Firstly I’d like to apologise about not posting in two weeks I’ve just started Uni and have found the workload a bit of a shock to the system but I’m finally getting there.
I’ve procrastinated about writing it but I feel like I should because I learnt so much from the experiences being a model gave me.
Sometimes I still look at my friends Instagram photos and reminisce with rose tinted glasses about the glamorous lifestyle that modelling offered. But in reality, this is not an accurate representation.
It’s good for me to get my thoughts down as I feel its a good way to process and finally say goodbye to an industry I had such a love / hate relationship with.
Hope you enjoy!
I remember the night I decided I wanted to become a model. I would like to say I got this epiphany whilst flicking through the pages of Vogue looking at *insert 90’s supermodel’s name here* and thinking ‘I want to be her’. But the idea came after yet another blazing argument with my then boyfriend telling me that I didn’t even come close to the over made up models that cat walked down the ramp for this urban rap battle event. He wanted to be a rap star you see.
It was the insidious pang of a hurt ego that spurned me on to take my first steps into modelling. The irony will become apparent later.
Like a lot of girls I started by getting ripped off by some photography scam paying a good few hundred pounds (out of my student loan) for a ‘professional’ makeup artist and photographer. I hated how they did my makeup, my hair and even what they had me wear. But I guess there was a part of me that loved the attention and the fact I was going to ‘show’ my boyfriend I was better than what he said I was.
After the shoot, I was given a list of model agencies to approach. I was relentlessly rejected by pretty much all of them albeit a few who told me if I lost weight I would be in with a chance. I feel sorry for my younger self as I had no idea what I was doing and was terribly insecure; in hindsight it was like watching a lamb being sent to the slaughter.
Thankfully I continued to study and finish my degree. It’s when I finished and no longer had a routine to keep me balanced the trouble began. Obviously, I wasn’t going to go straight into full time modelling so I needed a job that also offered flexibility. Get ready for years of standing in heels and spraying perfume for hours on end.
At this time my self esteem was starting to deteriorate. I dyed my hair black and started putting on weight from comfort eating. I was also dealing with very difficult family issues and a horrible relationship so all in all this it was a very dark period in my life.
In a way the fantasy of a glamorous lifestyle kept me going all of life’s turmoil. All I wanted was that one photo on a cover of a magazine for my, now ex, to see and that’s it I could quit. I was shooting for amateur photographers and was grateful for the £50 I’d get for hours of work. I thank God I never got hurt or did anything I was THAT uncomfortable with. Mostly it was a case of sacrificing my time for promised exposure that never really came to anything. I found this extremely frustrating but I thought this is how it was.
I was still trying to join a modelling agency so despite everything that was going on my ambition was never fully squelched. I would like to add that this was the time social media was also really taking off so that helped me to network.
I had a few hopeful meetings with some smaller agencies. My portfolio was a complete mess. I had no idea about marketing myself and even less of an idea about fashion. I thought agencies would see through all this if they believed in you, but now I know you have to have the perfect portfolio to approach agencies with in the first place, it’s your CV. This seems obvious now, but it wasn’t back then, I’d been given so much wrong advice by so many different people.
My weight was ALWAYS an issue, no matter what size I was.
It was another day at work spraying perfume when I overheard one of the girls talking about slimming pills. This intrigued me, as I couldn’t lose weight on my own so maybe this was the answer?
The girl (who shall remain nameless) told me where I can get these slimming pills and I managed to get my hands on a batch. They really shouldn’t have given them to me, but in the long run, they might have been helpful because they gave me the energy I needed to kickstart my life.
So now I know these pills were actually a low form of speed. Which is why I had more energy and less appetite. I lost weight quickly, worked on my tan and turned my jet black hair to honey blonde.
My ex-hated my new look and told me I looked anorexic. He was probably right, but I didn’t care for his opinion anymore. I had many more people telling me I looked great, even though deep down I still didn’t feel great about myself.
I got some new photos …. again. I remember someone saying to me ‘when is this mysterious portfolio ever going to be finished?’ Never, is the answer to that. There was always something ‘wrong’ with it. I even started paying for more professional photographs but then by then, I was starting to put on weight. I’d get the odd few awesome shots, but it was really hit and miss. I really didn’t have the confidence to really be ‘seen’, I desperately wanted to which is why I wanted to have a career in front of the camera, but as soon as I got there I felt like I was cringing deep inside.
I only really felt excited by it when I was getting ready and being pampered. This was tainted with a niggling worry I was too overweight or looked ugly in the pictures. I remember when a shoot was cancelled because I didn’t fit the clothes properly. I know its obviously important the model fits the clothes but I remember I was 18 y/o and mortified!
