This article was written by Monicha Tully and originally featured in Issue 01 of Arcadia magazine. Buy the magazine here.
Cindy Crawford once said that the era of the supermodel is over. The former darling of the fashion industry argued that opportunities for her successors shrink, as consumers prefer to see celebrities on the cover of magazines.
What Crawford fails to recognize is that razor-sharp cheekbones and a killer body isn’t enough for the insatiable new tech generation, who quite literally have the world at their fingertips.
The new generation still seeks instant gratification, but having the right bone structure is just the beginning. It-models such as Cara Delevingne, have the look, the body, the powerful social media following and a personality that is more attractive than aesthetics.
Social media is injecting a new level of household fame into the modeling industry, allowing the consumer to see beyond the glossy façade.
Jasmine Sanders has contributed to the revolution of the modeling industry by social media. She is a leading commercial and high fashion model who has fronted international campaigns for some of the fashion industries biggest powerhouses and globally recognized brands.
Jasmine also has an alternate online presence as ‘Golden Barbie’. It is a nickname that she has become synonymous with and was affectionately coined by her 1 million plus social media followers.
Modeling is a precarious industry and the Internet is an equally precarious tool. Those with a high-profile online presence, have the luxury of being selective with what they share. We only see what they want us to see.
This is particularly true in the case of Jasmine. Although her picture perfect face is plastered all over the Internet and on billboards around the world, the woman behind it is an enigma to most.
We took this Barbie out of her box and out into the real world to discover who Jasmine Sanders really is?
Jasmine and I had agreed to meet at Tres by José Andrés at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills. Tres is a sophisticated and secluded sanctuary that has an eclectic design, like the lovechild of baroque and contemporary. It maintains an intimacy of home, albeit an extraordinarily decadent one, peppered with cozy nooks, grand bookcases and roaring fireplaces. It was in one of these secluded nooks that I found Jasmine, sat under a white rococo chandelier.
Jasmine was magnetic. The chandelier cast a golden glow on her bare shoulders in a halo-like fashion. As I approached, she looked up suddenly and her face lit up with a warm smile, the kind that you can’t help but automatically return.
She stood to greet me; her black maxi dress clung to her willowy frame as she moved. Her figure was unlike many I had seen before; she had the strength and delicacy of a prima ballerina. Her arms in particular were smooth and slim, yet undeniably sculpted by regular and rigorous gym sessions.
Jasmine’s features were as exquisite as a china doll. She wore no makeup, but her golden complexion looked as though it had been airbrushed. A smattering of dark beauty spots decorated her otherwise blemishless face.
Her trademark mane of wild golden curls was slicked back in a ballerina bun. A tendril of hair had escaped and hung loosely, concealing part of her forehead. Her eyes were kaleidoscopic, a mosaic of blues and greens that reminded me of the ocean.
Jasmine’s golden complexion derives from her mixed German and African-American heritage. She was born in her mother’s native country, Germany, but was raised in South Carolina.
Germany holds a very special place in Jasmine’s heart and on the inside of her arm is a concealed ‘Made in Germany’ tattoo.
Jasmine sighed deeply; her voice was thick with nostalgia.
She said: “When my Oma passed away, I felt like some of my German heritage trickled away with her. My passion for the country never wavered, but she would always encourage me to adopt the language and culture.”
Jasmine’s eyes misted over slightly. She revealed: “She was so funny. She would speak in a concoction of languages; German and English. She would do that for me because I couldn’t understand much German.”
Jasmine smiled brightly at a memory then she added: “My mom only really speaks German when she is yelling. When I was a child, I would eavesdrop and hear her cussing me to her friends. One day I will learn German fluently. I think my Oma would be really proud of that.”
Jasmine is a hyper reality dream girl with the dimensions of a life-sized doll. It is hard to believe that someone with such obvious beauty could have flaws.
She tilted her head back, her long slim neck elongated as she let out an infectious laugh. She said: “Girl, don’t pretend that you haven’t seen this pimple on my forehead.”
She arched a perfect dark eyebrow and swept the tendril of hair behind her ear. After closer inspection, the tendril had concealed a pimple.
