the Kardashians have had a big influence and made curves more accepted, and actually more ideal. And I also will say I think it's gotten extreme - everyone wants to look artificial. That's sad to me because people are changing themselves to fit a trend.
Because modeling is seriously, "trendy." Like when I came into it, curves were not okay. And I didn't know what that meant, I just thought I was still fat in their minds, but it just meant curves were not cool then.
I think customers have played a big part of it, especially in the plus size world. There are influencers that will give brands a bad reputation because they are not inclusive enough. And these brands will go out of style because they are not adjusting.
So I would say it's pop culture, influencers and it's customers.