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Modelling with Imperfections – Owning Our “Flaws”

  • Melissa Keen

The title of this article might seem like a juxtaposition to you. Surely models don’t have ‘imperfections’? Their perfection is what sets them apart, isn’t it? That’s unquestionably why they were chosen to represent the ideal of the perfect human, no?

The truth is, no one is perfect – and that includes models. Whilst it’s true that the modelling industry has a habit of portraying the “beauty ideal” (that is, what society deems to be beautiful and what we should all apparently strive to achieve), it has started to relax its rules. More than ever, we are seeing a diverse set of models in our magazines, on the TV and on the runway.


When we think of diversity, many of us will often think of race first. But diversity doesn’t just relate to race – it relates to everything that means a person doesn’t fit the stereotypical mould. This includes people with disabilities, people who are shorter or taller than the average model – and people who have features that are not conventionally deemed as “model-worthy”.

Diversity is an important thing because it is a way of showcasing all the beauty the world has to offer in all its shapes and sizes. We all want to see ourselves portrayed in the media to feel accepted and involved. Unfortunately, until recently this is not how it has been. Models had strict requirements. They needed to be a certain height, a certain weight, a certain build. This made it an incredibly difficult industry to get into and an even more difficult industry to succeed in.

Whilst modelling remains a difficult industry to crack, it has started to open its doors to a more diverse range of models. We’re no longer seeing primarily tall, leggy white blonde women. Now – thankfully – we are much more likely to see different races, cultures, religions, shapes and sizes.

Modelling with Imperfections

An imperfection can be in the eye of the beholder. This means that what someone may deem to be an imperfection, someone else may see as a defining and beautiful quality. The modelling industry has woken up to this concept and has started to include people with these uncommon features.

An “imperfection” isn’t always considered as something that is unusual; it can be common, everyday things that the majority of us have. Freckles, blemishes, scars, being tall/short, having big/small lips… the list goes on and on.

It’s important that we recognise that these are not imperfections – they are a part of being human. We may look in the mirror and notice these parts of ourselves whilst comparing ourselves to unnatural, edited photos we see in the media – but we must recognise and be ok with the fact that the media (including social media) often portrays an unrealistic perception of beauty that no one can achieve without a helping hand from technology.

Fortunately, the media is starting to accept and even embrace these “flaws” for what they really are – unique, realistic human characteristics that often help us to stand out and give us a unique beauty.

The Media Accepting “Imperfections”

In 2018, the fashion retailer Missguided launched a campaign using models that only had unique and unusual defining features. Their goal was to prove that, despite these uncommon characteristics, each person was beautiful in their own way.

They named it #InYourOwnSkin and featured 6 women with an array of skin conditions like albinism, scars, psoriasis and birth marks.

“The campaign’s anti-commercial approach shows the unique positioning of the brand built on inspiring a strong self-empowered message; to embrace your flaws and to not strive for what the world perceives as perfection. Because f*** perfection, it doesn’t exist,” the brand said in their brand announcement.

Missguided has continued to push the industries boundaries in a positive way by continually hiring models with stretch marks and – perhaps most importantly – leaving the images unaltered. Many models hired by fashion brands may have “imperfections”, but they are often cropped or edited out of images we see in the mainstream media. This has given us an unrealistic perception of beauty; even the “perfect” models we see do not look the way we are shown.

Boots has also followed suit by refusing to Photoshop the photos they feature in their Health & Beauty Magazine.

And ASOS – another fashion giant – has also been praised for championing and using plus-size models in their advertising, as well as models with rolls, stretch marks and skin imperfections. They also launched mannequins featuring stretch marks and vitiligo.

How to Be Comfortable with Your Imperfections

Perhaps you don’t reach the requisite height of the standard model. Maybe you have freckles and are worried you won’t get work. Or maybe you have a mole, scar or blemish you think makes you “imperfect”.

If the above hasn’t already convinced you, let us say it again; nobody is perfect! It is easier now than ever to embrace imperfections and even use them to your advantage. The public is asking for change – they want to see more people in the media that represent them. The media is listening; we are seeing an explosion of diversity where before there was none.

