Its already tough enough in today's society being a girl. We have no real strong role models our age, and we are in a time where your ability to twerk is what is celebrated versus sharing something positive or uplifting or thoughtful on our timelines. We have constant pressure to fit into a mold - either waifer thin and "runway ready", or perfectly and proportionately curvy and contoured like a few reality tv stars. What is a girl to do that doesn't fit the stick straight or coke bottle stamp?
In my particular field of expertise, modeling has more than a few [READ: MANY] huge unspoken stigmas, stimpulations and expectations. You are a walking representation of what others are to "aspire to". Recently the modeling industry has come under fire for holding their models to some unreasonable expectations, and intentionally or not have encouraged an unhealthy lifetstyle for many girls. Before I tear some of these "rules" apart, I will say from personal experience that I have never worked with an agent that would belittle or encourage a negative body image or unhealthy lifestyle. They have always supported me and have actively found work for me. If I ever needed help or guidance with my professional image, they have been there with sugeestions, but never in a way that would body shame me, nor jepordize or discredit the work I already put in to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Conversely, I have also seen the opposite first hand; I have been sent on at least one go-see in my not-so-recent memory, where the well-known agent I was being referred to for a very well-paying contract conducted herself in a very unprofessional manner, and literally ridiculed and critiqued me in a very mercenary fashion, and then proceeded to try and call other agents into the fitting room to mock my body shape and proportions. Needless to say, I held myself to a higher standard in the diction I chose to use, but I still let her have it and I told her that with her unprofessional and unethical and rude behavior, there was no amount of money that she could pay me to work with her. While I cost myself a great paying job that day, there was so much more satisfaction in knowing I stood up to a bully and I would not let anyone - including a potential employer, belittle or berate me with their words. I have friends in this industry you were already very, very skinny, and have told me their agent told them that needed to lose an extra 10lbs in the next 2 weeks for XYZ job...[WHERE WERE THEY SUPPOSEDLY HIDING AN EXTRA 10 POUNDS THAT THEY COULD SHED?!? If anything, they could have afforded the 10lbs!] Its upsetting to see and hear these things, and I've always encouraged and advised my colleagues and friends to do what they know in their hearts to be right; to not let your agent bully you, because they aren't the ones who have to live your life, and they are just cashing in on your pretty face, so why not stand up for oneself and what is right for your body? Things cannot and will not change overnight, but we can take babysteps towards making this progress. Word travels fast in this industry, which is why it is so important to do your due diligence before you choose an agent to represent you. Ask other models who work with them what their opinion is of the agency, and their professional opinion of their agent. How easy or difficult are they to work with? How is their communication? How timely are they in following their payment schedule? All very important, and all of these will matter and affect your career.
Now with that being said, these are observations I have made over the years, and while I do pay some mind to them, its ultimately the clients who enforce them. The first unspoken rule in modeling is that your stomach better be flatter and possibly more toned than the girl's next to you in the casting line, (if you want to book the job that is.) That doesn't mean abs of steel, because I've heard the clients complain that "she looks too hard". So you have to attain and MAINTAIN those vertical lines along your obliques. Your waist should also be 10 or more inches smaller than your hips (the skinny girl's hourglass illusion - think Candice Swanpoele - gorgeous goddess that she is, but largely due in part to some phenomenal genetics, aswell as a personal trainer and diet.) Thirdly, your thighs should not touch (ie - thigh gap), and your butt should not be bubbling out of your trunks. Sample sizes run exceptionally small most of the time, and if you're strutting it down the runway, or showcasing it in the fitting room, you better fit inside those pieces and avoid anything that will give you any bloat or extra water retention the day before. Then there is cellulite, the stuff that sneaks up on you on the back of your thighs and around the bottom of your tush. Let's not forget the money maker, your happy smiling - or possibly "chic and solemn smize" face. Yes, I love when my skin cooperates and is nice and blemish free, but modeling takes it to another level sometimes. You see it on makeup advertisements, "poreless", and many times included in the casting call for "cosmetic level skin".
