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Bullying In Modelling

  • Claire Louise

What do you picture when you think of when you think of a model’s lifestyle? Most of us picture the glitz and the glam, and whilst that’s often the case, you need to remember that not everyone is living the high life that we often see on our television screens.

When your mum told you that there’s more to life than looks, she was right, there’s a whole load of living that goes on outside of the aesthetics. To make it big in any industry, you often have to fight hardships and negativity to get stronger, and the same is true of modelling. Things shouldn’t be handed to you on a plate, of course not, but there are times when it goes beyond that – and that’s not okay.

Even when you’ve “earned” your place, you may still face hardships, in the form of bullying. New models and experienced models, both famous and unknown, have been known to suffer from this kind of behaviour. It doesn’t make it alright. It shouldn’t just be a natural hardship. Bullying in modelling is something that’s consciously done to you, and it’s not acceptable.

bullying in modelling

We’re not trying to put anyone off modelling, but many people who are already getting their foot in the door as a model have experienced some form of negative reaction from their peers, particularly when they’re younger and in school. In fact, it doesn’t even tend to stop once school ends – it’s just exacerbated in that kind of environment.

Sadly, the jealousy and bitterness that leads to this kind of reaction in the first place often extends to comments on social media, or in person, across a model’s career.

Is It Just You?

Modelling is a dream for a lot of people, but it’s not always easy. Now, we’re not saying to give up. Some of the biggest models the world has ever seen experienced bullying, and now look at them! If you’re being picked on in school or even as an adult at University or work, you are not alone.

All kinds of supermodels have faced taunts and jibes at the hands of their fellow students or colleagues. It’s not fair, but everyone from Lily Cole to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley reports having to face such issues. Clearly, these women are stunning, successful and worthy of the careers they have chosen.

It’s not just the really big household names. Sometimes people defend picking on the super-famous because they don’t consider their humanity. These women and men have personalities just like anyone else; and yet people think they’re somehow ‘fair game’ because they chose to be in the public eye. Making rude comments about successful people just seems so pointless, and yet people do it time and time again.

In schools, a lot of young people don’t want to stand out or seem different; and modelling can set you apart from your peers. Jealous individuals may then target you, but it’s not just models who face this. Bullies will go after anyone they see as different, just for kicks. It’s to make them feel better about their own lives.

What Kind Of Things Might You Be Up Against?

One model, who wishes not to be named, told me about her experiences when she was a glamour and alternative model. She was very successful and posed for a number of titles including having the front cover of FRONT magazine, as well as features in ZOO, Nuts, The Star and car magazines like FastCar and Moto. She also worked with clothing lines and lots more – so she had an experienced profile. When it comes to bullying in modelling, she’s no stranger.

She told me:

“When modelling for Zoo I shot a feature and they put a video of it on YouTube. I have never been confident about my bum (I’ve got back dimples which I hate and my bum just isn’t very big). So the video goes up and I started reading comments mocking my figure. ‘Omg I thought it was a man from the back’ and ‘Ew, she has an ass like an old lady’…..that was just one shoot. I even had the photographer from The Star tell me my boobs were ‘wonky’ just as I was about to test for them. I soon learnt to not read anything about myself as when you put yourself out there as a model people feel it is their duty to knock you down a peg or two by pointing out your flaws as they assume you must be full of confidence.”

Reading this model’s account is really disheartening, especially considering some abuse came from within. She was over 18 when this was happening, and so the vast majority of the nastiness came from adults who arguably should have known better.

She finished up by saying:

“The industry has left me with more insecurities that I had before, which is difficult to believe as many have his preconception that you much just get praise 100% of the time and be full of self-confidence.”

It isn’t just the professionals who put themselves out there to a wide audience. Unfortunately, some people who have photoshoots either to feel better about themselves or to start out their career can suffer negativity as well.

I spoke to a prominent blogger named Petra who recently did a shoot for a brand:

“Recently I did a photoshoot for a maternity/breastfeeding underwear brand and when I showed my mother-in-law the photos she said she didn’t recognise me and that she thought I would have looked much slimmer without my clothes on. 

