ICON Modeling : Fashion Behind the Scenes
Modeling, to some is a hobby, to others it is a career and to many is a passion. ICON Modeling Troupe is a group of models at East Carolina University who practiced, performed and competed in competitions. When society thinks of models, things like tall, skinny, and beautiful with no flaws come to mind. But some say that it the media’s image of models. Lui explains that it is the modeling agencies fault for not providing different types of models. I wanted to see if that was true for the models at ECU. Were they all tall, skinny and flawless? As an outsider of ICON Modeling, I wanted to determine the purpose of the group, how they functioned on stage and off stage and the differences between the members of the group. I discovered that behind the scene, the group is not as put together as on stage and you get a chance to see a lot more mistakes than they show on stage. You are also able to see the blood, sweat and tears put into making an amazing show. By observing, I was able to see how all the models were different in some way, shape or form than what society perceives a model should be.
There’s a First Time for Everything
The first time I attended a practice, I was nervous. At first, I didn’t know where to go and once I arrived at the location my mind went blank and I forgot what to say. When I walked into their practice, people where looking at me like, “what it this girl doing here?”; at that moment I was more than a little nervous. I asked a guy standing on the side, if he could tell me who the president of the group was. He smiled and pointed to a girl that looked just a little older than me. She had the model look, her hair was long and straight, she had on nice clothes, very fashionable, and she had on very cute high heel shoes. Her name was Kiara Lawrence, I immediately, went up to her and told her my name and what I was there for and she smiled and said, “ok, no problem.” I felt as though the hard part was over and I could finally breathe. I immediately started observing and taking notes. The practice took place in Christenbury gym, as they always did. Christenbury is a building at the very end of ECU campus, it is near, the Science and Technology building on campus. They practiced in a large room with lots of space and big mirrors on the wall ; I began to observe the people. There were boys and girls, and I noticed that they were all different shapes and sizes. The girls had girl leaders and they guys had guy leaders. They were all black or African American. I wish that the group was a little more diversified, because in my research Mears, talks about how there is becoming a lack of diversity in modeling groups. And ICON modeling troupe confirmed that explanation. Though there was a lack in diversity, they were all dressed very nicely; you would think that they were putting on a fashion show at the practice. Everyone had their different style of dressing. One girl in particular was one of the leaders of the group, she was skinny and she had the prettiest complexion. Her hair was in loose “poofy” curls that fell to her back. She had on leggings, 3 inch heels and a plaid top. She walked like she had authority. All the ladies had on at least 3 inch heels, which I later learned was because it was a requirement for the group. You must practice in heels, every practice, unless told otherwise.
High Heel Shoes
Geena Stewart has been a member of ICON her entire freshman year. I asked her the purpose of the high heel shoes. She stated that they had to wear at least 3 inch heels to practice because it is what they would perform in. She also said, “If you can’t practice in at least 3 inch heels then you can’t perform in at least 3 inch heels.” It is painful, she said but it is a requirement and we as members have to deal with it.
Practice Makes Perfect
Most of the practices went pretty smoothly because there was minimal drama; no one really got upset or caused confusion amongst the group. They all seemed eager to learn. They rehearsed over and over and over again until they were happy with the results. They started the practice off by doing a runway walk. They would get into two lines on each side of the room, and they would do their runway walk, to the end, in front of the mirrors and then turn around and get back in line. The leaders of the group participated in the runway walk exercise but they also stood on the sidelines to see how every member looked as they walked down the room. There was no music. They just walked to the beat in their head; I believe that they were counting steps in their head as well. After that warm up exercise, they practiced each piece for the fashion show. Each leader made up a piece and they chose the best members in the group to work in their piece. Kiara Lawrence, who was the president, had a piece. And she chose five girls to be in her piece. They had their own mini routine. The music they had for this particular piece was catchy. I liked it. It was just a combination of different beats. One thing I learned from observing, was that they did not walk or model in these pieces, they actually did a few dance moves, but they where model dance moves. It was interesting to watch.