So with my photos, I managed to get into a few smaller agencies. This didn’t fill me with confidence as in my head if I wasn’t at the top it wasn’t worth doing. Completely the wrong way of looking at it but isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?
My new body was hard to maintain; the clinic wouldn’t give me anymore skimming pills. So I had to do it on my own. It was mid Summer and really hot but I was always really cold with numb fingers. But I was getting more and more compliments about the weight I’d lost so it was easy to become addicted. The doctor told me I was under weight for my height but the modelling agencies told me I still had to get down to a 25 inch waist. I was 5 ft 9 with a 26 in waist. My hips couldn’t slim anymore because all that was left was bone.
It was a really shallow, fake life I was living. I couldn’t be anymore further away from my authentic self. I started going to London’s most exclusive clubs with model friends whilst trying to make a living and going to what felt like an endless amount of castings only to be selected for a handful of jobs.
Something must have worked because all of a sudden people were taking notice. I was accepted into a decent model agency I’d been pursing for ages (in fact they’d previously turned me down three times).
It felt great because being signed was the equivalent of feeling validated as a ‘professional model’ and I wasn’t doing it all on my own. The quality of my photographs got better and I finally felt like things were taking off. I had a good few model friends I liked and would go out with. But the majority of people I’d hang out with I didn’t really know … I called them the ‘night people’. The type who would party with celebrities but had no real career of their own. It was weird seeing pictures of yourself in campaigns randomly around town. It was a weird contrast of excitement and feeling quite empty.
People would refer to me as a model and I felt myself cringe as I didn’t identify as one. This all started as a way to get back at an ex boyfriend and to prove something to people, but this new career choice was taking over.
My brain went to mush as I wasn’t really using it anymore. No matter how ‘pretty’ I felt at a casting or a shoot it wouldn’t be too long before I would compare myself to another model who I deemed ‘better than me’. I would scrutinise my photographs within an inch of their life, and was helped by others in the industry to rip myself apart.
I’d see other models getting who I thought were quite average looking getting the jobs I wanted and started to become bitter and resentful. The irony here was that I was already sabotaging my work but at the same time getting angry at others for what I considered ‘stealing’ jobs off me.
My self esteem was constantly in flux, people flattering me whilst others ignored me. Having my body measured in front of a room full of people I also found really embarrassing, especially if I’d put on weight.
Saying this I was enjoying the perks of the lifestyle, I didn’t have to ‘work’ that hard to make nice money. I’d get treated really well on (most) shoots, food was paid for, hotels were paid for, travel was paid for. I was being looked after at the same time.
I had attention from celebrities and was invited to exclusive places. Shot with renowned photographers and was really starting to make my ‘dreams’ a reality. My old friends and people I went to school with (and my ex) took notice, finally I was showing them … wasn’t I?
I didn’t feel like I connected with the majority of the other models, and the guys I was seeing made me feel like a Barbie doll. I felt like they didn’t see me as a real person.
I started to binge eat to fill that emptiness… the agencies were quick to notice. I no longer had the energy to attend meat market castings, I got dropped by a few agencies, I just didn’t have the energy to keep up. The more I was guilt tripped about not losing weight the more I’d binge eat and skip castings, being labelled as unprofessional as one of two clients ‘really’ wanted to see me. So it was text book self sabotage.
Looking back I really wish I’d given up the profession a long time ago. One friend who I really respect is Charli Howard. We’d often have a moan about the industry, which confused me as I though Charli was one of the beautiful girls I’d ever seen, so how was she struggling? She took the control back and when she was dumped by her agency she decided to model on her own terms and be an ambassador for female body confidence.
A lesson I’ve learnt in life is if you are going to do something, make sure it’s something you want to give your all to. And make sure your doing it for yourself not to prove something to other people.
Looking back I definitely got into modelling for the wrong reasons, when you’re young it’s easy to get swept up in the glamour and promises. Now I’m a lot more curvier and happier. I’m studying a Masters in Psychology and enjoying my writing. I still love doing makeup and taking photos but it’s more for fun then as a job.
I’ve given up the nights in Mahiki for city breaks around Europe which makes me genuinely happy. If the party lifestyle makes you happy I’d say 100% go for it . I know a lot of models who love doing what they do and are able to give it their all. But it wasn’t for me. And I’ve now realised it doesn’t make me any less than, or ugly or not good enough. At least I gave it a go, and at times I would have liked to have wanted it more to see where it could have gone. I’m happy that when I’m 80 y/o I can show my Grandchildren what their Nan used to do for work.
For now, I’m much more interested in getting to know the real me, and what she wants out of life.
Hope you enjoyed this post! If you would like to see more post’s like this I will be posting ever Thursday. Don’t forget to subscribe to get the latest news and blog posts.