Stina Sanders: Admits to Being Human, Loses Thousands of Followers.
Meets Stina Sanders. She’s a model who has made headlines for putting up less-than-perfect images of herself.
Take a look at her Instagram and you’ll find endless beautiful pictures, mixed with the odd bout of (still attractive) humour. But Stina also took part in an experiment where, for a week, she posted only honest and less-than-flattering images of herself, talking about acne, eczema and mental health problems.
The followers left in droves and her agency told her to stop putting up ugly photos. You know what? The former annoys me far more than the latter. I can understand as an agent, if a client is interested in booking your model for a beauty shoot and takes a look at her Instagram and there’s a closeup of a spot. It won’t help in booking that job. I think agencies ultimately have to respect that our own Instagrams are our own reflections on our lives and we can do what we want – but I can imagine my booker doing the same to me.
(Although to be fair he did ring me up in hysterics when he saw this number…”The face! It’s perfect!)
It’s the followers leaving in droves that gets me. Ever since I started modelling, I’ve been aware of the argument, reeled out in the comments section under every shoot or article, that I, ‘Promote an unrealistic standard of beauty’ and that I am, ‘Far too skinny and anorexic models are bad role models’.
Well I thought that Instagram and social media in general would be a democratising influence. I remember when my articles about things like getting the coil or kneeling on all fours getting a Brazilian wax were seen as quite shocking, coming from a model. It was a great opportunity to show that we’re human, we’re flawed and we have many of the same insecurities as everyone else.
But Instagram has become a bizarre place of two-dimensional, strobed, spiralised and unbelievably airbrushed beauty and lifestyles. Just when we seem to be making strides towards the fashion industry in admitting when they use photoshop, taking more responsibility for the size of the models employed and promoting a greater variety of shapes and sizes…Instagram is promoting ever more unrealistic ‘real life’ images. And that demand isn’t coming so much from models and magazines – that’s coming from those who follow the big Instagram stars.
I have it on good authority that there is a great surgeon who ‘does’ these top Instagram stars. That’s right. Tweaks their faces so that they can look perfect for a fleeting image on social media, a static duckfaced square. How reductive. How disempowering. But that’s what gets the followers, and therefore the big money, which is in turn making everyone else give this image of a perfect, contoured life that fits into a very narrow category of what people like to see. It’s a bit of a chicken/egg scenario: have they created the demand, or are they responding to what the public want to see? Either way, that perfection is what is expected, it’s what is demanded and it’s seeping into everyday life.
For example, young girls now want a contoured, flawless complexion and conceal the natural radiance of youth with layers of foundation. I hate that. More and more models get surgery on their face. Once a total no-no, clients are increasingly telling me that they couldn’t book/shoot a girl because she’d got filler in her lips and cheeks and looked a bit strange. They have to look a certain way for Instagram, you see, because they have to get those follows to book the jobs. So they’re resorting to messing up their gorgeous faces with surgery.
I love the fact that Stina used Instagram as a platform to be honest about skin conditions and mental health. I hate that it made people unfollow her en masse for just that reason.
Stina broke free of the constraints of that stupid square for one week – one week! – and it made the news. Simply by admitting she bleaches her facial hair and gets dry skin she both disgusted 5000 people who unfollowed in disgust, and attracted others who found her honestly about such prosaic, every day body & beauty matters refreshing. Let’s take a leaf out of Stina’s book, and allow ourselves to be a bit silly, a bit honest and human sometimes: we should never allow our beauty and our thoughts to fit neatly into little square boxes.
Follow Stina’s Instagram here.