Whenever I hear young girls say that they hope to be models one day, I feel a bit sad. Not because it can never be a worthy profession, but because the reality of the industry means that they will most probably fall prey to deep insecurities, and take on shoots that aim to strip them of their dignity.

These issues came to light in the news a few days ago, when a former Victoria’s Secret Angel opened up about what made her quit her highly-sought after modelling job. Kylie Bisutti landed the gig when she was just 19, but it all went downhill when photos from a bikini shoot ended up on a porn site and a photographer confirmed her concerns. 

“That’s when it hit me,” she was reported as saying. “I was being paid to strip down and pose provocatively to titillate men. It wasn’t about modelling clothes anymore; I felt like a piece of meat.”

Modelling should uplift viewers to observe beauty in a respectful way, and I think most young girls (on a subconscious level) go into the industry with the aim of representing this ideal. Most of the time however, this is not the case. As Bisutti found out, most models are there because they draw attention: of men in a lustful way, and of women in an envious way.

The point came home to me even more so over the weekend, when I helped to style a photo shoot for a line of formalwear that my friend is launching. Fashion shoots tend to leave girls with a feeling of insecurity and body hate, because of comparisons to the others involved. But towards the end of this shoot I realised that even though I’d been surrounded by absolutely gorgeous models all day, I had not experienced a single moment of anxiety.

My friend had designed gowns that didn’t focus on a certain body part, but instead revealed the entire beauty of the woman wearing it – so I left the shoot feeling inspired rather than depressed. Shouldn’t this be what fashion and modelling is all about?

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.