Expensive, unnecessary and building false dreams – but sending a tween to 'model camp' is not all bad…
The image-obsessed summer camps have a terrible reputation, and often deservedly-so. But OLIVIA FLEMING, who herself went to a model camp at age 11, insists she still uses the valuable life lessons she learned
22:47 GMT, 31 July 2012
As an awkwardly tall for my age 11-year-old girl, I had a father who wanted to teach me once and for all how to 'stand up straight'.
His solution Ship me off to modelling camp, a four-day course that imparts art-mastering lessons on runway walking, make-up application, social etiquette, and camera engagement for teenage girls.
Often seen as a precursor to a bona-fide modelling career, choosing to spend $999 on less than a week of adolescent priming summer activities, far from the realm of typical rough-and-tumble teenage bonding, has the adults watching on in divided opinion.
Summer camp: Four days at Modeling Camp NYC costs $999, which includes industry specific activities, a photo shoot, a portfolio, lunch and a T-shirt
Modeling Camp NYC, returning for it's third year this summer after 'rave reviews', is one of many such camps rapidly growing in popularity among pre-adolescents.
Founded and run by former English model, Heather Cole, it aims to 'promote self esteem and self confidence' for the young girls aged 12 to 18 who sign up for the course.
Despite offering the girls a professional photo shoot, final portfolio and meetings with modelling agencies, Ms Cole insists the camp is really about 'life skills, and just walking away with confidence.'
As a pre-prubescent girl who had no interest in modelling and who grew up with a single father, modelling camp was a fast track initiation into the trivial aspects of womanhood.
Instead of rock-climbing, abseiling and archery lessons, I learned how to curl my eyelashes, apply eyeliner with a steady hand, and blend my foundation in such a way to avoid that abrasive make-up to no make-up jaw line.
I learned I should moisturise my body 'every day', to ensure forever youthful-looking legs, hands and feet. I learned the difference between a white wine glass and a champagne flute, and the importance of eating my vegetables for both my health and my skin.
Model camps and 'portfolio packages' are all on the continuum somewhere between 'waste of money' and 'outright scam'
I was taught how to walk down stairs efficiently, but still elegantly, in heels – priceless for someone who is always tripping on flat ground. I also learned how to pull my shoulders back without feeling self-conscious. I learned it was ok to walk tall as a woman.
While the purely aesthetic etiquette lessons may be seen as superfluous for what is essentially a group of children, each test I mastered still resonates
with me 16 years later, especially every time I'm faced with walking down a set of stairs in stilettos.
However while the camp confirmed my suspicions that modelling wasn't a career path I wanted to take, and despite the invaluable and forever ingrained lessons, many girls who sign up to modelling camp do so out of impatient goals that include runways, Vogue photo spreads and lucrative cosmetic campaigns.
At Modelling Camp NYC, which describes itself as a 'boot camp' that teaches teenage girls about the world of
modeling through 'a variety of workshops, seminars, photo shoots and
challenges with top industry professionals', discussions
about the darker side of modelling, such as eating disorders, drug
abuse and sexual harassment, are not included in the curriculum, as the New Yorker noted.
Modeling Camp NYC: The course aims to 'promote self esteem and self confidence' for girls aged 12 to 18
Learning curve: Modeling Camp NYC describes itself as a 'boot camp' to teach girls about the world of modeling through 'a variety of workshops, photo shoots and challenges with industry professionals'
One 14-year-old camper named Amanda Anderson said she acquired useful model-career-worthy knowledge, such as how
to make an effective entrance on a fashion runway.
'”You’ve got to go bam!
when you come out” [Anderson] explained, planting a hand on one hip and
jutting it out dramatically,' wrote the New Yorker's Rebecca Mead.
Meanwhile Margaret Rix, 16, from Rye, New York, wore heels that put her 'well over six feet', during the camp's professional photo shoot segment.
Posing wearing an 'extremely abbreviated skirt of her dress', the teenager showed how she had learned to properly extend her legs. 'I feel like my walk has improved tenfold', she said.
While the notion of modelling camps for girls who have a healthy and discerning interest in learning self-presentation skills can be just as effective, and fun, as those camps offering girls the chance to sleep in a cabin, roast marshmallows and participate in scavenger hunts; modelling camps that claim to give girls a leg up in the industry can also exploit both the teenagers who are desperate to become the next Kate Moss, and their parents who give in to incessant begging.
Camp bonding: As well as offering girls a professional photo shoot, final portfolio and meetings with modelling agencies, the camp's founder insists it is about 'life skills, and just walking away with confidence'
Jenna Sauers, a model turned fashion writer for Jezebel, believes modelling camps can be effective lessons in etiquette within a fun context, 'especially if you grew up without a mum to talk to about that stuff', but only if they advertise correctly.
She explained: 'Model camps and “portfolio packages” are all on the continuum somewhere between “waste of money” and “outright scam.” The last thing you should do as a would-be model is, independently of any agency, pay one grand “for a portfolio.” It's of absolutely no use in the profession.
She added: 'A wannabe model who comes in the door toting professionally shot photographs is no more likely to be signed by any reputable fashion modeling agency than a model without. Agencies prefer to see plain, un-made-up, un-retouched, Polaroid-style digital snapshots.
'I think if a girl has a healthy interest in learning self-presentation skills; that's not something todenigrate… It's the manipulation I think is wrong.'
Four days at Modeling Camp NYC, $999, includes industry specific activities, a photo shoot, a portfolio, lunch and a T-shirt.