The documentary Girl Model peers into the dark side of the modeling world through two sets of eyes: Ashley, a 30-something former model turned talent scout and Nadya, a 13-year-old Siberian girl hoping to escape poverty by becoming a model.
When Nadya is recruited by Ashley to spend two months in Japan, she is promised $8,000 and two paid shoots. When she arrives, however, she encounters a language barrier, a maze of casting sessions, and an agency that can change her contract on a daily basis.
Along the way we meet some of Ashley’s shocking coworkers including a guy named Messiah who claims he is saving girls like Noah saved animals, and another scout who takes his recruits to the morgue to show them what happens if they don’t listen to him. Ashley admits she is addicted to traveling and doesn’t want to act as a mother to the girls she recruits.
As Nadya runs out of money and promises of work, she wants nothing but to return home. It is revealed though diary tapes that Ashley went through a similar experience while a model. She explains that she knows many girls she recruits will end up in prostitution. The point is driven home in a scene where Nadya is looking for her photo in a magazine and browses through a section of adult magazines.
We also learn that Ashley is suffering from a tumor. When the unusually large mass is removed it has blonde hair. You’re left to wonder if this is an appropriate metaphor for Ashley’s role in the modelling industry.
At the end of the film, Nadya returns home $2,000 in debt and Ashley returns to her million dollar glass house (how appropriate).
Overall I thought this film was very eye-opening into how the modelling industry preys on desperation though it left many unanswered questions. It felt as if Ashley wanted to reveal some dark truth at many points but stopped herself short. Considering that the documentary was Ashley’s idea, perhaps it was a call for help.
You can watch the full documentary on Netflix.