If you want to take things further, things have evolved in modeling. We have the emergence of "Instagram models", [which is really nothing new because we used to have the "Myspace models" (I know I'm showing my age, deal with it) same with "Facebook models", girls that were really great at taking selfies and people liked seeing their faces.] These girls have unhumanly perfect skin, contoured and chiseled cheek bones, dazzling feathery eyelashes, and hair that would make Barbie jealous. Not to mention, they also have perfect idellyic bodies that the girls follow to aspire to, and the guys follow to.... well.. you know. These dream girls are changing the game with their product endorsements and are cashing in on their social media worshipers. What do they have to do with professional models? Besides getting the clients' attention, they are socially changing what girls are doing to their appearances to look like real life dolls. Botox, Restylane, skin resurfacing, fillers, ... are all permanent solutions to temporary problems. The use of filters and apps like "Perfect 365", help these girls look camera ready with no makeup on at all. Now, I will say that yes - naturally, sometimes the lines on my face can bother me. In this Miami heat, my face can literally melt off and cake in these fine lines and I won't notice them until I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Yes, I see the years that have flown by remind me of where I have been on my face. I see the many smiles I've flashed for cameras and home grown laughter I've shared with my friends on either sides of my mouth, and where I've been lucky enough have touched my eyes. I see the rougher times where I've had to find my grit and show how tough I really am on my forehead. I'm still very young, and I intend on living forever. I own who I am, where I've been, and where I plan on going. As my good friend Abe Lincoln once said, “And in the end it is not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years.”
I will admit, it can be easy to let yourself get absorbed into this whirlwind of perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect makeup, body, outfit, ect ect.... IF you let it consume you. The reality is, pores are genetic, everyone has them and if your parents had large ones, you are more likely than not going to have them too. Genetics play a large role in how full your lips are going to be, how tall you are going to be, whether or not you are genetically pre-disposed to holding weight in certain parts of your body or not, how high your forehead will be (who knew that would ever be a thing?!!) and what you look like overall. And you know what the best part of that is??? Your differences and uniqueness are what make you beautiful! They are what set you apart from the crowd, so own them!!! There is no one else is the world with your identical set of features, which makes you one of a kind! Find your favorite part of your body and flaunt it! You are not meant to look like a plastic, run of the mill doll; you are meant to shine darling, so don't be afraid of it!
Young women need some sort of strong role model who is going to show them that you don't need to weigh 99lbs to be beautiful. If you are naturally 99lbs and it is because you are petite by birth, then rock on with your bad self sister, but if you're not embrace it!!! If you are curvy and have a tush like J.Lo's rock it. If you have a short torso but long legs, then strut those gams girl! My point is, there is no one such thing as a "perfect" body, only one that is pefect for you, and that's the one you're in - so take care it! Nourish it, work it out, stretch it. If you have a couple extra pounds and you know that you don't work out, then do something about it. If the gym intimidates you, YouTube has a plethora of great videos for working out in the comfort and privacy or your home. If you are hanging out with a toxic crowd, ditch them. It sounds harder than it really is, but if they are not someone who is contributing something valuable and positive to your life, and they are someone who makes it harder for you, then start by limiting your time together. There are plenty of other people out there who will encourage you and help you achieve your goals. If its family and they are the ones who put you down, then join a bootcamp or consider looking into a physical trainer or a workout buddy who will encourage you and do the hard work with you.
There are plenty of support groups and resources online for those with a negative body image, and I've done some of the research for you below. You will have your bad days where you feel off about your body, but those should be outweighed by the good days where you do something to celebrate your body. In the meantime, if after reading this you're still feeling down, I'm always here if you need support. And if you're having a good body image day, then I'm here to celebrate that with you too! (I say treat yourself to a mani-pedi for a quick pick me up or to celebrate!)
"We are all worthy of love, we are all worthy of beauty, we are all worthy of being free from shame." Stay strong girls! XO