Top Models Hardly Own Their Own Skin

Cara Delevingne was bitten by the tattoo bug back in May, when she got her very first piece of large, glamorous, and very permanent jewelry — a lion's head tattooed on her pointer finger. Since then, the top model has been inked 10 more times, and with each new tattoo, the headlines buzz — allegedly, Delevingne has been disregarding warnings from not just her agency, but from mega-clients Chanel and Burberry, every time she gets more ink.

Delevingne's tattoos aren't garish, but they're definitely not easy to hide. Aside from the original pointer finger tattoo, she has ink on her upper arm, her wrist, the side of her hand, and two separate tattoos on her ribcage — including her latest, which she showed off while frolicking in Barbados last week. It's the phrase "Don't worry, be happy" (lyrics from a 1988 Bobby McFerrin tune), and it scrolls just underneath her breasts.

Was it a mistake?

For all the privileges that come with being a top model, there's a weird brand of responsibility that would be unheard of in many more traditional careers. A model is under obligation, whether it's explicitly spelled out in her modeling contracts or implied by the rules of the biz, to keep herself looking not just good, but the same. Haircuts, for example, must typically be cleared with the model's agency first. Weight gain? Not an option. Models are usually expected to show up looking exactly as they do in their portfolios.

Delevingne has recently modeled for Victoria's Secret and La Perla, but a tattoo like her latest may to discourage future lingerie brands from booking her — its particular placement has the potential to distract from the bra itself — especially when the quote is so kitschy and unglamorous. Her hand tattoos are striking, immediately noticeable, and some clients may love them — after all, they're so Cara. But clients booking a runway show of near-identical models may very well be dissuaded by a girl with a lion tattoo.

In a world where much energy is focused on helping women reclaim their bodies and their physical presence in society, it feels a bit backwards to slam models for tattooing their own skin. But modeling is a weird beast — the model's product is, ultimately, her body — and every career comes with caveats. The question is, does Delevingne owe it to her career to stop inking? Or does she owe it to herself to continue?

We've reached out to a number of Delevingne's agents to confirm or deny the Chanel and Burberry rumors, and will update upon hearing back from them.

Image: @caradelevingne/Instagram