“Picture Me: A Model’s Diary”
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 80 Minutes
Studio: Strand Releasing
If you follow your gorgeous girlfriend around with a video camera for a few years, and her status as a supermodel affords you backstage access to her colleagues and leading designers in the fashion world, then guess what, your home movies might actually amount to a compelling feature film. Just such fortune has fallen at the feet of Ole Schell, boyfriend of cover girl Sara Ziff.
Sara was just a teenager when she was spotted on the streets of New York City by a talent scout who pegged her potential as the next “It” girl. With the permission of her skeptical parents, Susan, an attorney, and Ed, a microbiologist, she was allowed to forego her college education and sign with an agency. Their very naïve daughter was subsequently whisked off to Paris where she soon became all too familiar with the seamy underbelly of the fashion world.
In Europe, she learned that the trappings of her new glamorous lifestyle came at considerable financial and emotional cost, since you were indebted to the agency for everything from your plane ticket to your limos to your apartment and assorted other expenses. Then there was the dark side of certain unspoken practices in the profession, such as sleazy photographers and casting agents who expected sexual favors in return for assignments.
Unfortunately, because most of the girls are very young and on their own for the first time, many tend to succumb to the pressure. The fallout of such a soul-draining existence often includes substance abuse, unwanted pregnancies and serious bouts with depression and bulimia. To add insult to injury, the length of the disposable model’s career is typically brief, ending as soon as she gains a little weight or simply if her look falls out of favor with the designers and magazine editors.
All of the above is chronicled in chilling fashion in “Picture Me: A Model’s Diary,” a warts-and-all documentary which dares to paint modeling as the opposite of appetizing. The bulk of the film’s footage revolves around Sara during downtime with her fellow models, capturing them reflecting upon their hazardous line of work.
A priceless primer on the flip side of strutting up the catwalk designed for impressionable young female minds fantasizing about becoming the next ingénue of the moment.