Closer to the fashion show, you could tell that a few members and leaders were stressed because time was winding down and the fashion show was vastly approaching. The opening piece for the fashion show included all the member of ICON. The song they performed to was Nicki Minaj “Moment for life.” I absolutely love that song and I thought it was a perfect fit for that particular piece, because it talks about how the artist wishes she could save a perfect particular moment for life. I think the song represented how they truly felt, because they wish they could save the moment on the runway for life.
Some members did not understand some routines or missed a few steps, but on the sidelines you could see other members of the group helping those that did not understand or could not quite grasp the routine. That stuck out in my mind because it showed me that they did not just think about themselves and how they looked individually, but they thought about the group as a whole, and they wanted the group to look good as a whole.
The group also had its struggles. A lot of members arrived late to the practices, which limited the amount of time they had to practice. Some people where tired, which is understandable, but it showed and they were not able to give 100 percent which hurt the group as a whole because in some areas they were not able to move forward. The leaders did not like that. Kiara told the entire group that if they did not show up on time for the next practice, that they would not be able to rehearse and they could not participate in the show. You could tell by the stern look on her face that she was absolutely serious.
One practice, they had a group discussion in the beginning to see how each member felt and took time to take a look at what direction the group was going. The guy leader led the discussion. He was fashionable from head to toe. His entire outfit matched to the T. He had the confidence of a leader, because he knew he was on top of his game. He started out the discussion by telling them how well they were doing and how he was proud of their work and then he opened the floor to comments or concerns and suggestions. One guy told a girl that he felt she needed to work on a certain performance piece because she looked sloppy during the performance. I was shocked. Everyone’s jaws dropped. But I liked how the leader handled the situation because he told everyone that it was okay to give constructive criticism, but you cannot criticize someone else when you are not performing all of your routines perfectly. So that showed me that it is okay to give constructive criticism, but you have to be willing to take criticism as well. The girl was upset; I think she was embarrassed more than anything. She left and went to the bathroom. She stayed gone a while. When she came back her eyes were red. Other members of the group tried to comfort her but there was really nothing they could do. They continued with the discussion and everyone still participated and talked about what was on their mind. One thing they talked about which surprised me a little, was the fact that most models saw ICON as only the beginning. They do not plan on stopping after it is over. Some want to be on magazine covers, on runways, and photo shoots. On the outside looking in, I thought that it was just a group trying to show their talent at ECU and that was it. But these people have dreams of becoming a high fashion model. So the purpose of the group is to teach people how to be better models, so that if they want to pursue modeling as a full time career then they have already accomplished the basics.
Anyone could be a model. It did not matter how plump or lean or petite or tall you were. If you had that uniqueness about you, that rare quality, they were willing to help you. Being a freshman, Geena Stewart stated that she joined the group so that she could make new friends. She saw the group as a hobby, but in the end it turned out to be so much more. Of course they had tryouts for the group but they did not just eliminate you if you did not have everything perfect, because if you did, what would be the purpose of joining the group. The purpose of the group is to learn and improve and perfect the key elements of being a model, through practice, fashion shows and competitions.
The leaders learned new things as well, such as new walks and new modeling moves, but they had mastered previous things that the group was still learning. I could tell that the leaders meant business, because they were not easy on the models at all. They could practice for two hours straight and if they leaders were not happy nor satisfied with the result they would make them practice until they got it right. And by the end of practice, if it was not as clean cut as it was suppose to be, they would continue to practice it again at the next practice. They had fun, and they joked around but when crunch time came, they put in the work. There was a lot of horseplay during the practices. Most of the members were friends so they knew each other and they wanted to ramble about everything, whether it was how their day went, how tired they were or what their plans where for the weekend. But there were some models who were eager to learn and they learned quickly. Most of the members of the group took criticism pretty well when it came from the leaders of the group. And if they did not understand something they asked immediately.
Overall the group seemed, well put together, especially after the tragic blow. In 2010, the former president of ICON Modeling Troupe, Victoria Carter, was killed in a car accident. I can only imagine what the group had to face during that time.
In Recent News
ICON Modeling today, is currently banned from ECU, due to a fight between the two head leaders. There are few details about the fight but Geena Stewart stated that, the group had its downfalls and at times it was not organized and there was a lot of drama and even though the group was banned, at least it was at the end of the year.
The group has faced many downfalls and many accomplishments this year and I am sure this will not be the last we hear about ICON Modeling.