If you don’t turn up the volume, no one will ever hear you
I was 17 when I was first scouted to become a model. That’s when it began and from that first day onwards it all became a blur.
I came from a really good family and a good school. I always got straight A’s in my final years and always envisioned a life which involved graduating from Med school, finding a good job, a supportive husband and then making a family. That was my plan. I always played by the rules and never got caught up in the dramas of high school politics or bullying. I had a good network of friends and was a confident teenager. That was until I started a career in what I thought was the dream life. Modeling.
From that day, I was led into a world where I was told to sit still and keep my mouth shut. I was a model, a canvas and a vehicle for other people to use to sell their product.
At the begining I worked a lot for free, but the more test shoots I did, the more they led to jobs which sometimes paid decent money, and I got hungry for it. I got a glimpse of spotlight and as such I put my life plan on pause and followed my new path into the glamorous life of being a model. I was being led by other people who supposedly knew what was best for me, and as such I just kept quiet and let the experts take the lead.
I think that is the biggest problem. Right there. That as a model you feel so far down the food chain that you never speak out about what you think is right or wrong. You assume that everyone else who is higher up knows better. That’s what’s wrong with the modeling industry. You feel like a puppet and as such you let the masters take control.
I remember so clearly my agent telling me that “if a well-known photographer asks you to take your top off, you don’t blink an eye. Everyone shoots nude and you don’t want to ruin any chances when you’re this fresh”. This was a glimpse of a series of stern rules and directions I apparently needed to follow without question if I wanted to be a big model. Diet pills, cotton wool balls… the rumors are all true and sadly they come from the mouths of those who are metaphorically feeding you.
I was sent around the world. I was put into model houses. I smiled at castings and then cried when I couldn’t get work. I was told I would make it, that I was different, and then saw the faces of the other girls at the castings who were smiling through the same charade. I went through periods of work and then desert dry spells of sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. I lost touch with my old friends from school as I was in a new phase of my life meeting wildly fascinating humans. I was led through parties, pressured into smoking and eventually doing drugs just to stay in the right crowds. Then at 26 I was told I was looking too old to be in the industry. My career was over before I even knew it.
I find myself 28 years old, and only halfway through a degree which I have now taken up at night classes while working in management at a retail store. I spent years trying to balance this life of false hopes and prospective aspirations in a career of uncertainties. I made a lot of money very quickly but have nothing to show for it because of the lifestyle it led me through. I have no partner to call my own because I became this unattainable being, who only attracted the worst, most destructive types of men. I have only ever been in one long term relationship which trickled over the span of a year because I never really had a place to call home. I have never felt as lost as I do now. I feel like I lost my past and threw away my future because I just let other people handle my fate.
It’s a sad story, but I do feel honored to share it. Yet behind all the self assurance when I was writing it, I still was too afraid to put my name to it. And unfortunately I think it’s because I have felt so broken by the industry. I still am holding onto the fear of rejection and need for acceptance. You are told to never have any regrets, I believe that is a brave sentiment espoused by someone who never felt so strong about their path and was led in another direction.
I urge any women thinking about taking the path of modeling to get as much advice as you can, learn from others’ mistakes and always stay true to your core beliefs. It’s the only thing that will get you through it in the end.
Having a voice is so important. You need to learn how to speak up. I lost my voice for so many years, I don’t know if it’s too late to get it back, but at least now I can lend the advice to turn to volume up for those who are a little too silent.