So, this one time, I was sent to a set with a client who had seen digitals of me at a 33 inch hip. Never mind that I was no longer that size, and never will be again. This whole situation was probably top three of my most awful experiences on set (the other two involve sexual assault). This was a client who liked their girls skinny, and I was not that. They had a false idea about what I looked like – something that could have easily been avoided.
It is hard to articulate just how awful the feeling is when you are on a set and everyone there hates the way you look. The reactions range from being sweet, yet condescending and pitiful, to just straight up bitchiness. They were all women on this set which makes the whole thing even more frustrating and messed up. After my experiences of body shaming whilst modeling (and this is one of many) I will never, EVER shame another woman on how she looks. Or man for that matter. But women have enough shit to put up with – we should be celebrating each other wherever we happen to be at.
Anyway. Back to my story.
Whilst shooting, I had one lady refuse to look me in the eye, choosing instead to address my stomach with a sneer (I was shooting swim). I addressed her, smiled, and she didn’t even look away from my stomach, let alone respond to me beyond mono syllables. Another lady asked me to please make my ribs show more whilst shooting, suck in my gut, and tied a sarong around my hips, to ‘hide them’. I got a high school level bitchy up and down when I came out of the changing room (every single one of my ten shots), and another woman just didn’t even register my presence. And they weren’t rude people aaaaalll the time – I got to watch them be very sweet to the other model (a sixteen year old with 34 inch hips). I wasn’t a 34 hip girl, but I fitted all the sample sizes (2-4), and had been feeling pretty good about my body and its new ‘curves’ up until this moment.
When it was lunch time, I was absolutely hating myself, wishing I was somebody else. So I chose not to eat. I was met with chorus’s of “why aren’t you eating! What’s wrong!?”. I sat there feeling humiliated, fat and ugly and got to watch everyone else on set (the other model included) tuck into a delicious lunch and cake. All that fake concern in their eyes over why I wasn’t eating lunch evaporated the second I got back on set. Then it was back to stonewall and scrutiny.
Looking back, I wish I’d had the strength to say to them, “what’s going on? Am I not what you wanted? Because if not, lets not put me and you through this. Just send me home. You don’t want me here, and I don’t want to be here”. I wish I had done that instead of struggling through the day, to leave set and burst into tears. To be told by my agent that because they hadn’t said anything to my agency, there was nothing wrong. Got to love a little casual gas lighting – after 12 years of modeling, I know when something (me) isn’t working out.
It makes me enraged when a woman is made to feel fat at a size 4. What messed up parallel universe is this? The fashion industry should be celebrating women of all body sizes. We are experiencing a huge amount of growth in body acceptance – when will it start to make serious inroads in the fashion industry? I do have to acknowledge the appearance of plus size models in the higher end fashion industry. This is fantastic, and a welcome change. However there is a massive grey zone in the fashion industry. We see ‘straight size’ girls from sizes 0-2 maybe a 4 if the girl is well known or has boobs. Then nothing, until we hit ‘plus size’ girls at around size 14. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of women in the western world fall in this size bracket. Until a woman can open a magazine and see her body shape represented, how can women stop comparing themselves to an impossible standard?
At the end of the day, people should be able to look in the artistic world of fashion and see women with bodies similar to theirs. They should not be looking at hungry, tired teenagers who haven’t hit puberty yet. They should see strength and power and individuality. The ultimate form of control over women is when their bodies stop being their own. When other people dictate how they should look (thin, long legs, yet with an ass, tiny waist and back but with a six pack and boobs, plus big lips and defined cheekbones). My body did not belong to me from the ages of 14-25. When I finally started trying to reclaim it, I was so saddened by how much time and energy I had wasted trying to hit an ever moving target. When I finally got my period back regularly, I was amazed at all the emotion that came with it (a lot of it relief, a little of it insanity). When I got my brain power back, I was shocked at the study I was capable of, and the words that were easily written. It was so easy to string a sentence together and run for miles. These pleasures had been denied to me for my entire adult life. And for what really? Chasing some messed up idea of what a ‘real woman’ should be? There is no ‘real woman’. Just women. The idea of a ‘real woman’ is a lie; it is something to keep us distracted from pursuing our full potential. The time we spend training ourselves to extreme exhaustion and starving, is time and money wasted on self growth. I am sick to death of it.
So many women are denied this basic right of self possession. For the western world to proclaim itself free, it needs to set women’s bodies free. From hereon out we should be able to look however the fuck we feel is right, however we are strongest mentally, and however we so like to. If we gain or lose weight it is irrelevant. Anyone else’s opinion does not matter, and should cease to exist. I want societal expectations to evaporate. We should be celebrated for our accomplishments, and leave our bodies out of it. No more comments on who lost weight and how. I finally got the memo. Now I want more people out there to feel this liberation.
Things need to change in the world. And we need to start talking about it with more consistency and volume.
Today, make the effort to let go of your body hang ups. It will take time, but let yourself find what is right for you. No more trying to fit some one else’s fucked up mold. Destroy it and take up your own space in the world.
To the ladies on set that day, I say I hope you find your peace here. I don’t know how hard it must be to exist in a world where you treat another young woman as badly as you treated me. You must be in so much pain. The pain must be strong enough to make you look at a twenty something young woman, who is fit and healthy, and set out to make her feel fat and useless. It truly must be awful to exist in a state of constant cognitive dissonance.
I hope you find your peace. And I thank you. You helped to set me on the road to mine.
These are my stories. And I dictate my road.
Peace and love,