Poverty and homelessness in Thai model’s tasteless fashion shoot

Model Natthaya Boonchompaisarn posted a photo from fashion shoot in Instagram - later taken down - showing her posed as a homeless person begging on a street

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 6:03pm

While some people bemoan the overzealous political correctness of some media, in fashion there are still occasions where the industry descends into a parody of itself.

Remember the evil fashion designer Mugatu from Zoolander who designed a fashion collection, Derelicte, as “a way of life inspired by the very homeless, the vagrants, the crack whores that make this wonderful city so unique”. Well, life imitated art this week in a homeless-themed fashion shoot featuring 22-year-old Thai model Natthaya “Grace” Boonchompaisarn, who won the third season of reality TV show The Face Thailand.

The model posted a shot from the shoot on Instagram. As reported by Coconuts Bangkok, she’s sitting on a street, legs akimbo, wearing a plaid shirt with a cardboard sign on the floor that reads, “Homeless just trying to get through another day any help greatly appreciated thank you.”

Unbelievable, I know. Take a breath. And then you look closer and realise that she’s also clutching a brown paper bag in one hand and holding out her other palm in a begging gesture, while, bizarrely, wearing black lipstick ... because black lipstick is clearly the make up du jour of the homeless.

Then there are the hashtags #Homeless #Project #NYC #HardLife #Photography #BlvckB #JilSander that accompany the post. Yes, you’re allowed to vomit now.

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The Instagram post has since been taken down. But it takes a team to produce a fashion shoot, so it’s not fair to have the model shoulder all the responsibility for such a horrendous lapse of judgement. You have to wonder how a collective of human minds could come up with this shoot and think it was ever going to be OK.

Homelessness and poverty are serious issues – and sadly, it’s not the first time they’ve been appropriated in the name of fashion.

Who can forget fashion shoot “The Wrong Turn”, widely interpreted to be about the prevalence of gang rape in India, and in particular that of Jyoti Singh, gang raped and fatally injured aboard a moving bus in New Dehli? Or a Vogue Italia “domestic violence” shoot that was in extremely poor taste.

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There have been other shoots that elicited more serious debate about whether mixing fashion and poverty reportage works to anyone’s benefit. A case in point is a much criticised August 2010 Vogue India shoot featuring working-class Indian families modelling luxury goods.

While it triggered an uproar, partly because it was in Vogue, I would argue it is in a different league to Thai model Natthaya’s homeless shoot, where there is no element of documentary or reportage.

When homelessness is being used as a prop for glamour, the effect is bizarre and gross – as well as laughable for its sheer stupidity.