This Year’s Model: Elizabeth Wissinger to discuss life of a modern model, ‘glamour labor’

Elizabeth Wissinger Headshots 2016 300x300The modeling industry is in a constant state of scrutiny when it comes to sexual objectification of women, beauty ideals, etc. – but why do models continue to intrigue us? Elizabeth Wissinger, of City University of New York, will give a talk on May 11 to discuss her book, “This Year’s Model: Fashion, Media, and the Making of Glamour” and a term she coined as ‘glamour labor’. Join us; all are welcome.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 11 at 2 p.m.

Synopsis > This Year’s Model: Fashion, Media, and the Making of Glamour 

Over the last four decades, the fashion modeling industry has become a lightning rod for debates about Western beauty ideals, the sexual objectification of women, and consumer desire. Yet, fashion models still captivate, embodying all that is cool, glam, hip, and desirable. They are a fixture in tabloids, magazines, fashion blogs, and television. Why exactly are models so appealing? And how do these women succeed in so soundly holding our attention?

In her book This Year’s Model, Elizabeth Wissinger weaves together in-depth interviews and research at model castings, photo shoots, and runway shows to offer a glimpse into the life of the model throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Once an ad hoc occupation, modeling now involves far more than merely smiling for the camera; it entails what Wissinger terms glamour labor—the constant self-promotion and fashioning, the adoption of a “CEO of Me” mentality—that has become alarmingly common across many industries. Wissinger will share highlights of her case study of the modeling industry, to consider the origins of glamour labor, and how rise of digital media has amplified the imperative to edit the body and self to appear as fascinating and polished in person as one does in one’s highly scripted, filtered and manipulated online life.

The talk will touch on how analyzing this form of labor highlights issues surrounding the value of bodily affect within regimes of work and leisure given by various technologies. Digitization fosters the body’s engagement with media technologies that open bodily connection and vitality to metering and regulation. This process in turn makes bodily variability and unpredictability valuable to capital, turning the specificity of unique bodies into a source of value. While the fashionably cool’s ever-morphing ideal seduces publics into the game of chasing it, Wissinger will discuss how it also glosses over the loss of privacy and endless work toward constant exposure this game entails.

Bio > Elizabeth Wissinger is an Associate Professor of Fashion Studies and Sociology in the Masters of Liberal Studies program at the Graduate Center and the BMCC Department of Social Sciences at the City University of New York, and an affiliate at Data & Society in New York City. She has lectured on topics related to media, fashion, bodies, technology and work in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe. Her writing and research have been featured in The Guardian, The Conversation, Cyborgology, Interface, Culture Digitally, PETRIe Inventory, and The Globe and Mail, as well as academic journals and anthologies.

Her book, This Year’s Model: Fashion, Media, and the Making of Glamour (NYU 2015), argues that beyond patriarchy and consumerism, the fashionable look stems from technological influences that shape body ideals. Fashion models promote this changing ideal, thereby evoking “glamour labor” from various publics to bring body and self in line with the ever-elusive fashionable image. Her current research focuses on how wearable technologies impact gender and embodiment.