Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
There was an interesting discussion on Plurk recently about what it means to be a model in Second Life, and lots of current and past models, SL fashion bloggers and fashionistas, weighed in. They raised many points some of us in SL's fashion world learned the hard way, and others have known all along. It reminded me that I've wanted to bust some major myths about SL modeling for a long time. Short version: Don't believe the hype, because there's a whole lot of bullshit going on.
I speak from hard experience: Before I transitioned to blogging about SL fashion, I got my start as an SL model, and believe me when I say that I haven't looked back since. Whether you're an aspiring model or a curious outsider, you'll definitely want to read on:
Myth #5: Most vendor pictures/ads feature professional SL models.
This has never been the case for the vast majority of brands in Second Life, for one simple reason: Why pay someone to park their avatar for you when you can just use your avatar or a friend's for free? When you see named models in pictures in a store these days it's usually because those people won a Flickr contest or similar promotion by that designer, or because they're friends. Brands that frequently and prominently feature models are almost always doing so because models are their primary clientele, which leads into my next point.
Myth #4: Walking in a runway show is a big deal.
There was a time when fashion shows seemed to happen every week in SL, and almost every major designer participated in them. Bloggers and society fashionistas sat giddily in the audience while models (many of them also bloggers) did the rounds. Then we seemed to collectively realize how laggy and useless these shows were, especially since in most cases (unless a designer has been sitting on their entire collection instead of releasing pieces regularly to actually make money) most of what was being shown was old news. So the majority of the community moved on; runway shows are a format that just doesn't make much sense in SL. More designers started tending blogs for their brands and regular events took over as the best way to remind people about their lines.
What remains of the runway business in SL (outside of the occasional large event) is mostly by models for models. What I mean by this is that the brands sticking with this format are the ones who get most of their business from models. They pay the agencies to run the shows and the models that aren't participating attend in the audience, and then they go shopping at those stores and the cycle continues.
Myth #3: Graduating from a modeling school in SL is a must.
So you still want to be an SL model? Most agencies will tell you you need to take classes before they'll have you walk in one of their shows... And conveniently, most agencies will also offer classes. For a fee, of course, but they'll teach you everything you need to know. Right? Skills like walking straight, or reducing lag, or fitting eyelashes... Things you can learn for free on innumerable SL blogs. Classes can offer useful insights if you're a new player, but there are no big secrets there worth the fees you'll be paying to get them. Just like in real life, if a business wants you to pay them before you can get a job there it ought to raise a red flag.
Mavi Beck, one of the most successful and highly-regarded models/photographers in the Second Life fashion community, had some sage advice to offer Plurk. "It's just another way to make money off people," Mavi shared, "I am a firm believer that modelling schools are useless. They enroll dozens of girls with the promise of fame and fortune, when there's no fame nor fortune in modelling in SL. Just spending a LOT of money. More than you could ever earn." And that brings me to the next myth...
Myth #2: Models make a lot of Linden Dollars.
Much like being a blogger, for every one free item you might get you'll have to buy 5 more to wear it with. If you want to be relevant you need to look fresh and current, and that's on you; no one is going to foot that bill for you. Competition is fierce and if you can't keep up there are plenty of others waiting to take your place. Sometimes you may get a complete or near-complete outfit for a shoot or a show, but that's not going to fall into your lap every day. So you spend to keep your wardrobe up-to-date, you spend on pictures from top photographers for your book, you spend on classes and "certifications", you spend to show designers your interest in their brand. You spend spend spend spend spend, and when you're lucky enough to earn it will never be more than a tiny fraction of what you had to spend to get there. The point is that unlike real life modeling you're not a vehicle for sales; you're the one being sold to, on almost every front.
Myth #1: Modeling is a good way to become a SL Celebrity
Ignoring how hard it really is to distinguish yourself in a crowd of people all shouting "LOOK AT ME!", my answer to this myth is who cares?
Some people want to come in Second Life to act like Victorian gentlemen or vampires, while others want to be supermodels or couture designers. People want to play at being Audrey Hepburn or Kate Moss or Anna Wintour or Karl Lagerfeld, and there's nothing wrong with that as long as you acknowledge it for what it is: roleplay. And you're playing a role in a small and insular community; what is fame really worth in that setting? Can you name the most prominent members of the Gorean community? Can you name a single winner of the annual Miss Virtual World model pageant? Does it even matter? There is no one SLer that every other SLer knows no matter who they are or what they do, so why even get preoccupied with it?
Whatever you do in SL, spend your time having fun, making friends, and expressing yourself-- don't waste your energy worrying about trying to become a big fish in a drop of water.Tweet
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.