I like outspoken people. Bluntless, far from being rude, saves a lot of time and avoids a lot of misunderstandings. So I’m all for not beating about the bush. Carole White is outspoken, as has been revealed in recent episodes of The Model Agency (Channel 4), which offers an insight into the workings of one of the world’s most successful agencies: Premier Models. I suppose a lot people thought that this agency ‘sneak peak’ may have had the same negative effect that ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ had on US Vogue’s Anna Wintour; however, since The Model Agency is reality television (perhaps with the exception of clever editing) we are able to form some genuine opinions about this famous model agent. When asked if she was nervous at all about the cameras in the office, she answers, ‘I’m not really nervous about any hidden horrors as there aren’t any. We just got on with our normal day to day business.’ In my opinion, Carole has come out of this show very well. Granted, she could at times be seen as cold by some, however, being cold and being ‘firm but fair’ are often confused. She gets things done, makes decisions quickly and tends to raise her voice only when she genuinely cares about a matter.
When one thinks of Carole, one thinks of the plethora of both personal and professional relationships she has had with the world’s most famous supermodels (her notorious dispute with Naomi Campbell especially springs to mind). She notes that she is particularly proud about a couple of her achievements, ‘Susie Bick started with me at the age of 14 and she went on to be a Dior campaign girl, she was hugely successful as a model – such a cool beauty! Also, Naomi Campbell started with me at 18 and we produced her own perfume brand, it was the first model brand of perfume.’
If there is one person to ask what the modelling world is really like, it is Carole. So I venture to ask what she thinks of other modelling television shows. ‘Next Top Model is not really representative of modelling life. It is a bit more of an entertainment programme wrapped up in a game. The situations they find themselves in are sometimes strange and not that true to life. Models often have to be on location in the cold when modelling summer clothes for magazines and in the heat modelling winter clothes, due to the fact that summer collections are shown in the Autumn! That is just the bizarre world of modelling.’
I am also keen to talk about something Carole has been very outspoken about – this issue of racism in fashion; is this something she has experienced whilst running Premier? ‘I think a lot of advertisers and publications are scared to use black girls, as there is a perception in this industry that black girls don’t sell as well as white, blonde, blue eyes. In a recession this is particularly prevalent. Some photographers are unsure and inexperienced as to how you like a black girl, a so this causes a reluctance to use black girls. It is much more difficult to establish a black model, but once they get going it all works out. I think the fashion industry is tying harder to include black models and the show producers are definitely all for them.’ Does she feel there has been any real progress? ‘Yes, it is discussed a lot and black girls are now filtering into the edgier magazines. Everyone is trying.’
Having discussed racism, we move onto to the topic of eating disorders, a public stigma the modelling industry has been keen to shake off for some time. ‘I do not believe in size zero. I do not think there is such a size in the UK. Designers have historically always been trained to use tall, androgynous girls for their body shape, which helps their designs hang well. This is why we look for young school girls who are different and tall. They all develop into women who eventually become curvy.’
Despite these hurdles, Carole clearly loves what she does. ‘I love taking a girl from an ordinary background and changing their life by making them an international model. They get to travel the world and make great money.’