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’
I 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!
Modelling 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’.
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.
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.
BABE 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.
Main photo by Samin Ghiasi