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Top Model Paulina Porizkova Says The Fashion Industry Has Changed For The Worse In The Last 30 Years

Having first graced magazine covers at 19, the now 52-year-old model says she recognizes nothing about the industry that propelled her to fame more than three decades ago.




Her main complaint? It seems that to become a successful model today—and this applies to both men and women—one must first be a celebrity, an established name, have famous parents, or rub elbows with the industry's heavyweights. Paulina points out that the practice robs aspiring models of non-celebrity backgrounds the opportunity to become fashion legends and carve their own paths—just like she once did. 

"When I started in 1980, the photographers held the power and you had to be nice to the photographers. Then, the models took over. We became more powerful than the photographers, the editors and, sometimes, even more powerful than the magazine for which we posed," she shared in an interview with the Daily Mail.




“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” — Coco Chanel, who died 46 years ago this week (at the Hôtel Ritz Paris, as only fitting). I shot this @chanelofficial ad in Paris in the early 1980s. I was about 17 years old here. The style of the day was Eighties hair which was teased as high as possible, very punk. But on this set the hairdresser, Christian, put mine in a conventional low ponytail. I instantly felt like an old lady. How I longed for a bit of sequin, padded cleavage and giant hair to make me feel attractive. Now I look back on old photos of me with giant ratty hair and sequined dresses and I am absolutely embarrassed -- not by the photos, those are funny -- but by my taste, or lack of thereof. Today I look at this photo and see simplicity and elegance, which translates to style and style, of course, is timeless. Coco was right. ?? Tag me in a photo you thought looked boring or lame back then but love now! #cocochanel #paulina4decades ??Photo cred: @arthurelgort ??

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Paulina shared her thoughts after appearing on the catwalk at London Fashion Week when she closed the Jiri Kalfar show years and years after the last time she walked the runway. The mother and wife burst into the scene when she became a cover girl for glossy magazine Sports Illustrated in 1984 as a teenager.

The Czech model further recounts the stroke of luck that paved the way for her career in fashion. Paulina was a mere 13-year-old living in Sweden when she had a budding makeup artist friend gave her a makeover and sent her photographs to a modeling agency.



For my 100th Instagram post, I’d like to go back to the beginning — to this photo. And how it changed my life. ?? I was 13 and living with my mother and brother in Sweden after leaving communist Czechoslovakia. Kids at my new school were awful to me because I was a refugee. I was spit on and hit and called a ‘dirty communist’ and worse. Thankfully, I made a group of friends who were as unpopular as myself (albeit for different reasons): Petra, Charlotte and Christine. These girls, now women, are all still important to me and I’m so incredibly grateful for them.  Christine, who took this picture, wanted to be a makeup artist and so one day we all got together and she painted our faces. The plan was to send photos of her artistry to modeling agencies in Paris. When the photos were developed everyone looked lovely, but my friends were shocked by the ones of me. No one had thought of me as pretty, but in the photos something magical happened.  It was as if there was an entirely new person captured by the lens. ??Christine sent off this photo (along with others in the series). Soon after, a modeling agent called inviting me to Copenhagen to meet the famed model scout John Casablancas. John was busy with a model competition in a mall; I met him for all of 15 seconds. He took one look at me and asked: want to go to Paris? As if I’d say no! The rest, as they say, is history. ?????? P.S. Christine did not pursue a career as a makeup artist, though when I began working fulltime in Paris I tried to convince her to join me...?? #faceofarefugee #Paulina4Decades

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Freshly arrived in Paris in the summer of 1980. Age 15. #paulina4decades

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It was none other than John Casablancas, founder of prestigious Elite Model Management, who first signed the teenage Paulina and introduced her to the world in shows and appearances in French capital, Paris. In a matter of months, Paulina became the most sought-after female model in the world. What followed was a glamorous life and a string of successes that many models would aspire to have, but could only dream of achieving.

A lot of time has passed since Paulina perfected her strut, but she was happy to compare working the runway to riding a bicycle; her muscle memory was intact, and she felt like she had never really been away from fashion after all this time.



What is it with dirty dudes in positions of power calling ‘meetings’ with young girls and women in hotel rooms and answering the door in nothing but a bathrobe? And wanting a massage? Everyone’s asking me if I have a HW story. I don’t. But the scenarios his victims describe happened to me countless times since I began modeling at 15 in 1980. We didn’t call it sexual assault, we called it ‘compliments.’ If a straight man with power (usually the photographer or client) didn’t sexually harass you, and he’d harassed other models, you wondered what was wrong with you. The harassment was a daily occurrence and it wasn’t a big deal. I heard about very young teenage models getting raped abroad -- on trips girls were really powerless, in another country, and at the mercy of the group. When we heard of the heavier stuff, that so-and-so had to go home because she’d been raped, we’d all just say ‘yup.’ Somehow it was a part of the risk of a job. As models, we weren’t paid for our talents; we were renting our body and face. And every day people touched your body and face — you were being pinned, pushed, squeezed, pulled, scrubbed, brushed. At work your body wasn’t your own. When someone wanted it for a different purpose it was hard to know when the line was crossed. I remember being asked to a star photographer’s hotel room when I was a clueless teenager. I remember saying ‘no thanks’ when he opened his robe and wanted a massage. I would try to leave as quickly as I could. I learned to navigate the waters of rejection -- had to learn how to say no while making the sexual predators think it was their choice. (Heehawing like a donkey at their advances usually quelled their ardor.) I had to learn to tow a very narrow line and let them down while still flattering their ego. At least that’s what I told myself, but the truth is - I was just enormously lucky. #metoo #neveragain

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Aside from speaking out about the so-called nepotism in fashion, Paulina is the one of the more recent additions to the #MeToo movement. She has come forward with a story that echoed the accounts of many models that have spoken out before her, describing the way that men in fashion would sexually harass young women like her at the workplace.

As a woman who grew up in and around fashion, Paulina is choosing to use her influence and legacy to help right the wrongs in the industry—a move that she hopes will benefit young women and encourage them to keep their heads up and their eyes on the prize despite the many challenges, struggles, and imperfections of the job.


Photos from @paulinaporizkov