Jasmine laughed hard, she said: “This morning I sat in the mirror for the longest time trying to pop this badass. My mom would kill me if she had seen; she always says that you should never touch your face.”
Jasmine admitted that her flaws are magnetized online. Being under the microscope can be daunting; Jasmine is praised and attacked in equal measure.
She laughed and shrugged her shoulders, then said: “Some people don’t want you to be human; they think you wake up looking camera-ready. Sometimes I wear glasses, it’s usually because my contacts screwed up and now one of my eyes is pink, so I look like I have pink eye.”
She added: “People are telling me that I look cute, but in reality I feel like my eye is on fire and may fall off of my face. If people knew what was really going on behind the screen they would be amazed.”
Our eyes flitted over the cocktail menu; we met each other’s gaze and immediately burst out laughing. We looked at each other knowingly, then threw caution to the wind and ordered a round of cocktails.
Jasmine giggled mischievously and nudged me with her elbow, she said: “It is 5 o’clock somewhere.”
It is the picture-perfect Jasmine that initially caught the attention of the fashion industries most influential powerhouses. She has modelled for some of the most globally recognisable brands, such as; Dianne Von Furstenburg, Ralph Lauren and Nike.
Jasmine confessed that modelling for high-profile clients such as Victoria’s Secret was a major achievement; as a teenager she never felt as though she would ever fit into that world.
She sighed softly then said: “Like many teenagers, it took me a while to find myself. I had a pretty intense ugly duckling stage. I had crazy teeth and thick glasses.”
She rested her chin in her hands as she recalled: “I was a tomboy and never felt like a pretty girl. Sports were my life, especially basketball, soccer and volleyball.”
Jasmine’s eyebrows shot up in amusement. She laughed deeply and said: “I loved basketball, but I would get very frustrated because no matter how much I practiced I still sucked.”
She elaborated: “I’d go to shoot and completely miss, then I’d cry because I was so confused. My parents worked out that it was because I couldn’t see. I got glasses and became a total beast. No, I’m joking, I wasn’t even fast, but I tried my best to keep up, I had fun with it.”
Jasmine praised her dad for teaching her the importance of dedication, awareness and self-protection. She giggled affectionately and said: “My dad is ex-military and he is a machine, he’s turned me into one too. When I was a kid, he used to say ‘it is a gift and a curse to be a girl’. You’ve got to know how to protect yourself. He taught me to always be completely aware of my surroundings. Have fun at the club, but never let your guard down too much.”
She added: “I appreciate my dad in so many ways, but especially for teaching me how to protect myself ahead of time. He taught me how to watch people like no other.”
The waiter appeared; he carried a silver tray in his arms, laden with drinks. He placed Jasmine’s double-vodka and Red Bull in front of her and she thanked him politely.
She held up her glass to me and said: “Here’s to you.”
When Jasmine was just 13-years-old, her mother organized a meeting with Sheila Dixon at Millie Lewis modeling agency. Following her meeting, Jasmine was signed to an agency in New York and became a working model before her 14th birthday.
She recalled nostalgically: “At 13-years-old, I was already 5ft 6, but I hadn’t grown into myself yet. I still had a very chubby face, but damn my hair was great back then. It was so wild and thick, but I’ve destroyed it over the years. I’m tempted to shave it all off and start again.”
Jasmine adjusted her neat golden bun and sighed. She was quiet for a moment then said: “In retrospect I have been very blessed. I was signed quickly and had an amazing support system right from the beginning. My mom went everywhere with me until I was 18-years-old. It was amazing to share those experiences with her, especially at such a young age when I needed guidance.”
Jasmine caught my gaze, she said frankly: “It’s hard being a young person in general; you are impressionable and tend to just see the best in everyone. I’m very lucky that I had my mom to guide me. Not everyone is so lucky.”
Social media has restructured the fashion industry. In the 80’s there were models, in the 90’s there were supermodels and in 00’s, celebrities began replacing them on covers. Today, models with social media followings have become so illustrious, that they are now celebrities in their own right.
