Glamorous, exciting, and surprisingly heartbreaking, the 2010 documentary film Picture Me, by then boyfriend-and-girlfriend team Ole Schell and Sara Ziff, takes a modest but insightful look at the modeling industry, following Ziff over the course of a five-year career on the runway. Having been scouted on the street, the daughter of a professor all but stumbled into her occupation, and has mixed feelings about delaying college in order to earn a few quick bucks spending sleepless days and nights jetting to Paris and Milan to be treated like a living doll. Soon, however, Ziff hits it big with designers, and what was once thought to be a brief foray into modeling explodes into a highly involved career, complete with fame, pressure, 100K paychecks, and possible sexual assault.
Beginning with camcorder footage of the then 18-year-old as she jumps her first hurdles on the way to becoming a success in her new vocation, the film eventually comes to incorporate interviews with other models, as well as family members and people in the industry. The dark side of a profession that for the lucky few offers six-figure paychecks and cloying favor from complete strangers soon becomes clear. Models talk about photographers and stylists referring to even rail-thin girls as fat, and multiple women offer unnerving stories about being sexually harassed or even molested by photographers. This all takes place in a business that regularly recruits girls around age 16 -- though some begin as young as 12. Ziff herself comes to her wit’s end a few times on location, between a nonstop schedule, callous treatment, and lack of sleep -- and one assumes she has her boyfriend with her to film the footage we’re watching. Ziff also returns to a home base in New York City, where her mom and dad live within walking distance, whereas some of her co-workers have it even harder. Russian model Katia Kokoreva talks about leaving home by herself to begin modeling in Tokyo at age 16, where she gave birth to her daughter the next year -- all while she spoke only Russian.
Perhaps the most effecting element of Ziff’s story, though, is the simple fact that modeling doesn’t require enough of her. Over the course of her journey, she muses more than once about the fact that intelligence isn’t really a job requirement in her industry, and she seems to lament this. Smart and articulate from the get-go, Ziff clearly isn’t really living up to her full potential in a world where she is only valued for being, as her mother puts it, “pretty and on time.” It creates an overall narrative for the movie that invests us very much in the heroine’s story, so that we can’t help hoping that the young woman finds real success in her life, perhaps in spite of her success on the runway.
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- Released: 2009
- Review: Glamorous, exciting, and surprisingly heartbreaking, the 2010 documentary film Picture Me, by then boyfriend-and-girlfriend team Ole Schell and Sara Ziff, takes a modest but insightful look at the modeling industry, following Ziff over the course of a five… (more)