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Vanessa Geens is a French bona fide fashion model. Based in Dubai for the past eight years, she shares with us a behind the scenes look into the modeling industry.
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“Dubai’s modeling scene is very different. Everybody thinks it’s a glamorous life and you always look pretty, but sometimes that’s not the case at all,” says Geens.
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“I’ve seen girls losing their hair after certain hairstyles. I’ve seen them sit there and cry after their hair gets burnt from all the heavy duty straighteners and curlers. I’ve seen chunks of hair fall out on the floor followed by screams of anger and models walking out of shows.”
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But there is an upside to all this mayhem. According to Gosia Golda, managing director and founder of MMG Events, Dubai is filled with countless opportunities for models of all age height and size.
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“Although you get paid higher wages in Europe, models like coming here because they get more jobs and they start working right away. Overall, it is much easier here in Dubai and there is a growing market for it,” Golda states.
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“I think Dubai is a totally different market that gives a chance to everyone, regardless of your age and height. Here, even at 30-32, you can still be a catwalk or photoshoot model, which is a great thing since I’m 32 and I still get to do some work,” says Geens.
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Models are placed into ranks, according to their height, face, experience and demeanour. They are classified into three categories: international and catwalk models, hostesses and finally promoters.
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Promoters get paid by the hour, sometimes as low as $22. But models refuse to do so, opting instead for either a full or half-day payment. An average daily wage for a model can be from $410- $685, but if she is really lucky, she can land a TV campaign for over $5,500 a day.
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“Sometimes people forget that a model is a person, because you have a price tag on you and you’re booked for the day,” says Geens.
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“I know that it is probably difficult to handle 20 or 30 models at a time, but still, sometimes it can definitely be done in a nicer way,” she states.
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A typical day for a model working in Dubai can be as long as 11 hours, running from 10am to 9pm. A fashion show, for example, can have check-in scheduled for 10am, a first rehearsal at 12pm, hair and make-up at 2pm, a dress rehearsal at 5pm, with the show kicking off at 9pm.
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This all changes dramatically during ‘fashion weeks’, when the schedules get tighter and the shows are back to back.
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“When fashion week was on, it was really tough because you get to do three to four fashion shows a day with each designer wanting something different," she explains.
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“So for the first show you’d have your hair in a bun with a hundred pins and half a bottle of hair spray keeping it securely in place, but the next show’s designer would want this to change completely and for your hair to be slick straight.”
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“You lose your hair, eyelashes, and walk out looking like a tropical fish. This is the kind of thing you have to go through. People think that because you are a model or because you do a fashion show you live glamorously and get something free at the end of the day, but they really have the wrong idea about it.”