The fashion industry has long been criticized for its role in creating unhealthy ideals, especially for women, but the way men are portrayed is also problematic. Male models are often embodying a stoic and unemotional expression that convey a stereotypical image of manly strength. The overly sexualized imagery also isn’t unique to female models but applies to male roles as well. Regardless of gender these norms reinforce the belief that men and women have very specific personality traits based on their sex. New York model Micah Blaise talks about what it’s like to work as a male model in today’s media landscape and what assumptions he is met with based on his work and image.
What preconceptions are you met with?
A common assumption is that because I’m a male model I can’t be very smart and I must be incredibly vain and pretentious. That’s almost always followed by people also assuming that I’m arrogant and interacting with me as if I am. These preconceptions are even more negative within the industry where people assume that models don’t have feelings or don’t care about what is said about them. The employer or people on set will assume that you either don’t mind or that you don’t realize that they have no respect for you. The result is that male models are portrayed to the public as mindless people.
How does it make you feel to exist in an environment where the people you work with don’t respect you?
It makes me feel obligated to constantly prove that I’m a person and that the assumptions people have of male models are not true. But how can you do that when you’re not yourself in control of the image you are asked to express? It’s frustrating. I’m not just a model but my whole personality is somehow reduced to that.
What types of looks are you asked to embody when you work?
I’m always told to look “interesting”. Other key worlds are confident and without worries. It’s a very emotionless image of a man. And it reinforces peoples’ negative assumptions about male models.
What are your views on the sexualized imagery both male and female models are asked to portray?
The objectification is very extreme both for men and women. I think the difference is that a lot of professional female models are allowed to have a personality, as they get more famous, whereas as a man you are only a look. It’s also assumed that as a man you don’t mind or don’t care about being objectified.
Social media obviously has a big role in promoting and branding yourself. How does that affect how people see you?
Social media is your image and your brand. It’s your tool to communicate who you are and it has become a way for brands to find models by seeing how photogenic you are as well as how many followers you have. Followers have become crucial in this industry, as most brands want to utilize social media marketing. Agencies will encourage you to post as much as possible in order to be booked. Some agencies are even starting to host specific social media tutorials. Since sexualized images are what you get booked on that’s also what you have to present on social media to get booked for other jobs. That also makes people think I want to be seen like that, which isn’t true.