Phoenix Fashion Week hosts 'Chasing Beauty' movie, panel

Pitchforks: 5/5


Thursday night at Studio Movie Grill in Scottsdale, organizers of Phoenix Fashion Week gave attendees an inside look at the modeling industry with the special screening of "Chasing Beauty," a modeling documentary directed by Brent Huff.

After the screening, Phoenix Fashion Week coordinator Brian Hill, hosted a question and answer panel that included Channel 5 news anchor Nadine Bubeck, stylist Fawn Cheng, plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel Shapiro, stylist Dynelle Rodriguez, photographer Joe Pier, Miss Arizona USA 2011 Brittany Dawn Brannon and regional director of Fashion Group International Tracy Rasinski.

The documentary itself was hard to watch as it follows a few teenagers and former models on the extreme measures they take in order to reach top status, something only a select few will attain.

These girls, who are usually 13 to 16 years old, get their foot in the industry at a very young age. At 13, the select few that make it to the top start to see up to 15 million dollars in their bank accounts. They are then lured in even further by promises of wearing haute couture and the chance to strut runways in Milan, Paris and New York.

What no one tells these girls is that they must pay 100 percent of their expenses. Once they sign a contract, they are also literally signing their bodies away to whatever agency has taken them in.

The most disturbing aspect of the film comes when audiences see these teens smoking cigarettes in order to maintain a "proper" weight and living off a diet of cotton balls dipped in orange juice to stay full. Once the agency considers that they have become too old, usually around their 30s, they are then replaced by much younger incoming talent.

These girls often have to move away from their parent's house for the job and many end up getting in trouble. This was the case with Hoyt Richards, who joined a cult, and Beverly Peele, the first African-American model to appear in Mademoiselle magazine. Peele got involved in an escort service and later was charged with identity theft.

With beauty trends now changing, many American models that have the typical "all-American" look are being rejected and replaced by more exotic and Eurasian models. To compensate for this, these girls must learn how to bring out their true inner beauty and exude high levels of self-confidence.

After the film, the fashion community got to ask questions for the panel ranging from, "What is the most common plastic surgery that models undergo?" to "What are agents now looking for in girls?"

Dr. Shapiro expressed that in Arizona, the younger demographic usually goes for the all-too famous breast augmentation. He said the majority of the models on the runway almost always request “noses done, ears pinned back.”

“People embrace a lot more ethnicity now than they used to," Dr. Shapiro said. "The first advice I tell people is that you don’t want people to know you’ve gotten it done. I can pull just about every W magazine and just about every model has had their nose done. ... That I can tell. What you think is good in a person, can look different in front of the camera.”

When asked to address his thought on Botox for women younger than 30, he was opposed to it and said that instead they should invest in high quality skin care products, especially sunscreen. In the movie, one woman that was involved in pageantry said Botox, when used before a woman’s 30s, can help prevent wrinkles, and had it been around at her age, she would have used it.

Brannon talked a bit about her previous pageantry experience.

"It is really what you invest in other people what is going to last beyond your year as titleholder," she said. "I think a lot of people tend to shove pageant girls into a stereotype that they are not very smart or they are not very accomplished because they rely on their looks. Girls who are in pageants or perhaps models what not … work overly hard, extra hard to overcome those stereotypes and overcome those unintelligent thought processes."

Rodriguez, part of Phoenix Fashion Week Style Team, had her own thoughts on the ever changing world of fashion.

“I think for the last two years the most positive trend that I noticed is women taking a more healthy approach to beauty, and by that I mean surfacing; spray tanning instead of bed tanning, using mineral makeup, those types of things, enlisting help from fitness trainers,“ she said.

The Arizona fashion community strives to get things done the “right way” according to Hill. It appears that a love for the industry is crucial when getting involved in a career in fashion.


Reach the reporter at or follow on Twitter at @rosielopez14.


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