Body Image, Modelling and Me

I’ve had a big couple of days, in regards to my own body image. It’s all sprung from a very trivial seeming event: namely, #Throwback pictures on Instagram.

I put up these pictures, lightly joking/fishing for compliments ‘oh how I wish I could regain the metabolism I had when I was 18! #flatstomach’

skinnyminnyI do think I looked great here, but alas our bodies change as we get older/discover fine cheeses!

A few friends (real friends, not randoms flirting with me) commented below things along the lines of…’you look so much better now’. I thought very little of it.

Then slowly, over the next day, it sunk in. I really do look much better now!

ppltree2Modelling for People Tree, a Fair Trade clothing company, means my mind and my looks come in handy!

I was way too skinny and obsessed with my body when those old pictures were taken. I managed to get my waist down to 22 inches and always wanted that half inch less. I can’t and won’t heap blame on my agency at the time here, because to be honest, all around me clients and bookers were telling me that I was too thin and that I had to gain weight. Clothes would hang off me on shoots and castings and people on castings would say, nicely, ‘I’m afraid you’re just a bit too thin for us!”

I didn’t listen to PAYING CLIENTS and the people TRYING TO GET ME WORK. Instead I listened to the very few people – other skinny models or the photographer who took this picture – who would say ‘wow! You’re just so thin! It’s amazing!’

So, as the weeks went by, I’d take less bites of the sandwich my mum packed for my gruelling days of castings, and learnt to pick apart and nibble at foods rather than enjoy them.

I didn’t maintain this sort of disordered eating for very long, because, well, I really love food and I was living at home with my food-loving family. If I’d been living with other models in a model apartment, I’m not so sure what would have happened – it can get quite competitive in those places. I embraced the advice to put on weight wholeheartedly (although I then sprung the other way for a while and got a bit heavy and uncomfortable, going a bit too enthusiastic on the cake-and-burgers front: if you have to gain or lose weight, seek advice from a nutritionist and do it healthily, rather than seeking donuts from the nearest bakery!

I’ve held those pictures in my mind for the last decade as ‘when I looked my best,’ which basically translates as ‘when I looked skinniest’. Most women (and some men, too) have an image of themselves in their head/stuck on their fridge – usually when they were 16, or had been on an incredibly strict diet and exercise regime, or were really stressed and lost weight – as their ‘ideal’.

choccupI have this picture on my ‘chocolate cupboard’…tbh, chocolate tends to win!

As a model, I am constantly comparing myself to other models – many of whom were born in the 00s! This is tough for anyone, and if you’re thinking of getting into modelling, you need to make sure that you have a crystal clear, positive body image to cling on to whilst you’re queuing up next to hundreds of other models who seem thinner, younger, more beautiful…

The very talented writer Rosalind Jana who has the super duper blog Clothes, Cameras and Coffee was one of the people that commented on my picture. She also modelled when she was younger, before scoliosis meant she had to give it up. I let her know that her words had had an effect on me, and she replied with something that really caught my attention:

‘You tend to not just compare yourself to images of other people, but also images of yourself in previous years. You have your own personal yardstick to measure up against.’

It’s true! I haven’t sat around every day, gazing longingly at old photos of myself. It’s not an active process, but more like a fishhook that’s snagged my sub-conscious, dragging my confidence down. Whenever I’ve been complimented on my body, I’ve just thought ‘oh these jeans are flattering, they wouldn’t say that if they could see my thighs unclothed’ or ‘I will look like they think I look once I work out a bit more!’. Well, this week, I’ve unhooked myself. It feels nice.

For anyone who feels like my words resonate with them, this is how I am starting to see it. The whole ‘losing weight soon’ ‘getting in shape soon’ ‘just going to lose a couple of pounds before *insert life event here* is a massive ‘grass is greener’ mentality.

Instead of enjoying what you have, at this very moment, which in my case is a healthy, strong and (damn, I can say it!) attractive body, you’re looking around you longingly. You’re not enjoying the sweet grass of your own paddock – nor are you experiencing any of your other surrounding meadows. That’s not living.

Like this cow.

grass-is-greenerMaybe now this cow will learn to love itself and value the green grass it’s stood on.

In constantly saying ‘I don’t have the ideal figure right now, but soon I will’, I was freezing myself out of my own body and living in a fake vision, projected in the future that I’d not fulfilled in ten years. Since something as trivial as an Instagram comment, I’ve started inhabiting my own body and feeling pleased about what I have rather than what I might – but realistically won’t – have. Join me in liberating yourself!

Body image is an all-pervasive issue for practically everyone – not just models. But those looking to get work based on how they look need to arm themselves with body confidence and a healthy attitude to food, exercise and your reflection. The industry is fraught with pressures and anxieties surrounding our appearance

Is this all a bit hippy dippy? Well to any New Face I’d like to say: look in the mirror. You’re signed because of what you see. It’s your job to be in the best shape possible, and for a model that means working out more than most people do, and drinking green sludge far too often. To get jobs, don’t get overly skinny or obsessed with your looks, because you want to be aiming for optimum health and energy rather than extreme frailty.

ChristyBABE ALERT! Christy Turlington has always exuded health, strength and comfort in her own skin

This, way, when you walk into that shoot or casting, you blow them away with not just what you look like but who you are. I’ve let throwaway comments by bitchy, self-hating people get me down for days, even months before, and it’s toxic. Never let a client or other model make you feel apologetic of what you look like. Most important of all, and a key to being a well-adjusted, successful and happy model: you must never let yourself feel ashamed of who you are and what you look like.

