The studio was off Beverly Boulevard, next to a gas station and up a flight of well-lit stairs. It was in said stairway that I met a man, whose sole purpose was no greater than to come into my life for a quick moment and teach me a valuable lesson just months into my modeling career: you’re only as good as you let people perceive you to be.
He was a photographer. The casting was for some clothing company where we were asked to wear “athletic gear” and jump on a trampoline while fake laughing. When he asked to see my portfolio, I handed it off to him, along with a loaded, self-deprecating “My pictures suck.” And I remember, quite specifically, him looking up from the pages and at me directly. “Don’t ever say that,” he told me.
Modeling (successfully) requires that you buy into your own beauty BS. It asks that you believe you – your face, your legs, your arms, your teeth – are worth paying thousands of dollars a day, simply to look at. Which, when you think about it, requires an absurd amount of brash presumption: I’m hot, therefore I am. The superficial and the artifice become weirdly defined as some queer talent worthy of massive funds. And, if you’re not careful, you’ll start believing it.
Your days are spent dressing up like a doll and cashing out like a king, and with this comes a good deal of guilt.
The girls best at pulling this off, in my opinion, are the ones who start young. In your teens, all you want is a harem of yes-men. And if you’re successful as a model at that age, you’ll get them in spades. Makeup artists marveling over your clear, milky white skin. Stylists fawning over your perky breasts. Photographers predicting your future meteoric success. You’re a star, baby! A star! Every day is a dangerous shower of cash and accolades.
Confidence is brought to you and dumped at your feet like gold before the royal court. Have these beautiful clothes. Date these beautiful men. Spend this beautiful money. They don’t ever tell you though that the gold is on loan, that just as easily as its been placed in front of you, it will be taken away. Youth and beauty is a pawn shop with a very low, wretchedly fleeting return on investment.
I was speaking to someone last night about models being often embarrassed to admit to what they do for a living. I, similarly, now hate to be associated by the title, though when I was younger I used to relish in it. As you age however, there is a tipping point when you acknowledge that you create no added value to this world, that your days are spent dressing up like a doll and cashing out like a king, and with this comes a good deal of guilt.
So what happens when you can’t keep up with the front? When your internal shame and increasing sense of worthlessness trumps the ego trip? You grab that book full of pictures you knew were never very good, and you make a French exit. –Jenny Bahn