Jasmine tapped her finger to her lips, revealing a delicate clothes hanger tattoo that ran down her finger. She said: “Instagram is an incredible tool for models. It gives us an outlet to show who we really are. The days of models being just a face are over.”
She added: “Cara Delevinge has helped to redefine how models are perceived. I’ve hung out with her a few times and she is a real sweetheart; so fun and high-energy. She is beautiful, talented and not afraid to show the world who she is.”
Suddenly, Jasmine smiled from ear-to-ear, she continued: “Jourdan Dunn is a wonderful friend. I have so much respect for her. She is a single mom, living her dream and showing her son the world; that is so beautiful.”
With a vast online following comes influence and expectation. Jasmine is known for being particularly outspoken on social media. As much as her no-holds-barred approach is revered by many of her followers, it also makes her a target for negativity.
Jasmine bit her lip gently and sighed. She confessed: “There’s a lot of bullying and I fucking hate it. People throw racism and hate around so carelessly, it is scary. I wish people would spare a thought for the fact that what you say can really hurt somebody.”
She added: “I post a picture and underneath someone will say I’m too skinny or too ugly. Do people think that because I’m a model that it won’t affect me? Trust me, it does.”
She shrugged: “I’m a pretty emotional person. I really struggle to hold my tongue if I’m upset about something and occasionally that transcends to social media.”
Jasmine revealed that there is a particularly dark underbelly on social media that she struggles to ignore.
She revealed: “Modeling can be restrictive; I’m not allowed to dye my hair or get piercings. So I have this black wig that I wear sometimes for fun.”
She sighed deeply then continued: “I posted a picture of me in the wig and this guy was commenting some crazy shit. He wrote ‘this is the real you, stop dyeing your hair blonde and wearing coloured contacts. You are trying to look white and I don’t like it. You better listen to me or I will make you’.”
She shook her head in disbelief then added: “The threats intensified, he said that he would murder me. The craziest part is that he’s challenging me about acceptance, but the colour of my hair and eyes is natural.”
Jasmine’s eyebrows were knitted together in frustration. Her tone had lowered considerably, she said: “I blocked him straight away, but it made me so uncomfortable because I don’t know what this person is capable of. What if we met in the street? What would he do? Maybe nothing, maybe something.”
She said frankly: “He was probably harmless but I’ll never know. I wish that people would realize that I’m human. I’m not a Barbie, I’m real. I’ll read a comment that sticks in my head all day and I’ll go to sleep crying. Words hurt.”
Jasmine bit her lip, hard enough to leave a small temporary indent. She revealed: “I actually cried this morning. I was watching the Kardashians and it broke my heart. They are my good friends and it hurt to watch them discuss Caitlyn Jenner. They were so scared about the non-acceptance; it was hard to watch.”
She added sadly: “They handled themselves very well; it is clearly a sensitive situation. You need to have a tough skin in this industry, but there are certain places where I cut and bruise.”
Jasmine’s phone buzzed and she immediately apologized for the interruption. It was a text from her mother; Jasmine clapped her hands together with excitement.
She said: “Sorry, my mom is in Germany right now and I really miss her. She’s my favourite person in the world and knows me like the back of her hand. As I get older, I am becoming my mom and I’m really proud of that.”
She laughed softly then added: “I was at this person’s house and the rule is that you have to sign a waiver and leave your phone or you can’t go inside. I was like ‘hell no, I am bringing this phone in, my mom might call me’.”
The waiter brought our meals and Jasmine’s eyes widened with excitement. She had ordered a seared tuna steak with avocado and French fries. As soon as the plate had been put in front of her she began devouring her meal.
I noticed that Jasmine had been absent-mindedly rubbing her wrist throughout our lunch. She caught my gaze and for a split second I could see her eyes flash with fear.
Jasmine had been driving with her friend Phillip on the 405 when a Hummer slammed on its brakes in front. Jasmine swerved out the way of the Hummer and four other vehicles, but in the process, her Wrangler Jeep spun out of control.
She shook her head gently from side to side in disbelief, her voice laced with fear as she relived it all over again.
