Photo: Guy Aroch
Maayan and I were introduced via email through a mutual friend. Although we both modeled around the same time, our paths never crossed. But I knew her. I knew her from her striking photos. She has been featured in numerous international magazines including Italian Vogue and was the bride for Yves Saint Laurent fashion show. Her cinematic qualities and red hair was a favorite of many fashion photographers. As so often happens with models, we recognize a face but it’s difficult to attach a voice to it. Not only does she have a voice, she has a strong opinion rooted in experience. Maayan has written a book about that experience in her native Hebrew.
Currently making a comeback in the industry, I wanted to hear from Maayan about her experience modeling and also to hear about what she is currently working on in the modeling industry today.
Photo: Silja Magg
In an industry where retirement is a word reserved for models in their late twenties, how have you defied the odds to re-enter the modeling industry at 35?
Well, I haven’t defied the odds yet. I know that I’m no spring chicken and I have no intention of portraying myself as one. I believe that there are women out there who want to see women like themselves on magazine covers and not fifteen-year-old girls. I think the palette of women we see in the fashion industry should be extended and be less teenage centric. Regardless whether you are 35 or 45 or 55, it really doesn’t matter anymore; with an airbrush you go back to looking 18 anyway.
How has the modeling industry changed from your heyday in the nineties?
In the nineties you couldn’t rely on computers the way you do today. There were no digital cameras and no Photoshop. Everything had to be done in front of the camera, meaning everything had to be perfect, the lighting, the posing. It took so much longer then it does today.
Your agency is committed to promoting a more healthy body image. How do you maintain a healthy body image while still being marketable?
That’s a tough question. Luckily I am naturally thin. However, back in my heyday that wasn’t enough and I developed eating disorders. Today I have no intention of going down that road again. I use modeling as a platform to offer a more natural female form and to speak out against the way women’s bodies are distorted in mass media.
In an industry that is youth centric, what do you feel you can offer as a woman in her 30′s?
I model so much better today than in the beginning of my career. The energy that a woman with more life experience exudes in a photograph is palatable and so much different from her younger counterpart.
How do you feel about the Israeli parliament’s decision to pass a law making it illegal to show overly skinny models in advertising.
I’m happy that the issue hit the headlines and everyone had a moment to think about it but unfortunately I don’t think that this is the solution. I believe that change must come from inside the industry. It’s insane that all models are expected to have the same measurements as a designers doll. I remember auditioning for a certain famous designer, I had to fit into a whale bone corset in order to get the job, I failed. Well, nothing has changed. I think we need more diversity so each woman and girl can relate to her own type of beauty.
You wrote a book about your experiences with the increasing worship of thinness in the industry. What do you see as the solution?
I believe in empowering women and in educating young girls and their mothers not to base their body image on what is portrayed on billboards and in the media. I’d like to see a greater variety of types of women portrayed in the media.
We (Emily Sandberg) both appeared in photographer Paolo Roversi’s book Nudi. Can you tell us about your experience posing for him?
I was extremely shy and still very awkward and I didn’t understand how to pose. I had no reference in fashion to be inspired by, no background, no guidance and didn’t know what to do? Paolo captured that moment so perfectly, it’s incredible.
Photo: Guy Aroch
Photographer Guy Aroch is a fan of yours. How did the two of you meet and how has that relationship evolved?
A fan of mine? He is a friend not a fan. We met at some magazine shoot and became fast friends. We used to hang out a lot, we even played poker with his friends (I won!). We lost touch when I moved back to Israel but recently, when I was in New York, we got together and everything was as it was back then, except we both have kids.
Photo: Kourtney Roy
The business of fashion design has increasingly had to move towards mass production to maintain financial health and brand awareness. Do you think this movement sacrifices the creative or creates opportunity?
Mass production is always bad, in any industry. As for sacrificing creatives opportunities, which would you prefer? A home-made burger or a Big Mac? I know which one I’d go for.
Can women afford to be fashionable today?
Sure. It’s easier than ever with eBay and vintage shops so there is really no excuse not to be.
Photo: Stefan Milev