Rebecca x

Main photo by Samin Ghiasi

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13 Comments

  1. Stassia wrote:

    Very well put Rebecca. Unlike yourself I’ve never really thought back to my teenage years wishing I still looked like that, mostly because I was tall and awkward and gangly and had horribly frizzy hair and awful skin and I know that I definitely look better now, thanks to hair straighteners and good skincare products. However, the concept of ‘grass is greener’ mentality is a very familiar one, one that I often use to alleviate the feelings of guilt after scoffing a few too many hobnobs. I should just enjoy the damn biscuits and enjoy being in my body right now, instead of focussing on achieving an improved version of it in the future. I completely agree with your emphasis on being strong and healthy, so much more important than ‘thin’. I might have been thinner when I was younger, but there’s no way I’d choose that over having a body that is able to hold umpteen different variations of the plank and cope with dozens of press-ups. Thanks, Bex, this really was for everyone!

  2. steve wrote:

    another tough part of this is how body image has become such a battleground in the media and online in a way I feel that isn’t constructive. skinny bad fat good, fat bad skinny good? How does that help anyone. Everyone just gets attacked for being different.

    I would love to see a more LA/Miami attitude towards body image in the modelling community. I’ve found girls from those markets tend to be more concerned with general fitness rather than purely controlling weight through diet.

  3. Vicky wrote:

    Great article Rej!! All new models should read this!! I agree, you do look so much better now, and you have an inner confidence now as well that you didn’t then. Working with your body instead of against it is the best.

  4. modeltypeface wrote:

    Totally agree with everyone here – you can’t do wrong for doing right (which includes enjoying yourself and letting loose sometimes!)

    We need to enjoy and celebrate ourselves and each other more! Xxxx

  5. So I love this article, I was so uncomfortable in my own skin when I first started modelling, and when I look back at the pictures I think I looked pretty good! Now talking about accepting your body for what it is, being pregnant I have had to look at my body in a different way and I have to say that as my body expands, I think that I am looking pretty hot, if I do say so myself. I am totally embracing my curves and bump and I feel really good. I’m just hoping that I can keep it up after the baby, as I know my body will not be the same. But if I take the points you’ve made in this article and embrace my new ‘mummy body’ I’m hoping to feel just as good as I do now! Although I do feel sad when people ask me how I’m feeling about my body and I say fantastic or great they look shocked! It’s as bad as being judged for being slim/a model. Other women can be so harsh to each other, it drives me insane! Anyway congrats on another fab piece I look forward to reading the next!!!

  6. modeltypeface wrote:

    CONGRATULATIONS! I bet your baby is as beautiful as you are, inside and out!

    Louise I remember being sooooo jealous of your teeny tiny waist when we were New Faces together at Select, there was a Polaroid of you on the board with your hands over your head and your t shirt riding up to show your flat stomach and ridiculously small waist. I used to look at it enviously!

    Funny that you were self-conscious about yourself when I was so green-eyed about the way you looked – just shows how subjective it all is. And that the only clear path is to love yourself!

    PS congrats again! xxxx

  7. Aisha wrote:

    Oh yeaaaa I also have a mummy body! Women’s bodies are generally amazing, from how beautiful they are to how they can stretch and accommodate a child and breastfeed and all the other good stuff! The key is looking after yourself and you do that so well Pearson. I’ve been looking after myself all week so I’m off for a fry up now ha xxx

  8. ivana split wrote:

    Well, I never modeled but I understand that it can be quite stressful and having a healthy body image is crucial.

    What people first notice on our is always our energy and that is something that doesn’t depend on how we look but as you say, what we are.

    I have quite a horrible spinal deformation and I’m covered in scarves but nobody ever notices that…probably because I don’t think about it a lot myself.

    • modeltypeface wrote:

      Dear Ivana,

      You’re so right, and I know that my energy is very strong because I am becoming stronger. And when I let myself get upset about not being thin enough (an ever-moving goal post) my energy diminishes.

      Your message is very inspiring indeed!

      xx

  9. Madison wrote:

    Wonderful read. I used to work at a modelling agency, but never modelled because I played sport growing up and my body was too “athletic” looking as they said. But, all of my siblings modelled at some point, so I understand how the industry is and how people view it. I think having strong women in my family helped me with my confidence, and blogging has definitely been an inspiration. You look wonderful!

    • modeltypeface wrote:

      Hi Madison, thank you for your lovely message! having strong women around is always a great influencer, and means that I’m never wallowing for long! Model agencies can really make or break a teenager’s attitude to their body – and i hope that my blog is contributing positively. Will check yours out now! xx

  10. Lola Byatt wrote:

    In the last week, I’ve read this post so many times. Yesterday, I read this post with my sister. Neither of us ever thought that other people could think like this. I am so exhausted from trying to perfect myself. I am so fed up with avoiding big moments because I don’t feel good enough to attend. I didn’t go to a cousin’s wedding last year because I was convinced I looked awful in the bridesmaid dress. I feel guilty for doing that. I know it’s not going to happen over night but I am taking pride with the way I look

    • modeltypeface wrote:

      Hi Lola, thank you for your message and I hope you start to feel more confident soon! Just think of yourself when you’re old, looking back on your life – you will regret holding yourself back due to these worries. Let’s make a pact to start appreciating ourselves more! X

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