Photo showing a non-professional, Facebook model.
Becoming a ‘model’ in Iran is easier that you might think. Young men and women are turning to social media in the hope of increasing their chances of breaking into the highly competitive modelling industry. They choose a fancy outfit, put on heavy make-up, some even opt for cosmetic surgery, and find a photographer willing to take their photo. They then upload the snaps onto Facebook, change their profession to ‘Model’ and, hey presto, they call themselves models. The catch is, they are not paid to pose.
The internet-based, underground industry provides a way for women to enter the more lucrative international industry by posing for shots without wearing the hijab. In Iran, it is illegal for women not to wear the hijab in advertising campaigns but women who publish photos showing their skin and hair on Facebook stand less risk of getting caught and arrested. The aim is to get noticed and get signed up with an agent, preferably an overseas one, to earn money and prestige.
Professional male Iranian models tend to find it easier to make money overseas than their female counterparts, because shots of men taken in Iran can be sold internationally, whereas shots of women wearing the hijab have little international appeal.
France 24 contacted ten Facebook users claiming to be models, but all refused an interview and none could provide a single photo to prove they had appeared in any actual modelling campaigns.
“Ninety-nine percent of women who claim to be models are lying”
Atefah Rahim Zadeh is a fashion designer. She models herself and employs models for her brand ‘Morgan’.
Because it is illegal for women to model without wearing a hijab, women who want to model without one will pay a photographer around 500,000 rials [approx. €15] for each shot, and then ask the photographer to insert a brand name onto the print. The shoots are done in illegal, underground studios. In Iran, fashion magazines and advertisers must comply with the law, which states women cannot show even a single strand of hair. Before my most recent shoot, I shaved my entire head so my hair was not on show.
Ninety-nine percent of women who claim to be models are lying. Modelling does not pay well in Iran. I don’t tend to pay my models, my only expenses are transport accommodation. Many women will do it for free because they want to get famous. Almost all my budget goes to the photographers.Atefah Rahim Zadeh modelling her brand, 'Morgan'.
"If we didn’t have to wear hijabs and could work internationally, we’d earn much more money"
Fafa has worked as a model for numerous Iranian and international brands, and she has appeared on national television. She has also worked in Iran's illegal, underground modelling industry.
Four years ago, a lady approached me at the gym to ask me if I would model wedding gowns. After doing that, I modelled for various clothing companies and a mattress-making company [see photo]. I then found my way into the television industry and appeared in a few adverts.Unfortunately the job doesn’t pay much because so many women, and men, model for very little or for free. This means few people are willing to pay for professional models.Photo of Fafa modelling for a magazine produced by a Turkish mattress company. The photo, taken in Iran, is illegal as she is not wearing a hijab,Also, photographers can charge for each shot they take, whereas models are paid by the day. But if we didn’t have to wear hijabs and so could work internationally, we’d earn much more money.Aspiring models hope to grab the attention of photographers by getting lots of likes or fans on Facebook. The photographers may then offer them modelling work, but it will usually be unpaid and sometimes the photographer won’t earn any money either.