“I find the girl when she’s the most raw. Talent. Fresh beauty untainted by the world,” explains model scout Ashley Arbaugh, herself a former model, in this excerpt from the Girl Model documentary by Ashley Sabin and David Redmon. And then I taint the fuck out of them, she said. Implied, I mean. “Really, a model after 18, they’re finished. We’re looking for girls that are 13 and 14.”
In this Op-Doc video we present Masha, a 13-year-old aspiring model who attends an open casting call in Siberia, Russia. Sometimes hundreds of girls audition at these model castings; other times a few dozen show up. Rural Siberia is a thriving location for scouts hoping to recruit teenage girls as young as 12 and export them overseas. The Op-Doc also introduces Ashley Arbaugh, a former American model turned international model scout, who seeks out teenagers with her Russian comrades. When we filmed Masha in 2009, the scouts said that these girls — often poor in a society of extreme income inequality — are desirable not just for their looks but because they are malleable and easier to guide and direct. NYT
“I hope that they will notice me,” says Masha. “That they will evaluate me exactly as I am. That they will like me. That’s all I hope for.”
If you pause the video right there, you can actually pinpoint the exact moment when my heart broke in half.
“That they will like me. That’s all I hope for.”
Who is she talking about? People like the gentleman who appears next. “I like to start working on them at 13. It’s easier to command them,” he says. I bet you do dude. “Because 16-18 year olds already have a mind of their own.”
“As soon as the girl enters the room you can tell the breed,” he continues, and…wait, what the fuck? Is this a poor translation here or something? The breed? I suppose it’s not. That’s exactly the right word in this context isn’t it?
It’s rare that you see a video where every single spoken line gets progressively sadder than the last one. Even the “hellos” in here are depressing. “Do you speak English?” [short pause].