How the Modeling Industry is Impacted by Social Media

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Contributor: Courtney Howard, B.A., Director of Operations & Business Development at Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope.

Social media has changed the landscape for many industries, including the world of modeling. From the way products are marketed to how the newest crop of supermodels rose to fame, social media has a firm grasp on the modeling industry and those who follow it.

How a Supermodel is Born

In the past, supermodels were typically those who excelled at both catwalking and print modeling, gracing the covers of Vogue only after hard work and often years of rejection within the field. It appears that the years of go-sees and lookbooks have passed.

Though some supermodels today might have gone about it the old-fashioned way, many have risen to the top of their industry through the popularity of their social media profiles and ability to select the perfect Instagram filter.
According to Forbes Magazine [1], Kendall Jenner has earned $10 million within the past year and touts over 64.5 million Instagram followers. Gigi Hadid has earned $9 million with 22.1 million Instagram followers, and Cara Delevigne has earned $8.5 million with 33.2 million Instagram followers. These women had many forms of income throughout the year, but in what ways can followers translate to cash?

Top models in the industry, and celebrities in general, are often approached by companies to market their products through social media. This has come under fire recently as being dishonest to the consumer. A common example is Kendall Jenner claiming on Instagram that she is obsessed with a new clothing brand or skin care line when really she is being paid to promote it.

Designers also often look at social media profiles as an indicator of which model is going to best promote their line. In this sense, the modeling industry has become a popularity contest now more than ever before.

Social Media, Cyberbullying & Mental Health

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place online, typically through social media. Unfortunately, it is becoming more common as so-called trolls lash out while hiding behind the anonymity of a computer screen. Anyone can fall victim, but these cyberbullies often target celebrities.

With so many large amounts of social media followers, supermodels now have to face intense criticism from the online community. Many of these top models have struggled with cyberbullies, specifically body-shamers.

Body image is a complex issue. Many pemodelople might look at a supermodel and question how he or she could possibly have body image issues. The reality is that almost everyone has some degree of body image concerns, something that is heavily exacerbated by cyberbullying. Gigi Hadid recently responded to her own body-shamers and trolls on Instagram.

A 2008 study [2] found a correlation between being teased about appearance and increased body dissatisfaction and shame. Though this was not specific to cyberbullying, it is believed that this can have similar effects. The authors state, “These findings support existing evidence regarding the associations between trauma and eating pathology.”

Bullying or shaming someone else over their weight or other aspects of their appearance is never okay, and often comes from a place of insecurity. Regardless of whether you are talking about a girl at school, your next door neighbor, or a famous celebrity, remember that your words can make an impact.

What’s Next for Top Models?

The primary social media platform of choice for most supermodels has typically been Instagram, as it is very image-based in comparison to Facebook and Twitter. However, Snapchat has recently risen in popularity during the past year and is used by many supermodels.

Snapchat has changed formats since its original development. Users can have followers, interactive filters, and set up “stories” that link together multiple photos or videos. This could lead to similar potential revenue avenues for celebrities.

Model on the shoreThough an appealing aspect of this particular social media platform to the consumer is that posts or stories disappear after being viewed or after a certain period of time, this might dissuade companies from using the platform to market. Still, these companies might find the benefit in advertising through Snapchats of top supermodels.

Recognizing the changing culture of the modeling industry and the impact social media has on this landscape is essential to being successful in the field. That is exactly what some of today’s supermodels, from Gigi Hadid to Karlie Kloss, have been able to rise to the top.

Some past supermodels from the 1980s and 1990s have come out against this new culture, even calling the models who have found fame on Instagram “fake supermodels.” Though it is understandable why past icons might feel this way, it is important to acknowledge that there is still an amount of savvy and hard work that it takes to be a top supermodel by today’s standards.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How do you feel social media has most impacted the modeling industry?

Courtney Howard Image - 2-17-16About the Author: Courtney Howard is the Director of Operations & Business Development at Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from San Diego State University, holds a paralegal certificate in Family Law, and is a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate. After obtaining her certification as a life coach, Courtney launched Lionheart Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching in 2015 and continues to be a passionate advocate for awareness and recovery.


[1]:  Robehmed, N. (2016). “The World’s Highest-Paid Models 2016.” Forbes Magazine, retrieved online September 24, 2016.
[2]:  Sweetingham, R. and Waller, G. (2008), Childhood experiences of being bullied and teased in the eating disorders. Eur. Eat. Disorders Rev., 16: 401–407. doi:10.1002/erv.839

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 2, 2016
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