confessions of a modern model
Updated: Mar 30, 2019
Radiating confidence, Paris Omar lounges on a cafe chair as if she’s on a photo shoot, her long brown coat draped effortlessly off one shoulder like couture. Yet, beneath her composure and effortlessly chic exterior, is an underlying conflict that seems misplaced in any 19-year-old.
Perhaps the trendy clothes and flawless make up work to conceal her inner turmoil that, by pursuing a career in the fashion industry, she is sacrificing her true values. “I have to appear as a blank page and not too political. It’s really bad, sort of like selling myself out,” she says.
For someone not yet into their twenties, Liverpool born Omar has accomplished far more than most. Her impressive CV boasts not only a thriving modelling career, but also the makings of a future barrister, currently studying Law at the University of Liverpool.
Far from traditional stereotypes that define models as ditzy, Omar is intelligent and secure. She knows what she wants, with a painful awareness that sometimes her ambitions are unattainable. “I’ve recently realised I might be fooling myself about modelling,” she says, confessing her insecurity within an industry that champions extremely slim women. Upon meeting Omar, such self-doubt seems absurd, yet she says: “I feel like I’m living unhealthily because I’m forcing myself to fit this standard.”
Omar began modelling at 16, following years of encouragement from friends and family. Since then, she’s appeared on national campaigns for major brands including Missguided, Estee Lauder, and Public Desire. Alongside her modelling career, Omar now hosts the ‘Sweet Truth’ podcast which aims to highlight the difficulties faced by those working in the fashion industry. Despite initial fears that the brutal honesty of the podcast may lead brands to blacklist her, Omar remains clear that the podcast is purely a harmless outlet: “We never name drop or bash people. It’s more of a forum to go to for advice.”
Often discussed on her podcast is social media, something that, for Omar, exists as more of a tool to connect with employers than the fun pastime it is for many of her peers. A model’s role in the 21st century has been entirely reinvented, seemingly worlds away from the glamour of the 80’s and 90’s when the leading supermodels were notorious for their partying. The glitz we all associate with the fashion industry is perhaps a myth, as Omar dispels this misconception. “Girls with more followers are treated a lot better,” Omar says bluntly. “We exist as nobodies in the industry. We go to five or six castings a day, do a job in the evening, and then are moulded into whatever the client wants. These girls on Instagram put a couple of posts on and are taken as they are”.
While Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell never had to worry about maintaining an aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed as their careers began, modern models must exploit their personal lives in order to seem brand friendly. “A lot of models are now being pushed by agents to project a false personality online,” Omar says, adding: “If I’m stood next to a girl but she’s got 10k followers, they’re going to choose her.”
Despite pressure from her agents to maintain a persona on Instagram, Omar remains vigilant, careful to avoid posting anything that would harm her career as a lawyer. Her passion for both law and modelling is evident in the way she speaks of the two, yet she’s aware they cannot co-exist in her life forever. “The things I’m doing now could potentially damage my career in the long term. I have always loved both but I know one day I’m gonna have to decide,” she says.
The chances of making it through the extremely competitive barrister applications is something that weighs heavy on her mind: “I’m not only working against one stereotype, I’m like a four-way stereotype. I’m from Liverpool, I’m working class, I’m black and I’m a model.”