By Ellen Hancock – A Not So Model Life
What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I didn’t really start modeling until I was 18, and only then as an occasional hobby. After being rejected from my local agency I joined Model Mayhem and set up some shoots on my own. It was sporadic at best, and looking back the photos were nothing to write home about. I loved it though. I never really thought I was that kind of girl – stylish enough, pretty enough. But it made me come alive, and break out of my shell if just for a few hours. It broke up the boredom of my simple life.
I was almost 22 by the time I gave it another go and actually got signed by my first agency. A lot of models give up modeling by that age, and here I was… a newbie! By the time I was signed I had graduated high school, bummed it a few semesters in college, eloped to Alabama, lived there for two years, gotten divorced, and sulked back home to California. I kind of felt like an old lady and a fraud. I felt such a pull towards it though, and I was going to do my darnedest to make the best run of it I could. My abusive ex-husband had inadvertently taught me one thing – I was worth more and capable of more than he or I had thought. I took a leap for my dreams and didn’t look back.
Time always felt rushed. I pushed hard to do as many shoots as possible to build my book as quickly as as I could. I commuted three hours each way from the small town I lived in to San Francisco every time I had a gig. I tried to make up for lost time. It was exhausting. Yet I actually started booking work. I swear to God I was shocked every time someone hired me. Elated, and shocked. So I rolled with it.
I’ve been rolling with it for over a decade now, which seems crazy to me. From my days starting out with hobby photographers, to schlepping it to San Francisco on a regular basis, to Greece and LA and Miami and back to LA again… it has been a long road. Along the way I’ve had to take some breaks. The industry can really put you through the ringer sometimes. Some breaks were a personal choice, and some were more “Why the fuck am I not booking anything??.” Bad days happen, bad streaks happen. Sometimes you can brush ’em off and sometimes they just cut you down to your core. You do get stronger – you learn to not count your eggs before they hatch, you learn that let down is a part of life, and that life isn’t fair. Yet even as you get used to it, some days just go down in all the right wrong ways. Everything aligns for a breakdown. You learn that those are ok too, and you get back up. No matter how long it takes, you get back up.
My friends in the industry and I joke about our regular and predictable melt downs into “What am I doing with my life???” These short term (hopefully) bouts of depression come at least one a year. More often twice a year. It’s so common you might think it was a sign that maybe we are just doing the wrong thing! But, alas, somehow we always come out the other end with just the opposite perspective. We suffer for what we love. These realizations are always quite poignant.
I just have to keep moving. The industry is flighty, and I have to fight to stay on top of it. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the pace up. I start to feel like I’ve paid some dues, and I just want to reap the rewards of my labor. Oh boy is reality always close by to smack me on top of the head when I start to feel that way! You chose the life of an artist, silly! Back to work! A pension was never in my career path.
I’m back in LA now and pushing forward. I just chopped off all my hair on an expressionistic whim… so I’m reshooting my whole book. It’s a lot of work but it’s a good reminder of how hard the competition is pushing, and how hard I have to push to keep up. It’s good to always keep busy. I’m getting on the ball looking for new commercial representation, which is really important because that’s the majority of what I book these days, and I just personally prefer acting jobs these days as well. Kinda interesting how changes in focus happen. Things are never predictable and you have to go with the flow and follow your heart and all that jibber jabber.
I honestly never would have predicted everything I’ve been through, and that I’d still be at it after all this time. It’s one of the few things I’ve ever been able to make a stable commitment to, this life of complete instability. It makes me laugh… oh, the irony!