Model Memoirs: Princeton University’s new course for next semester

The prestigious Ivy League institution, Princeton University, will be offering a class on the personal life memoirs of models. The course, being taught next spring by Professor Wendy Belcher, is offered through the Comparative Literature and African-American Studies departments at Princeton. Its full title is “Model Memoirs: The Life Stories of International Fashion Models.”


Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad

Taken right from the registrar’s website at Princeton, the course description reads:

“Explores the life-writing of American, African, and Asian women in the fashion industry as a launching point for thinking about race, gender, and class. How do ethnicity and femininity intersect? How are authenticity and difference commodified? How do women construct identities through narrative and negotiate their relationships to their bodies, families, and nations? This course will include guest lectures by fashion editors and models; discussions of contemporary television programs, global fashion, and cultural studies; and student self-narratives about their relationships with cultural standards of beauty, whether vexed or not.”

Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel

Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel

Sample reading list:
Alek Wek, Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel
Irina Pantaeva, Siberian Dream
Jillian Shanebrook, Model: Life Behind the Makeup
Waris Dirie, Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad
Mary Gaitskill, Veronica
Linda Welters and Abby Lillethun, The Fashion Reader

Reading/Writing assignment:
100 to 250 pages of reading a week; all readings in English

Model: Life Behind the Makeup

Model: Life Behind the Makeup

Veronica

Veronica

The Fashion Reader

The Fashion Reader

To be honest, of the entire reading list for the course, I have only read Waris Dirie’s Desert Flower, and I remember being enlightened (if quite disturbed) about the struggles and hardships she endured and overcame to pursue her life’s dreams. It’s a truly remarkable read and I totally recommend it to everyone. I also managed to catch up with her second book, Desert Dawn, and enjoyed it thoroughly as well.

Desert Dawn

Desert Dawn

I am sure there are dozens of other books on model memoirs, but if it were up to me, I would also like to add the tragic and heart-wrenching HBO biopic, Gia, to the course list. Gia, played brilliantly by Angelina Jolie, portrays the short yet turbulent life of supermodel Gia Carangi: her meteoric rise to fame, her self-destruction through a heroin addiction and her eventual demise to AIDS. According to me, Gia’s story through this movie will help students learn about the typical fame, glamour, distractions and personal struggles that are typically associated with a model’s life and the modeling industry in general.

Ga: Too beautiful to die, too wild to live

The HBO original biopic based on supermodel Gia Carangi's life

Either way, after perusing through the reading list of the course, it seems like I have a lot of “model memoirs” to catch up with. Therefore, I shall enjoy this bright Friday morning in New York by zipping off to the Borders at Columbus Circle, get a nice big latte and catch up with my reading.

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