She spoke slowly, the words rolling off of her tongue like lead. She said: “I saw everything in slow motion, just how it is in the movies. As the car rolled over and over, my life flashed before my eyes. I could’ve died right there and then.”
Jasmine’s voice began to crack and she sighed deeply, trying to control herself. When she finally spoke, her voice was wracked with emotion, she said: “When the car finally stopped flipping, it was on its side. My first thought was ‘is my best friend alive?’ I looked over and he was staring back at me and asking if I was okay. I thought my heart would explode with relief.”
If the situation wasn’t traumatic enough, Jasmine’s mother had been on the Bluetooth the whole time. She had listened to her youngest daughter’s screams and there was nothing she could do to help. A parent’s worst nightmare.
Jasmine couldn’t hold it in any longer and large tears rolled down her face. She tried to flick them away but the more she tried the harder they fell. I put my hand on her back to comfort her and I could feel her quivering beneath my fingers.
She took a deep breath and continued: “The car was lying on its side and all I could hear was my mom calling my name. It broke my heart. My mom could’ve lost her baby.”
The tears continued to flow and Jasmine patted them away with her napkin.
She said: “I knew I had to be strong for my mom. I assured her that we were fine but to be honest I didn’t even know if we were. I have never been so terrified in my life. If my mom had seen the extent of the damage she would’ve fallen to pieces.”
As Jasmine lay in the overturned Jeep next to Phillip, she was unaware of the severity of their injuries.
She sighed deeply and said: “I remember looking into the mirror for the first time and being so frightened. It isn’t about superficiality, modeling isn’t just my business, it is my life. A scar on my face could destroy everything I have built in the past decade.”
She traced her index finger across her slim wrist, she said: “Philip and I are so blessed to have been able to walk away from the accident. The police couldn’t believe that, we were so lucky. Life is fragile, never ever forget that.”
Jasmine’s lips curled into a small sad smile. She said: “Girl. Look at the state of me, I’m crying like a baby. I didn’t think shit was going to get this real.”
Jasmine isn’t afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve. This transcends from her private life to her work. She put her glass to her lips and smiled at me over the rim.
She said enthusiastically: “It is a blessing just to be optioned for a job. This person is looking at me specifically to represent their brand. They are investing their time, finances and energy in me. Whether they choose me in the end or not is beside the point. They know my name, they know my face; I must be doing something right.”
Campaign work is the Holy Grail in the modeling industry. Top models can make in excess of £500,000 for a days work. Jasmine has fronted a number of high-profile campaigns, including; Ralph Lauren, Aldo and Garnier.
Jasmine’s cheeks flushed rose momentarily. She said: “I cry when I see one of my campaigns. I was standing in Times Square recently and I looked up and saw a huge billboard of my face staring back at me. It’s insane.”
Jasmine appreciates her privileged position; however she admitted that she often struggles to find a balance between her work and her private life.
Jasmine confessed that she regularly cancels celebrations with loved ones in order to elevate her career. There is one person in Jasmine’s life that she refuses to let down; her two-year-old niece Braelyn. At the mention of her niece, Jasmine’s face flushed with love.
She gushed: “I adore her. It’s her birthday soon and I have to go. Nothing will stop me from spending that special day with her.”
Jasmine is incredibly protective of her family, especially online where they are instantly put under the spotlight.
She frowned suddenly and ran her fingers along her bare arms.
She said somberly: “I always ask my sister’s permission before I post my niece on social media. I have to be considerate of the fact that they did not ask for this life.”
She added: “My sister’s husband has Multiple Sclerosis and we had to have a conversation about it. I had to make it clear that if I post something everyone will know.”
She added: “I want to support him in any way I can, I want people to help him and help others who may be suffering, but it is a gift and a curse.”
Jasmine confessed that having a relationship is also a gift and a curse when you are in the public eye.
She placed her warm hand on my forearm and raised an eyebrow.
She laughed then said: “Girl. I have been single for a year. It’s hard out here. I had a really interesting conversation with a guy recently; he feels like I am approachable but that I would be high-maintenance.”
