Talk (English) at A’DAM&Co by Sylvia Holla on fashion modelling, ‘aesthetic labor’ and the experience of the self.
Beauty, Work, Self
The popularity of fashion modeling signifies the importance of beauty in contemporary society and places models on a pedestal as ‘symbolic carriers of aesthetic capital’. However, models’ labor practices and conditions also complicate their self-experience. Models work hard and continuously, at times obsessively, to comply with narrowly defined beauty standards of slenderness, youthfulness, tallness, and often whiteness as well. Especially at the ‘high-end’, where beauty standards are more extreme, beauty is elusive and hard-won. This potentially causes a drift away from the self.
In her talk Beauty, Work, Self, Sylvia Holla gives an account of what working as a fashion model entails. She addresses the question of what it is that fashion models actually do during their work, and accordingly, how labor conditions impact how models experience their work. Models perform what is called ‘aesthetic labor’: they professionally cultivate their bodies and emotions to look and behave like a fashion model. Importantly, aesthetic labor also involves the imperative to project and produce a particular self, in the form of personality.
Holla explains how ‘food rules’ challenge the work and lives of fashion models and how objectification works, a process that happens continuously in fashion modeling. But also: how do these practices and experiences of aesthetic labor hold up a mirror to society?
Sylvia Holla is a sociologist and a researcher at Atria, the Institute on gender equality and women’s history. Holla writes on the importance of beauty in cultural industries and society more generally. She demonstrates how beauty fundamentally shapes labor conditions as well as the way in which beauty can complicate people’s experience of their selves. At Atria, she currently researches gender and diversity in cultural representations and brings consequences of these representations – on the (in)equality between people in work, car and societal status more generally – into view. Her most recent foci lie on gender stereotyping in education and the labor market; gender inequality and sexism in media discourses; the relationship between gender, morality and food; and cultural representations of trans* persons on Dutch TV. In September 2018 she obtained her doctorate at the UvA with her dissertation entitled Beauty, Work Self. How fashion models experience their aesthetic labor.
A’DAM&Co. is the members’ club for Amsterdam and its creative minds, located on the 18th floor of the A’DAM Toren (Overhoeksplein 3, Amsterdam).
Sylvia Holla’s talk on July 2 is also open to non-members of Adam & Co.
The number of places is limited, register in time!