LOS ANGELES – Kendall Jenner – Kim Kardashian’s little sister – recently posed in a very revealing mesh shirt for photographer Russell James, not long after her 18th birthday. And Lindsay Lohan’s younger sis, Ali, recently signed with Wihelmina Models in New York after spending a summer modeling in Korea.
But if Kendall and Ali weren’t related to their famous – or infamous – siblings, would either of them be able to make a living as a model?
“‘Model’ is the loosest word there is, except for ‘prostitute,’” former ‘50s supermodel Gita Hall told FOX411. “Everybody says they’re a model. It’s ridiculous–they’re not all models. They may be would-be models, but I was a model when models were models – working for Irving Penn and Richard Avedon and all of the top photographers in the world. But that was a whole different era, what can I tell you.”
The gorgeous redhead – who recently settled a lawsuit with the producers of “Mad Men” for using her image without permission in the opening of the show – is dismayed by the prevalence of celebrities in fashion magazines.
“The sad part is because of these actresses or would-be actresses or whatever they are, they take away the livelihood of real models,” declared Gita. “Suddenly, they’re getting covers because their press agents are telling (editors), ‘Well, you can have so-and-so for free.’ In the meantime, the girls who are trained to do this don’t get the job because these celebrities want the publicity that goes with it. It used to be that the actresses were only in the fan magazines, and that’s where they belong. They don’t belong on the cover of Vogue.”
Gita added that at 5’8”, Ali doesn’t have the height required to be a proper model and wondered if Kendall had the right figure for the job.
“5’10”? That’s tall enough. But how thin is she,” asked Gita. “I had to be super-thin, and well, I never tried (to lose weight), because I just didn’t gain weight. I was one of those people who could eat like a horse and it didn’t matter. Unfortunately, what has happened to the business is that girls starve themselves and they find out later in life that it effects the bones and other things in the body. But of course, they’re young, they don’t think of the future.”
New York-based photo director Greg Garry, who has worked with both Kim and Lindsay, also questioned the younger siblings’ status as models. “I wouldn’t take them seriously as real models, because are they being booked by anyone?” he asked rhetorically. “They’re cute enough girls, they’re both pretty and all, but I mean, I don’t think clients actually book them to be in a fashion show or an ad. They only commodity they have is their pseudo-celebrity because they’re sort of famous. But at least they’re with legit agencies and not some sleaze bags.”
Kendall and Ali do have their defenders. Ali’s Los Angeles-based manager, Alexis Borges said the younger Lohan is legit.
“When I met Ali, I actually had no idea who she was," she claims. "She has this great fashion edge to her, just even on her own–without the hair and makeup–the girl has amazing style. We took her on as a client because we believed in her and her potential as an international model. She wasn’t taken on by our agency because of her family name.”
And Alexis, who is Director of West Coast Operations for Next Model Management, added that Ali doesn’t work for free.
“We’re in the management business," he said. "I can only speak for our own models and how we manage them, but we do not take assignments unless (the model) is being compensated in one way or another, and it is usually financial.”
Alexis also noted that a lack of stature hasn’t stopped other short girls’ careers from flourishing. “Tradition has really changed,” he said. “There are companies that are starting girls at 5’6” and up. Kate Moss just turned 40, and for over 20 years now, she’s done pretty well for someone who’s only 5’7” or so.”
For the moment, it seems that celebrity “models” are here to stay.
“Look at Kim Kardashian–she parlayed her first shot at fame with a porn tape, and she’s made quite a career for herself,” noted Gary. “You don’t have to have the talent anymore, but if you have the ambition, you can turn that into something else. It’s like the Paris Hilton effect–she wasn’t the most beautiful girl. She had a wonky eye, one eye was smaller than the other, and she was just very rich.... Now we all know who she is. And she hasn’t gone away. Unfortunately.”