She shook her head in disbelief then continued: “Guys think that I run around the clubs at night, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m the girl that wants to stay at home and cook for you. I want us to snuggle on the sofa and watch re-runs of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly then said: “Nothing about me is fancy. I’m from South Carolina; I grew up as a real homely Southern girl. I love to eat, feed me and I’m happy. It’s that simple.”
Jasmine revealed that social media is to blame for imposing unrealistic expectations on society.
She laughed and said: “Social media is ruining lives; people are struggling to emulate a lifestyle that isn’t real. People think I am high-maintenance because I wear designer clothes but I only have a few pieces.”
She added: “My mantra is to be cute on a budget. I invest in black because people won’t realize if you wear it over and over again. It drives me crazy when people comment that I’ve worn the same thing before. Are we the kind of people that wear a dress once and then throw it away? I am definitely not.”
Jasmine bent down and picked up her black Yves Saint Laurent handbag. She inspected it then said: “It is obviously beautiful, but I also bought it because I have a lifetime warranty on it. I’ve had this bag for years and I use it nearly every day. It still looks new because I cherish it.”
She added: “The last bag I bought was red from Celine, that was over two years ago and I still use it all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I want beautiful things but I am not going to bankrupt myself for them.”
Jasmine confessed that she often toes the fine line between censoring and revealing her private life online.
Her bright eyes widened in wonder. She said: “There are over a million people that want to see what I do every day. It is amazing and I am so grateful but it is scary. There is a lot of power and responsibility that comes along with it.”
She said: “I once said that I would never show a relationship on social media again because it can be damaging to my significant other or to me.”
She added: “When I am in a relationship, I naturally become more protective of my private life. It’s hard because sometimes you’re so in love and you want to share your happiness with the world but you’ve got to protect yourself too.”
She elaborated: “It’s hard to keep a guard up but also be transparent enough for the world to see the real you.”
There is a rapidly developing economy on Instagram. Users with high-profile accounts are turning their passions into financial gain.
From fashion powerhouses such as Lancôme to health supplement giant Bootea, companies are paying big money for people like Jasmine to promote their products online. Those with high-profile Instagram accounts can make anything from £5,000 – £100,000 per post.
Lucrative offers have flooded in for Jasmine, but she is a lot more cautious about the brands she associates herself with than many of her contemporaries.
She wrinkled her nose in frustration then said: “I don’t care how much you are willing to pay me, I am not going to promote a waist-clincher that is destroying the fuck out of your organs.”
She added: “I work hard in the gym; I’m not going to lie and tell people that this waist-clincher will fix all their problems. That’s dangerous; there is a reason that many major retailers refuse to sell them.”
Jasmine shook her head in defiance and said: “I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that I was promoting something that was potentially harming people for a quick buck. I’m not a monkey and neither are my followers; you aren’t going to test an unsafe product on us.”
Our lunch had run on for over three and a half hours. I looked down at the questions before me and most of them remained unasked.
Jasmine has a way of enveloping you entirely into her world. We had revealed our fears and dreams; we had cried and laughed until our stomachs ached.
Social media often acts as a set of rose-coloured glasses, in which we can catch a glimpse at a seemingly picture perfect world. Jasmine has proved that the beauty of the reality far exceeds what is portrayed virtually.
Jasmine looked up at me through a fan of black lashes and said: “I’m human, I make mistakes and I learn every day how to be a better person and cope in this crazy world. I work hard, so I can live the life I want to live. It isn’t a particularly lavish life but it is mine.”
Models are widely seen as the property of the industry. It is the industry that created them and trademarked them for their brands. However, the façade of beauty is crumbling; a new wave of models with voices is emerging and they aren’t afraid to use them.
The big fashion houses used to have all the power but the models are slowly creating a new power of their own. Their spotlights are eclipsing the brands they represent and we are seeing them in a brighter light. Young girls don’t just want to look like them, now they want to be them.
Throw away the rose coloured glasses; the truth is a lot more interesting.
Follow Jasmine Sanders on Instagram: @Golden_Barbie.
Tami Shirey using Nars and Skyn Iceland
Goo Goo Studio Hollywood, Los Angeles