If you Google some of your favourite models, you will more than likely come across an interview where they mention their least favourite body part or something they are self-conscious about. People we look up to are also known to struggle with body image and self-perception. If successful models that you may think of as perfect also have these issues, what is to stop you from reaching the same levels of success with your own “imperfection”?

Instead of focusing on the negatives, try to instead focus on the positives. Try to see yourself how others see you. Focus on your health and wellbeing more than how you look physically. And remember that beauty is subjective.

How to Be a Model with “Imperfections”

Just because we are seeing more diversity in modelling does not mean it will be an easy career to get into. Modelling is a notoriously difficult industry to crack, even for those who fit the stereotypical mould.

However, there are several things you will have to do to make success more likely.

  • Build your confidence. Every model – and no one is exempt to this – will face criticism and knockbacks in the fashion industry at some point. Even the world’s most successful models will have been turned away from some jobs. You need a thick skin and a strong backbone in order to let comments (particularly negative ones) not affect you. Look after your mental health as much as your physical health.
  • Use social media to your advantage. So you haven’t been accepted to a modelling agency (yet). Show them what they’re missing! Social media has given everyday people a chance to show their talents off in a range of ways. Instagram is ideal for showing off your modelling shots (and getting inspiration from your favourite models).
  • Practice. If you are worried your “imperfection” will hold you back, get some practice in front of a mirror. Learn to use your imperfection to your advantage, or learn to disguise or hide it if that’s what you prefer. Try modelling with your “imperfection” as your main feature and see how it feels/what you look like – you may just discover you love it!
  • …Practice! Did we say that already? That’s because practice is important for EVERY model, not just those who consider themselves to have imperfections. Booking yourself onto a professional photo shoot is a great way to get yourself in front of a camera whilst also gaining some high-quality photos that you can use in your portfolio.
  • Get some editing and photography skills. You may spend some time taking pictures of yourself while you gain experience/followers/jobs. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you need to make sure your images look professional and stand out from the masses. Practice your photography skills so you know what light is best and try your hand at editing. The better your photos, the more likely it is that they will be noticed. This doesn’t mean you have to rush out and buy an expensive camera – your iPhone will be fine! But learning some key skills and techniques can take your photos from ‘everyday selfie’ to ‘potential model’.
  • Look after yourself – however that looks for you. It doesn’t matter what “imperfection” you have. As a model, you will be in front of many people and with that comes a certain responsibility to promote healthy ideologies to your fans. This doesn’t mean that a plus-size model should be working overtime to lose weight, but it does mean that a plus-size model should promote a health lifestyle. Just because a model is overweight does not mean they are unhealthy. Similarly, a model with acne should not feel a desperate need to get rid of their acne – but they should promote healthy habits such as cleanliness, a good skincare regime and a good diet. With fame comes responsibility, whether it is wanted or not, and this is something all models should be conscious of.
  • Look for an agency that hires diverse models. Do some research and don’t be afraid to apply to more than one agency. Look for ones that have a diverse range of models.

Successful Models and Their “Imperfections”

  1. Lara Stone. Lara has a gap between her teeth. Madonna was likely one of the first celebrities that helped to change people’s perceptions about imperfect teeth. Lara is a popular and successful model who is most known for her charming tooth gap.
  2. Kristy Hinze. Kristy has a bigger nose than what is usually seen in the fashion world. This facial feature has not prevented her from starring on the cover of Vogue and participating in Victoria’s Secret photo shoots.
  3. Naomi Campbell. Naomi suffered from traction alopecia, when her hair began to fall out because of extensions and tight hair styles. Naomi is one of the most famous supermodels in the world, so this “imperfection” certainly didn’t prevent her from doing well.
  4. Padma Lakshmi has a large scar on her arm that she received in a car accident. Far from covering it up, Padma is never afraid to wear short-sleeved dresses. It is also not photoshopped out of her photos.
  5. Nastya Kumarova. Nastya has albinism, which means her skin, hair and eyes do not have any pigment to colour them. Her unique look has made her into a successful model today.

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Posted by Melissa Keen

Melissa's experience in the beauty and fashion world as a writer and blogger spans over five years. Her other interests include reading, yoga and music.