‘A Model Employee’: Jessica Cusack on why Modelling Makes us the Perfect Candidate – for any Job!
Hi! My name’s Jessica Cusack and I was a model.
Wow, that sounds a bit like I’m at an AA meeting…I was scouted by Select when I was just a wee babe at 14 and put it on hold when I was 20 to focus on getting a degree. I can’t remember how I came across Modeltypeface but it was probably because I saw one of Rebecca’s articles and recognised her, as we used to be at the same agency. You see, as a New Face I’d scroll for hours on agency’s sites, gazing at gorgeous seasoned professionals like Rebecca. [I used to do this too! And at your pics! – R]
Anyway, I love MTF and am thrilled to contribute something. It’s so wonderful to see the reality of most models lives truthfully represented in comparison to the default image set by the million-dollar-earning superstars of Instagram. The increasing number of models (Rebecca, Charli Howard, Ashley Graham and Rosalie Nelson, to name a few) speaking out about the industry shows that, wow, models do have brains!
In fact, the person who recently made a snarky comment on my LinkedIn could have done with a browse on MTF. This person questioned why I had listed my 6 years as a model on there. They argued that it worked against me and drew the attention away from my academic and professional achievements and onto how I looked. Beneath this, I clearly detected them sneering at modelling as a ‘job’.
That got me fired up. Of course I realise that, as a writer and producer at a digital media company, my responsibilities no longer include maintaining a 24-inch waist, posing and strutting in heels. However, there are loads of ways modelling has helped me in my newfound career.
1) Managing money
While I was never exactly topping the Forbes list of highest paid models in the world, I did land some big jobs during my time. Thanks to the advice of my sensible parents, I saved a LOT of it…But as a very sartorially advanced teenager (I’ve since plateaued), I pined after this pair of Alaïa boots and they remain the most expensive item I’ve ever bought. The boots are, of course, absolutely gorgeous and though I’ve worn them a fair bit, 6-inch black leather studded heels aren’t exactly appropriate for the rush hour…*
The lesson? Spend your money wisely and if you’re going to invest sartorially, make it something which you will wear all the time and can’t imagine your life without.
*I remain convinced that when I’m a super high-powered businesswoman running my own company/the planet, I will need some kick-ass boots to really hammer my fierceness home.
2) Behaving professionally
Being on shoots with people who are much older when you’re a young teenager can be intimidating, and it taught me to be professional from an early age.
I’ll never forget the time when, not-so-sweet 16, I went out the night before a shoot, managed only a few hours sleep and then had to take a train to the coast to do a shoot. I felt shit, looked shit and, while the photos actually turned out really well, I’ll never forget the horror of the hair stylist quietly remarking, “Honey, a little advice: if you know you have a shoot, don’t get trashed the night before.”
Perhaps as karma for my behaviour, I ended up getting really ill after that shoot because it was absolutely freezing and I was mainly in latex. Lesson learned, modelling Gods.
3) Team work
All those solitary castings can get lonely, so when you do land a job it’s nice to suddenly be surrounded by people. You become a team, even if it’s just a one-day shoot, and have to learn to work together from the get-go. Though typically models are meant to keep quiet and wear the clothes (right?), in my experience the best shoots had a healthy dose of collaboration involved. Perhaps I would offer a solution to an outfit that wasn’t working, or the make-up artist would suggest a pose in place of something which didn’t look right.
Sharing ideas and opinions is such an important part of any job, and makes for a better end result.
4) Know when you’re being exploited
As we all know, models are easily exploited. Be it from pervy photographers, an agency that really doesn’t care about your well-being, or a client who’s slow to cough up the money.
Modelling taught me to know my worth – to be proud of my strengths and to ensure my weaknesses aren’t manipulated. To survive this industry you must learn to say ‘no’; to question and challenge situations you feel are wrong. Once you understand the simple fact that your employer needs you as much as you need your employer, you’ve begun to redress the power balance in the relationship.
Being constantly being judged on your appearance and comparing yourself to the gazelle-like beauties vying for the same job naturally results in you becoming self-conscious. But on the flip side, it can also make you feel incredibly confident. You’ve gotta have balls to stand in front of a panel of people you met 5 minutes ago, wearing nothing but a flesh coloured thong (hopefully minus balls).
Perhaps weirdly, these situations actually gave me a lot of confidence. I just stood there and thought, ‘This is my body, my face, my personality and who I am. If you don’t like it, I don’t mind.’ One of the founders of my agency always used to say, “You might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but you will be someone’s glass of champagne.” Sound advice to apply to your work life and personal life.
Ultimately, I think the person who questioned my LinkedIn profile exhibited the age-old, narrow-minded belief that girls are either pretty or clever – never both – and that somehow being associated with the modelling industry ‘dumbs you down’. I’m going to be happy to prove him wrong. And not only will I kick his ass in the boardroom, I’ll be wearing amazing boots while I do it.
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