Academic Review: Pricing Beauty, by Ashley Mears

Mars begins her novel by relating her second entry at twenty-three into the modeling industry, and her intent to conduct a firsthand study of the internal workings of the industry, infiltrating the structure from within-as a model. As a whole, Pricing Beauty concentrates on unveiling certain “backstage” ambiguities and inequalities within the fashion industry regarding race, gender roles and performance, sexuality, class, and bodily autonomy in order to address the issues of systemic racism, sexism, and classics inherent in tooth the fashion industry and in society in general.

Mars uses a lot of direct quotations from personal interviews, and her insider perspective to vivisect the underpinnings the industry. Her position as a model grants her additional access to the various players in the industry, and gives her more authority than if this study was conducted by an outside perspective.

The book is divided into seven chapters, including the “Entry’ and “Exit’ chapters. Chapter 1 goes over the “economics of the catwalk,” examining the differences between “symbolic’ and “economic” capital, how “prestige” unction’s in the industry, and the division of these dimensions within the “editorial” and “commercial” sectors, as well as how the industry has changed economically over the years.

Chapter 2 delves into the ambiguities surrounding the concept of a “look,” the difficulties involved in the “aesthetic labor” demanded from various employees, and the risks involved with unpredictable freelance work, as well as the communication of a model’s body to be molded and sold, comparing the model to a boxer, and differentiating between making one’s body an instrument to actively perform, ND the passive objectification of a model’s body for the use of a client.

Chapter 3 deals with examining the ‘taskmaster,” in the fashion industry, the individuals responsible for choosing models to book, evaluating “looks,” and negotiating their values within a network of peers and clients, continuing to expound upon the fluid nature of the industry’ as a whole, and the fleeting values assigned to various looks dependent upon the shifting trends and consumer desires, and how these connect to cultural changes. It also addresses the complexities of the relationships that bookers build with clients ND models, and the system by which they value certain ties over others.

Chapter 5 confronts the issues surrounding the exclusion of racially and bodily diverse models, and how this structure is supported by restrictive social constructs, as well as the intersections with heterosexuality and gender. It also outlines the differences between the more mainstream commercial interests showing more diversity to appeal to wider markets, and in the editorial sectors, where the focus is more restricted and focused on thinness and whiteness.

Chapter 6 reviews the ways that gender plays out in he modeling arena, and how the predominance of women in modeling and their generally higher wages serves the devaluation of women in society as objects to be put on display, comparing the modeling industry to sex work, another field wherein women earn more than men. This chapter also remarks on the assumptions about gender roles, and sexuality, pointing out the phenomena of straight men “going gay for pay,” and touching On the differences in gender performance between men and women in general and within the industry.

Although I thought that Mars presented a very well-connected set of arguments, I think she could have addressed a wider range of issues surrounding the fashion industry. Firstly, the lack of representation and exclusion patrons individuals in fashion and general media. Although there has been a generally upward trend in diversity of gender and race within industries and media circuits, trans representation remains fairly low on the ladder of representation.

I feel like the inclusion of stats on trans individuals and the reasoning behind their exclusions would further Mars’ arguments and add another dimension to her study. Another point that Mars failed to hit upon was the issues revolving around belies, and the exclusion of disabled persons from the fashion industry, and how this can feed into the problematic belief that their bodies, like those of “plus-sized” individuals, are undesirable to the general public, perhaps also intersecting with arguments of race, and the objectification of certain body- types as non-normative.