No pain, no gain: Backstage photos reveal what it takes for a model to be catwalk-ready


The word “effortless” is often used to describe fashion’s ideal look: Models of the moment should appear polished, blemish-free, and achingly cool, but not as if it took too much work.

But the inhumanly smooth hair, even skin, and smoky eyes are the results of hours of many, many hands pulling, clipping, tugging, patting, brushing, and blowing on models’ heads, bodies, and faces. Often, they are rushed, and sometimes they are rough. Willowy though they may appear, these models are tough. This job looks a little like torture.

With another series of Fashion Weeks around the corner—New York Fashion Week begins September 10, to be followed by London, Milan, and Paris—it’s time for a reminder that beauty on the catwalk is many things, but natural and effortless it is not.

Dye is rinsed from a model's hair.
Dye is rinsed from a model’s hair. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)
A model uses an eyelash curler before presenting the Jason Wu 2014 Fall/Winter collection during New York Fashion Week in New York
That’s just an eyelash curler. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly)
A model eats an apple backstage before a presentation by fashion designer Lidija Kolovrat for the Fall/Winter 2014/15 collection during Lisbon Fashion Week
No idea what’s on her head, but it’s nice that she gets a snack. (Reuters/Marcos Borga)
A model has her tattoos covered by an airbrush backstage before a showing of the Marchesa Spring/Summer 2013 collection during New York Fashion Week
A tattoo is covered. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
A model gets his makeup done backstage before the presentation of French designer Fred Sathal's fashion show during the Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015 fashion collections in Paris
Cadaver or model? (Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes)
Models wear netting on their heads to protect their makeup in New York
DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE. (Reuters/Andrew Kelly)
A model winces in pain as she has her hair braided backstage before a showing of the Marchesa Spring/Summer 2013 collection during New York Fashion Week
Could we get this braid a leeeetle tighter? Also, how about some studs in your eyes? (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
A model eats while having her make-up applied backstage before the Dennis Basso fall collections 2007 during New York Fashion Week
You can totally eat, but just do it with your eyes closed and don’t mess up your face. (Reuters/Eric Thayer)
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