Supermodels are known for beauty and glamour, but how do they handle getting older when the fashion industry thrives on youth? In his film About Face: The Supermodels, Then and Now, photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders interviews many of the fashion industries most iconic supermodels about their thoughts on beauty and life in the fashion industry. Featuring the likes of Isabella Rossellini, Cheryl Teigs, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Beverly Johnson, Christie Brinkley, Carol Alt, Pat Cleveland, Jerry Hall, Christy Turlington, Paulina Porizkova and numerous other, Greenfield-Sanders manages to capture candid accounts of the highs and lows of the fashion industry.
Several of About Face’s strongest moments occur when models such as Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison, China Machado and several other models of colour share their experience dealing with racism within the industry. Cleveland in particular shares one harrowing tale of her experience modeling in the Southern States. Other insightful moments arise when the film touches on the rampant drug use in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In both of these cases many of the models were in their teens when they first started in the business. It is shocking to hear many of the top designers and fashion magazine editors openly admit that they were exploiting the girls when they really should have been protecting them.
Although About Face provides a brief history of the modeling world, the real meat of the film focuses on the models thoughts on body image and life. Rossellini and Porizkova in particular offer much food for thought in their engaging interviews. Since the film features such a strong and diverse group of women, it is curious that Greenfield-Sanders does not get them to provide more thoughts of the modeling industry today. In a world where shows like America’s Next Top Model and other model-centric shows are selling an image of modeling that is vastly different from the era of the supermodel, it would have been good to hear the supermodels comments on the models of today and how they are impacting women. Also, and this is a minor gripe, it seems a bit odd that the majority of the women are so “made up” for their interviews. Despite getting older, the women are still stunningly beautiful, it would have been nice to see them more natural to emphasize how comfortable they are in their own skin. Again, this is a minor gripe. About Face does a decent job of not only providing a historical account of the modelling world, but the film also allows some of the world’s most beautiful women a forum to share their own insecurities and experiences with beauty.