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There is, somewhere in the NoMad district of New York City, a modeling office with my card still on the wall, even though I know and my bookers know and everyone in accounting knows that I’m not modeling anymore.
Like a relationship that both parties have let fade off into oblivion instead of directly cutting the cord, we’ve both chosen to phase each other out, quietly and with mutual disinterest. After 10 years as a walking coat hanger, all the phone calls and bookings and flights are over. Fin, done, kaput.
If life was actually what people sell you in magazines, one would think that this would bum a person out. When people stop hiring you for being young and beautiful, you could assume that you no longer that. Vanity and ego would having you clawing at the past, wishing you were 21 years old again and Zac Posen wanted to book you for some intimate runway show held at the Chateau Marmont. And, yeah, the 21-year-old version of me would be totally bummed. The 30-year-old version? Gives no fucks.
You see, modeling is fun for about two years, during which time you are first introduced to the addictive thrill of getting flown around the country for work, nurse the itching competition of booking jobs that other girls don’t, and getting paid too much to do too little. The people are interesting, the clothes are beautiful, everything shines with a brilliant newness. It is, in that moment, wonderful.
But then that feeling eventually fades, and what replaces is it is a little thing I like to call “reality.” Because nothing -- I repeat, nothing -- is ever what it actually seems. Herewith, I’ve itemized the things I 100 percent do not miss about modeling:
1. Bikini Polaroids
Hey, you know those sexy photographs you send of yourself wearing lingerie to the person you’re trying to sleep with? OK, well, imagine that the lingerie is a bikini, and instead of snapping an intimate selfie on your couch, you’re standing against a blank white wall in a cold office with two dozen agents type away on their computers. Stand there and wonder if your wax is holding up while an agency intern takes photographs of you from all angles to send to a client who wants to make certain that the portfolio version of you matches the real life version of you.
2. Conversations about Juice Cleanses
There is nothing more boring than being on a no-salt, no-fat, no-sugar cleanse, except maybe listening to someone else talk about it. There was an era in my modeling career when the Master Cleanse (drink lemon, honey and cayenne pepper water for 10 days until you passed out or saw Jesus) reigned supreme. During this time, I had the privilege of sitting backstage with beautiful women half the world jerks off to talking about their resulting bowel movements.
If you were ever interested in really taking your self-esteem for a test drive, try standing in a hallway packed full of 10-pound Lithuanian supermodels all waiting to book the same, singular job. After you’ve really questioned your self-worth and spent 20 whole minutes wondering how you’ve mysteriously gone from a size 25 jean to a size 26, go stand in front of a bored looking client who will, with sure-fired boredness, flip through your portfolio with a life-shattering lack of enthusiasm, hand it back to you, and mutter “thanks” before sending you on your way, back through the hall of Lithuanian supermodels and out the door, never to hear from this person ever again.
4. Strangers Touching Me
Those who care about personal space need not apply. If you want to be a model, you better get used to people invading your space at all times. There is always someone pulling your hair, fixing your makeup, grabbing your outfit. Granted, this comes with the territory, and all of these things are fine when done with professional courtesy and respect, but too often have I stood in a showroom modeling the latest collection for Fashion Wanker 2.0 when a buyer has pushed me physically around like their own personal rotisserie chicken, moved skirt pleats saying “What’s this do?” only to reveal my buttcheek, and generally been treated less like a person and more of a doll.
5. Unemployment Paranoia
The average model makes roughly $32,000 per year, which, while better than the national average, is far from the millions in cash the likes of Gisele and Kate Moss make every year. The reality is that most of the girls working don’t actually make any money. I once knew a model who was so broke her only meals were the samples she would steal once a day from a grocery store on University Place. There is little to no job security working as a model, and -- even if you’re working regularly -- you are weighed down by the constant fear that This Job is the Last Job. Oh, yeah, and no health insurance.
6. Wasting Time
I mean this in the most literal and metaphysical sense possible. Modeling is, in effect, one massive time waster. There’s the time you spend waiting at castings, the time you spend sitting backstage, the time you spend traveling, stuck in a makeup chair, standing while someone wrestles your body into a cocktail dress. That’s your time, and it’s been spent literally on nothing, save for earning money (if you’re lucky). If modeling was listed on the stock exchange it would probably be a junk bond.
In a metaphysical sense, modeling is a waste of time because, really, What are you doing with your life? Are you creating something? Are you helping people? Are you proud of your work? Too often, the answer to these questions is a definitive “no.” To be happy in life, one must have purpose, and looking good in front of a camera seems about as thin a purpose one can imagine.
But… What I Do Miss
Though the later part of my career was totally drenched in tedium and angst, modeling provided me a whole host of wonderful opportunities that aren’t nearly as wrly entertaining to recount, but necessary to paint an accurate portrait.
For every 35 droll humans I met, I was introduced to one shining soul who made it all worth it. For every makeup artist who nearly gave me pinkeye, there was one who made me look more beautiful than I ever was in real life. For all the no’s I have heard, I have heard just the right amount of yes’s.
Mostly, I miss the camaraderie between girls. I miss watching a designer start a collection from scratch and send it down a runway. I miss the freedom. I miss Paris. I miss being young and not worrying so much about the big things.
What a strange world to be a part of, fraught with its pitfalls, but capable of more moments of glitter and gleam than any other business. And sure, sometimes the light hits the sequins the wrong way and burns your eyes, but, man, maybe it’s worth it.