HBO Documentary — About Face: Supermodels Then and Now

At the age of 8, plopped in front of a television alone, my future model watched a documentary about Naomi Campbell. I don’t know how she stumbled onto the film or what drew her to the story but something about the supermodel resonated with her. Perhaps it was because Ms. Campbell was tall and my daughter’s height had always been at the top of the growth chart for her age. It may have been because she was African American and my child had not become aware of the unique challenges women of color faced as supermodels. Maybe it was because Naomi embodies the beauty and grace that so many young models find absolutely spellbinding. Whatever it was, the images she saw impassioned her to the modeling industry. “I know what I want to be when I grow up,” were the first words she spoke at the conclusion of the film. At that moment I became astutely aware of the power documentaries can have on children and on their dreams.


Since that time, we have watched countless documentaries together. (I will be posting a list of documentaries and films that I recommend in the near future.) I am always looking for films with the modeling topic. I use them as teaching tools and points of reference frequently because after all, the wisdom of parents quickly diminishes as preteens become young adults. Now that I share her passion for the industry, it gives us time to hangout that is more about “us” sharing something we both love. I am going to miss these mini dates more than anything. [insert mommy tears]


If you haven’t seen it already, About Face is one of our favorites. This documentary delves into the lives of some of the most legendary supermodels in the business. It explores the definition of our sense of beauty over the past fifty years. The modeling careers of timeless beauties Isabella Rossellini, Christie Brinkley, Marisa Berenson, China Machado, Beverly Johnson, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Paulina Porizkova, Jerry Hall, and Christy Turlington are examined. Timothy Greenfield Sanders’ 2012 HBO film gives you lots to ponder as your examine your own preconceived notions about aging and beauty. The film does not glamourize the life of a supermodel but allows the industry greats to tell their stories in a truth-telling confessional style. In a time that is so focused on looks, you learn that each one of these women endured the ups and downs of the profession because of something much greater than their outward appearance. I only wish there could have been a Part II because each participant is noteworthy on their own, so 75 minutes was just not enough time to get it all in. Who knows, maybe Mr. Greenfield will do a follow-up.


Every young model and Momager should see this film. Of course, I recommend watching it together. It is available on Netflix and HBO Online.

about face