I am entering into my thirteenth year of modeling, and I have to say, modeling is a very interesting and widely misunderstood job. There is the societal idea of what we do, with all the stereotypes and drama enforced by TV shows, and then the reality. The dissonance between the two is great.
The stereotypes include bitchiness between models, fighting over looks, eating disorders and wild partying, we get to keep the clothes, private jets, bad behavior that everyone just puts up with, and glamorous, easy photo-shoots with little effort involved.
The reality could not be more different.
First off – we never get to keep the clothes. Sometimes during fashion week we may get paid in clothes, and if you are friends with a designer you may get to keep an item, but this is rare. On photo-shoots the clothes and jewelry can cost more than a down payment on a house, and they sure aren’t going to just gift the items. And of course, there will always be girls who are less friendly than others, but the majority of the models I have met have been lovely, friendly girls who found themselves in this same unique position as I have. Most models fly economy for at least the first few years of their careers, and clients rarely if never cover first or private. Business sometimes. Moreover, models have very little power over what looks they wear in a show, if you party hard it shows in your face and shortens your career, if you are a handful no one will work with you (there are plenty of other girls willing to work harder and take your place), and nothing screams glamorous like flying twenty hours, going straight from the plane to set, working a fourteen hour day in freezing weather (swimsuits – summer always shoots in winter), going straight from the beach back to the airport, showering there, back on another twenty hour flight, straight to location, working another twelve hours… True story. You get the drift.
Modeling is an extremely mentally demanding job. It isn’t an occupation; it is a full-time existence. You don’t just clock out at five and return to your home and family. The pressure to remain in model shape, rarely sleeping in your own home and being away from loved ones for weeks at a time, going to amazing locations but then working fourteen hour days and leaving (seeing exactly nothing), never being able to sleep because you have been on five different time zones this week, having to cancel or miss important family events due to a job that ‘can make you’ (but inevitably never does), the hours spent on airplanes and in airports, the constant scrutiny on your appearance, and learning to successfully dodge unwelcome advances can be immense. Throw into this mix that most models are around the ages of 16-25 and sometimes the results can be catastrophic.
Having said all this, I would not change a thing. Every single model faces each of these pressures, and has to decide if this job is worth it. Some girls have less freedom with families at home relying on them – and these girls I have so much respect for. At the end of the day models work in a job that requires them to look a certain way, and I really wish this wasn’t the case. Every season there is a call that designers are embracing ‘curvier’ (not a size 00, maybe 0-2 instead) girls and I see no change whatsoever. For some models this pressure - combined with old trauma in their past – can result in eating disorders. For other girls this can result in drug use. For all models this leaves an imprint mentally that can be very hard to overcome; during the years that most women are learning what they will and will not stand for, models are learning to be a blank canvas, to not speak up under adverse circumstances, and learning that success is contingent on their appearance.
This isn’t a job for the faint hearted. The most successful girls are willing to work hard and pass up every 18th and 21st birthday party, spend the requisite hours in the gym, and get the extra hours of sleep. They dedicate time to growing a personality outside of work, continuing their education, and building relationships within their clientele. But most importantly, they understand that it is a job and that it will one day end. They save their money, invest wisely and make sure they have an exit strategy. When done right, this job can set you up for your future nicely. But in order for this to happen it needs to be approached as something with a time limit, get in and get out; and it needs to be kept in perspective.
At the end of it all, modeling has shown me the world, allowed me to meet some of my closest friends, and set me on the path that I never knew I wanted to go on. It has also handed me some of the hardest mental challenges, and put me in positions I would never want my daughter to deal with. But at the end of the day, I came out stronger for it. And I would not change a thing. Treating it as a job, seeing it for what it is and staying true to my boundaries has made it an incredible experience for me, and not a day goes by when I don’t feel fortunate to do what I do.
So don’t believe the stereotypes!!
(Originally posted on popsugar.com.au)