New York based models.com, one of the fashion industry’s largest and most respected model-specific websites appears to find humour in the drinking habits of the underage models it promotes. A video interview entitled The Ash & Eliza Show featuring boyfriend and girlfriend Ash Stymest and Eliza Presly appeared on the website on 8 December. In it, the young models appear to be exhausted and possibly even drugged-up – but this is of no concern to the interviewer, who repeatedly giggles at the pair’s stories of going to pubs underage, getting “totally shit-faced” and fighting with bouncers.
The video interview came out just one day before the frockwriter blog announced late model Randy Johnston’s cause of death: accidental heroin toxicity. Interesting to note is that both Randy Johnston’s and Ash Stymest’s first big jobs in the modelling world were booked by Hedi Slimane – a Dior Homme campaign and Vogues Hommes Japan cover respectively. Slimane is credited with having brought in the skinny rock ‘n’ roll look ubiquitous among male models today. He is also famous for choosing notorious drug addict Pete Doherty as his muse for two Dior Homme collections.
Drug and alcohol abuse is a widespread problem among young people, and one that is certainly not specific to the fashion industry. The difference in the fashion industry however is that drug and alcohol use among underagers is accepted, even glamourised. In a LiveJournal post, a commenter named Matt who claims to have been a good friend of Randy Johnston writes:
“F*ck the modeling industry for introducing him to the nice little coke parties held up in modeling houses. You f*cking assholes need to keep in check what your EMPLOYEES are doing to keep themselves looking that slender. I really do partially blame Ford for his demise…and countless others.”
It is unclear whether Johnston’s mother agency Ford Models knew of his drug habit when promoting him to clients such as Dior Homme.
An extraordinary moment occurs in the models.com interview in which Presly complains that the downside of being in New York is not being old enough to drink:
“I’m not old enough to drink over here, well, I’m only 17, but in London I can get in.”
Stymest interrupts, saying:
“Yeah in London they don’t ID anyone.”
Presly then interjects to say:
“You can’t really say this on camera.”
To which the interviewer laughs and replies:
“Everyone knows in Europe it’s much more relaxed.”
There have been 46 comments on the interview so far, most leaning towards the negative. One commenter, calling herself katemossusx, says:
“Tell me if two American teens were droning on about how they get smashed, try to get into bars despite being underaged and droned on incessently about sweet FA, peppering every other word with “fuck” would you still laugh? Would you still think it fresh, charming, youthful??? And if those teens weren’t models, would it still be so?? They’re idiots, there’s nothing fresh, fun, charming about it, its’ just boring.”
But despite comments like the one above, there are still people (including Betty the interviewer), jumping to models.com’s and the model’s defense.
What kind of message is models.com sending out to young people by extolling the virtues of a place where it’s easier for underagers to get hammered? How many Randy Johnstons need to die before the fashion industry makes a concerted effort to stop exploiting young, impressionable kids? It might all seem very glamorous now, but you can bet it won’t be when these same kids are choking to death in a pool of their own vomit.