American Apparel Casting Call: We Want “Real Models,” Not “Instagram Hoes or THOTS”

March 23, 2015 | Prachi Gupta

Days after it was reported that American Apparel is airbrushing nipples and pubic hair off of its models, ANIMAL has learned that that the millennial retailer is apparently looking to avoid featuring “Instagram hoes or THOTS” in its ad campaigns. “THOT” is a slang abbreviation for the phrase “that hoe over there.”

An employee within the company who asked to remain anonymous forwarded a copy of a recent email sent by PhotoGenics Media for an American Apparel casting call at the retailer’s Los Angeles headquarters on March 18th. The description of the photo shoot, per the e-mail, reads:



It’s unclear what direction PhotoGenics received from American Apparel regarding the casting call. When contacted by phone, PhotoGenics Agency Director Phira Luon said that the situation was being sorted out with the client. He later assumed full responsibility for the email’s contents:

The casting email and its contents were intended for a handful of models that would be attending the casting. As with all internal company emails, it contained information that may be confidential and protected by the attorney-client and may constitute non-public information.
it was intended to be conveyed only to the designated recipients in that email. Any use, dissemination, distribution, or reproduction of the message by unintended recipients is not authorized and may be unlawful.

The comment made at the end was made in jest with models whom i have a personal relationship with and did not reflect the views, or directives by the client. i apologize to all those who were offended or affected by my comments, as it was not my intention.

While Luon took the blame for the e-mail’s offensive language, the American Apparel employee said that the overall message of the e-mail was consistent with the new direction employees had received in regards to its models. American Apparel has been (and continues to be) criticized for sexualizing models who look underage, but the company was also lauded for its use of “regular people” in campaigns and minimal Photoshopping. The company’s “real people” aesthetic, which promoted pretty people from within the company and actively searched outside of the casting world, was not perfect, but insiders are worried that the new leadership is moving away from its official “regular people” stance entirely.

According to the employee, American Apparel Senior Vice President of Marketing Cynthia Erland was behind the new airbrushing policy and has been pushing for a rebrand that conforms to industry standards favoring predominantly white models 5’7” or taller. She is said to have commented that current women featured on the site are too “short” and “round” and wants to cast models who look Eastern European or Russian.

Erland was brought in by CEO Paula Schneider on March 9. Schneider has been working to distance the clothing brand from its controversial and eccentric founder and former CEO Dov Charney. After Schneider took over last summer, she vowed to tone down the overt sexuality of the brand’s ads while maintaining the site’s socially conscious, edgy vibe. Under Erland’s gaze, however, multiple people familiar with the company’s marketing work say the brand is losing touch with the diversity of its audience.

Erland did not respond to ANIMAL’s calls.