A young and aspiring model named Jesse (Elle Fanning
) has just moved to Los Angeles. After her first photo shoot, she meets makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone
) who introduces her to fellow models Sarah (Abbey Lee
) and Gigi (Bella Heathcote
) at a party. The girls attend akinbaku bondage
show, bathed in flashing red and white lights.
Jesse gets signed by an important modelling agency and is sent to a test shoot with a notable photographer, Jack (Desmond Harrington
) who, upon seeing her, calls for a completely closed set, douses the studio lights, and covers Jesse in gold paint. Afterwards, Jesse goes on a date with her friend Dean (Karl Glusman
), who served as the photographer of her first shoot. When she returns to her motel room, she finds that it has been ransacked by what turns out to be acougar
. The unsavory manager, Hank (Keanu Reeves
), refuses to help her and demands that she pay for the damages. Unknown to Jesse, these are later paid for by Dean.
Jesse goes to a casting call
for a preeminent fashion designer (Alessandro Nivola
), at which Sarah is also present. The fashion designer pays no attention to Sarah when she walks for him, but is entranced by Jesse and tells his assistants to have her measured. Distraught, Sarah flees into a nearby bathroom, where she tears up her portfolio of headshots and smashes a mirror. Jesse finds her in the bathroom, and Sarah asks her how it feels to be the one on whom everyone lavishes attention and praise. Jesse tells her, "It's everything." Sarah lunges toward her, and Jesse accidentally cuts herself on a shard of glass from the mirror. Instead of helping Jesse, Sarah tries to drink her blood.
Later, Jesse attends the fashion show, where she encounters Gigi, who is also modeling for the show. Gigi tells her about all the work she has had done to her face to make her look more beautiful, and expresses disbelief when Jesse tells her that she has never had any kind of cosmetic surgery. The designer tells Jesse that he wants her to close the show, and gives her an opulent dress to wear. During her runway appearance, Jesse sees a hallucinogenic vision of a glowing triangular structure, and kisses her reflection inside a mirrored prism. After the show, Jesse and her friend Dean go out to a bar, where the designer is having drinks with Gigi and another girl. The designer denigrates women who have had cosmetic surgery as being artificial beauties. In contrast, he praises Jesse's natural looks and declares that "beauty is not everything, it is the only thing." When Dean challenges this assertion, the designer pointedly asks him whether he would be interested in Jesse if she were not so beautiful. Dean tries to convince Jesse to leave, but she rejects him.
After returning home to the motel, Jesse has a nightmare of Hank coming into her room and making her swallow a knife in a violent manner. She wakes up in time to hear someone, maybe him, trying to enter her motel room. She is able to barricade the door, but is forced to listen as the intruder instead breaks into her next-door neighbor's room and assaults her. Terrified, Jesse calls Ruby, who tells her to come to her place for safety. After Jesse comes to the mansion that Ruby claims to be house-sitting, Ruby tries to initiate sex with her, but is rejected. Upset, Ruby leaves for her second job as a makeup artist for a morgue
. There, she pleasures herself with a female corpse
while thinking about Jesse.
When she returns home, Ruby is greeted by Jesse, who notes how other women would do anything to have her looks, but will only ever become second-rate versions of her. Inside the mansion, Jesse is then attacked and pursued by Gigi and Sarah. They eventually corner her outside, and Ruby pushes her into the empty swimming pool, fatally injuring her. The three women are shown approaching her body with knives. Ruby is then seen bathing in Jesse's blood, while Gigi and Sarah shower together to wash the blood from their bodies. Some time later, Ruby is alone in the mansion when blood begins to cascade from her genital area, and she is next seen lying awake in what is presumably Jesse's unmarked grave.
The next day, Gigi and Sarah arrive for a photo shoot at a seaside mansion. In the midst of the shoot, Gigi falls ill and begins heaving, forcing her to leave the set. Sarah finds her in a bathroom desperately trying to vomit, eventually vomiting up one of Jesse's eyeballs. She then begins screaming "I need to get her out of me", before stabbing her own stomach with scissors and cutting open her own abdomen, dying in the process. Sarah watches Gigi die and then eats the regurgitated eyeball
before shedding a tear and silently returning to the set.