I was paired with the dazzling Mahalia Handley, a 23 year old model of Maori/Irish descent now working in the UK and a rising star in the modelling world, one of the growing cohort of plus size/curvy models. With me being an older model, the idea of the programme, presented by Kim Chakanetsa and produced by Olivia Cope, was to have us two discuss modelling from the point of view of models and in particular, models who are not regarded, yet, as being 'mainstream'. Both the 'plus size/curvy ' and 'older/classic' are niche categories, but it is through the work of models such as ourselves that perceptions of modelling are being challenged and reconfigured.
The interview will be aired on Monday 20th March at 13:30 and 21:30 GMT on the BBC World Service. It will also be available as a podcast on the FB page of the programme and on BBC World Service website.
I was delighted to meet someone as vibrant as Mahalia. the conversation facilitated by Kim unfolded quite organically. I will not pre-empt the content of the podcast, I have not yet heard it myself and will be eagerly waiting for it. But one thing emerged from this conversation, something I feel I have not stressed sufficiently in my answers. Models tend to be seen as no more than objects but I would like to reclaim 'agency' to them, in other words I think that far too little attention is paid to a model's abilities to conjure up a feeling, a mood, a character, through her posing. It is this, in my view, that marks the performance of the best models, for a performance it is.
Should we then stop thinking of models as passive women defined only by their being of a particular shape and size, whatever that may be (standards are always changing, something that ought to be remembered, there was a time when a model of colour was a rarity, even more so if curvy and an over fifty model an aberration)? And of modelling being only a passport to glamour, riches and a 'good' marriage, as seen in the case of a handful of models that have ended up marrying millionaires turned powerful politicians?