We are all familiar with the stories of how famous models were scouted back in the day. Take Kate Moss being discovered as a 14-year-old smoking a cigarette in an airport, a 15-year-old Naomi Campbell walking through Covent Garden or a teenage Jourdan Dunn found while browsing in Primark. All were stopped and asked 'Have you ever considered modelling?' and the rest is fashion history.
Those models just happened to be in the right place at the right time. But in the days of social media, models can be seen whenever and wherever they want, found via hashtag rather than scouting the streets.
Dutch model Alyssa Traoré is one such social-media success story. After years of hunting for an agency that would sign her, she took matters in to her own hands, sharing headshots of herself via Instagram in the hope of catching an agent's eye. It worked. Now she's modelled for everyone from Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors to Erdem, Prada and Valentino.
But it works both ways; while Instagram can be a great platform for aspiring models to show off their portfolios, it can also be just as useful for agencies trying to find the next big name. IMG Models started their We Love Your Genes hashtag (#WLYG) specifically to find aspiring models just like Traoré, encouraging Instagrammers to upload photographs of themselves using the hashtag to get themselves noticed.
'I kept stumbling across the hashtag and wondered what it meant, so I Googled it,' Traoré told us. 'After a few weeks they noticed my pictures and we got in touch with each other - that's how I ended up being signed.'
Jeni Rose, senior vice president at IMG Models, explained how the initiative started. When I was in Australia in 2013 everybody had very active Instagram accounts, whereas in Paris and New York you didn’t see that as much,' she told us. 'So I thought I should make an Instagram account which I thought would be really good for scouting.'
She found herself discovering amazing talent from all over the world. The hashtag opened doors for girls who couldn't afford to travel to castings or who don't live in big cities, where you are most likely to get scouted.
'The stories are crazy from some of the girls that we’ve found,' said Rose. 'There's a girl we've been in touch with from Venezuela and where she lives is quite dangerous so she doesn't have the opportunity to travel.
'One of our staff members, who is also from there, went over to meet her. How would we have ever found her otherwise?'
Social media can be career changing for the genetically blessed in terms of being discovered and as a tool for self-promotion, but being a model in the digital age can have its downsides too.
'The first thing that models do when they wake up is check their phone and see a feed of other models,' Traoré explains. 'It's hard to switch off from the industry and see it as just a job and not your whole life.'
Last year, a study found that Instagram was the worst social network in terms of its impact on mental health, linking it to depression and anxiety.
Although the modelling world might seem full of self-confidence, that's clearly not the case. 'You might get insecure comparing yourself to another girl at a casting, but now you can compare yourself non-stop at any second of the day on Instagram,' adds Traoré.
The half-Ivorian half-Dutch model adds that being constantly online is becoming a big part of what she does, something that didn't occur to her before she started modelling full time: It's a big part of it, to keep an Instagram account and be online 24/7. I didn't sign up for this and I do notice feeling like I'm wasting my time just scrolling.'
Recently Kendall Jenner came under fire from many of her modelling peers, for making comments about her ability to be selective about the jobs she agrees to take on.
'Since the beginning we've been super selective about what shows I would do,' Jenner told Love magazine. 'I was never one of those girls who would do like 30 shows a season or whatever the fuck those girls do.'
Of course, Jenner was born into a famous family and came with a ready-made fortune and following; she can naturally be more choosy about her work. She's since clarified her comments, explaining that her words were intended to be 'entirely complimentary' and that the respect she has for her peers is 'immeasurable'.
While Jenner has worked hard to prove her worth as a model, regardless, the fashion industry has a reputation for success being all about who you know. IMG is hoping that the We Love Your Genes initiative will help those who are less well connected to get a foot on the ladder.
#WLYG is more than just a hashtag. It levels the playing field, giving equal opportunity for aspiring models to feel seen, no matter what your circumstances or where you are in the world.