Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Raw Truth

Interview with BLANKA BARTOOVÁ
model & tattoo artist

Bold, attractive and with a figure that makes her stand out of any crowd she happens to be in. Yet leading fashion model, Blanka Bartošová, is more than just looks and personality.  She is smart, quite analytical and is one of the most talented tattoo artists I ever came across. Above all, she is quite blunt about everything including the fashion industry which she considers to be a busy industry glutted with glamorous competition.

Has the modelling industry stood up to your expectations?
Yes and no. I might sound negative yet the truth is, modelling is nowhere close to what people imagine it to be like. Very little of what we come across on social media is true. Models do not sit next to swimming pools drinking cocktails. Modelling is, both mentally and physically, a hard job.

Modelling offered me the opportunity to travel and come across many people and experience different cultures. On the other hand though, it took a lot from me. The modelling is a tough industry where you mean nothing. You are just a walking hanger for clothes. You have to do whatever the client tells you, often working extremely long hours in extreme conditions. Very few know what happens behind the scenes. I was shooting fur coat catalogues in Istanbul in 45°C temperatures, or bikini commercials on the beach in January in Barcelona, when it was 10°C. I had my feet bleeding while I was forced to walk on Paris Fashion Week in shoes which were three sizes smaller than my feet. Once I got bitten by a bear while shooting a TV commercial in Indonesia. I was told I was fat, ugly, too short, too tall. People do not see you as a human being. You are just a random face. 

I must say though that the modelling industry in Malta is completely different. I enjoy working here a lot. The industry is quite small here and thus I quickly got to know most of the local artists and models. Shootings are always fun. 

What does beauty mean to you? 
After being a model for over sixteen years,

“I can fairly say that beauty has developed into something cosmetic, relative and temporary.”

Today, we love freckles, tomorrow we love big lips. It will sound like a cliché, but I still believe in true beauty which should come from within combined with confidence, a positive mental well-being and self-comfort. 

What is your personal style?
As an artist, I love detail. I think in all areas, be it fashion, architecture, tattoo, the devil is in details. I believe the way forward is sustainability and thus try to adhere as much as possible to minimalism, I avoid fast fashion brands and constantly seek to reduce unnecessarily waste. All the equipment in my tattoo studio, is bio degradable, ecological and vegan. I adhere to the principle that ‘less is more’. This is a principle people should understand more. 

Tell us about your beauty routine? 
I believe in the importance of having a clean skin. I learned to appreciate natural beauty and thus tend to avoid wearing makeup. I also use natural cosmetics and face masks from time to time. 

When we see you walking down a runway, you look strong and confident, is that really the case?
I am indeed on the runway. I enjoy catwalks very much. The positive vibe you get the moment you walk down a runway and everyone is looking at you is amazing.

How do you combine modelling with your tattoo artist profession? 
Before opening my own studio, it was much easier since my agenda was quite flexible. I am now working seven days a week and my calendar is fully booked thus making it hard for me to combine both professions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, fashion inevitably took a secondary role.

Leading model Halima Aiden recently noted that fashion can be very exploitative. To what extent do you agree?
Ab-so-lu-te-ly! I had the opportunity to work in Paris, Milan, London, Barcelona, Vienna, Singapore, Los Angeles and Istanbul among others, and in every place I came across the same challenges when it comes to the way girls are treated, the boundaries of what a model should be and fair financial remuneration. 
Most of the agencies take high fees and make models pay for every bit of communication they are supposed to do in order to promote their models. Let alone travel, accommodation and other fees that a model has usually to cover. 
Every day, you will be provided with a list of castings, which you have to attend to meet clients. Daily castings vary from three to four up to twenty or thirty before the fashion week season. You go on your own, running around the town, trying to make it on time. On each casting, there will be 200 other girls (or probably more), waiting in a line with you, in most cases to be refused. You might present yourself on 50 castings and not get a single job, that is absolutely normal. Your agency might be checking your measurements every week, and cut off your payments in case you have one or two centimetres more than they think you should have. 

“I have seen girls falling into depression, developing eating disorders and also experiencing mental issues.”

Modelling is notoriously cutthroat and certainly not for faint hearted.

What’s your advice for prospective models?
Before taking any decision, make sure to consult a good lawyer. Do not sign any contracts with clients or agencies without consulting your lawyer. It will most likely save you a lot of money and hassle in the future. Find an agent whom you can trust and who will have your back at any moment. If you want to start modelling in Malta, contact a model agency and let them take care of you. I have a very good experience with Models M. Carina, the owner was always supportive and constantly took great care about me. I tried working freelance here in Malta before, but clients can be very cheeky and sometimes it is hard to communicate, so having a good, experienced agent, is a must.

What would say are the greatest lessons you learnt so far in this business?
I learnt to say no. Not every opportunity is well timed. Sometimes it is wiser to refuse, than bite more that you can chew. Be loyal, but don’t trust blindly. Trust your instincts.
Also, if someone criticises you, do not make a storm in a teacup, it is their opinion. As my grandma says, “opinions are like butt holes – everyone is entitled to have one!”

Any projects in the pipeline? 
At the moment, I have a lot of trips planned. Fingers crossed everything works well! In September, I’m flying to Valencia as a guest tattoo artist. I also have assignments in Iceland, Amsterdam and Prague. As regards to modelling, we wait to see what Models M have in store for me.

Aqra Wkoll