Social media are giving a voice to models who, for the most part, have built their careers as pretty, non-speaking faces.
They'll tweet what they had for breakfast, post behind-the-scenes photos on Tumblr and use Facebook to cultivate "friends" around the world. Tech-savvy fashion followers are eating it up, gaining entry to a world that is so often behind velvet ropes.
"I realized there was an audience interested in what I had to say, not just the images from my work," said model Coco Rocha, who alternates personal posts and lighthearted tidbits with a more businesslike platform to highlight brands and magazines she's shooting for as well as her favorite social and charitable causes.
'Extended my career'
At age 23, Rocha is no longer the new girl in town, but her fan base of more than 200,000 Twitter followers and 66,000 Facebook friends (plus Tumblr, Google Plus and Instagram accounts and blog readers) give her "longevity," she said. "Because I have a voice and I'm sticking to having that voice, I feel like I have extended my career."
Name recognition increases a model's value, said Sean Patterson, president of the Wilhelmina agency. Models who become celebrities, online or otherwise, might even help reverse the trend of movie and pop stars with "relatable" personal stories taking the A-list advertising jobs and magazine covers that used to go to models.
Models with online followings can also create extra buzz for brands they represent. "I imagine, for example, that Victoria's Secret likes that Doutzen [Kroes] has so many Twitter followers and that she tells them, 'Watch the Victoria's Secret show I'm in at 9 p.m.,' " Patterson said.
In addition, social media let models show the interesting lives they lead off the runway, and it's a way for chatty, likable personalities to shine. That could tip the balance of who makes it big and who doesn't, said Michael Flutie, of the E! show "Scouted."
"If you have 10 beautiful girls, all diamonds in the rough to be the next Christy Turlington or Cindy Crawford, you have to narrow it down somehow, and you're going to narrow it down to the four who can communicate really well digitally," he said.
In the 1990s, Turlington, Crawford and their pals like Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell were household names, but they didn't get to create their own personas the way Rocha or Kroes do today.
"I started out doing all this as a fun thing by myself," Kroes said. "My big thing was how I could give back and how I could tell people I was involved in charity, but then I figured out how it all fits together: I realized I could build my own profile."
Liane Mullin, co-founder of Modelinia.com, an online industry hub, says models have a lot of credibility when it comes to posts about "fashion, beauty, fitness, nutrition and food — that's what they're experts in."