She never thinks before she speaks… “

It can happen of course to male models, too. Men feel pressure on body image as well, although they are often afraid to talk about it. Other boys and men might be jealous of a model but unable to express this in a reasonable manner. There are often elements of homophobia due to the perceived effeminate nature of modelling. This is again another unacceptable myth which is perpetuated.

Why Do People Bully Models?


It’s strange – so often we hear about people being bullied for being perceived as unattractive or not fitting in, when in actual fact, this happens at both ends of the spectrum. In truth, people are often not bullying because of looks at all. They hide behind that for their cruel taunts, when the reality is that there is an insecurity that lies within themselves.

A lot of bullies want to seem popular and cool, or they’re afraid that if they don’t draw attention to other people, then the attention will be turned to their own faults or things they’re afraid of being made fun of.

Bullying in modelling has just as many consequences for the victim as any other type. Some people might say that a model is undeserving of the attention that she’s getting. If she’s not yet at the paid stage, the bully might put it into his or her head that they’ll never make it – often citing that they’re too ugly and ridiculing their efforts to make them feel embarrassed.

Bullies very rarely bully because they genuinely have a problem with you, although they will go out of their way to make it feel incredibly personal, for maximum impact. Very often, there is an underlying insecurity within themselves, which causes them to be spiteful. Sometimes, they’re jealous.

Of course, when it feels so real, and undoubtedly IS so real in so many cases, it’s not okay to let comments (and worse) slide, just because the perpetrator may have an underlying reason. So what can you do?

What Can You Do About Being Bullied As A Model?

  • Remember that the problem doesn’t lie with you

It can be hard to brush off nasty comments, especially when you’re young or when you’re seemingly getting more mean ones than not. Bullying in modelling can either come from less successful models, or people who don’t understand the industry. You’re not a bad person, and you are good enough. People choose insults they think will hurt most. You’re fine the way you are – don’t listen to those who tell you that you’re ugly, fat, a show off or anything else.

  • Don’t let bullies see your weaknesses

Now, bullying is never, ever your fault, but there are ways to avoid giving them more ammunition! If they see that a particular insult or comment has really affected you, sadly these smug individuals will run with that. It’s difficult not to get upset, but horrible people or troubled people will have no power to what they’re saying if they think it doesn’t affect you.

  • Remember that YOU have a ton of strengths

It’s not easy, but who are these bullies to you? You know you’re great, your family knows you’re great, and hopefully, even some brands or agencies are starting to see that you are, too. Whether you’re in the industry or it’s a distant dream, write a list of all of the things you like about yourself, and read it every time you’re sad. Nobody’s perfect, but we all have great things about us (not just looks!)

  • Tell a teacher, or a trusted authority

Bullies try and get you to keep secrecy about their wrongdoings, by making you feel ashamed. When you fear them, you’re more likely to be submissive to them and they’ll get their way. Take all their power from them by going to an authority you can trust. It’s not ‘snitching’ – remember, you’re not the one in the wrong. It can be scary to admit this is happening to you, so surround yourself with positive people to help you make this step, such as your parents and friends. If things get violent, you can call the police immediately.

It doesn’t lie with you to put a stop to behaviour which isn’t your fault to begin with. Don’t change anything about yourself to appease them.

  • Practice kindness

This one is super important, and it’s kind of like that whole “practice what you preach” thing. The next time you’re about to say something nasty about someone else, stop yourself. What’s the point? Taking someone else down won’t make you feel better, and it won’t make you any better at what you do.


You can be bullied in every career, but it doesn’t have to be an inevitability that it will affect you! You have the power to stand up to it, even if you can’t make a full change. It doesn’t have to be just a natural part of growing up or of choosing this career path.

Bullies want one thing – to make themselves feel better by taking you down. Don’t let them succeed by giving up on your dreams or stopping modelling for anyone other than yourself.

(If you’re under 18 and being bullied, you can call Childline on 0800 11 11)

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Posted by Claire Louise

I'm a creative writing obsessive who likes to affectionately think of herself as a hurricane. Among the organised chaos, I can be found thinking about fashion, food, feminism, music, travel or my kidnapped kitten.