A Pivotal Moment….
Every model has some story about how they were “discovered”. For me, it was a little different. I had always been told by friends and family that I should model- that I was “so photogenic”… and “so pretty”. And my obsession with fashion magazines only encouraged them. What they didn’t know was that I was extremely insecure. What others saw as vanity was actually only self conscience attempts to hide every flaw. And even though I had all this encouragement, nothing could make me see it till I myself started to see it too. Ironically, it was the other models in my fashion magazines that finally helped me do this. They inspired me. Pushed me. Challenged me. Not to be like them physically- I was insecure, not stupid. But to be part of something beautiful. Iconic. Extraordinary. Like the old school Guess? ads we all know and love. It wasn’t about being the actual girl in the picture- it was about the entire image itself. To me, every ad campaign from Gucci, YSL, Chanel, Versace… it was all ART. And I wanted a to be a part of it SO bad.
Fast forward to a few years later….
My best friend is marrying the man of her dreams, and I’m the Maid of Honor, just like we had always promised each other. Now, for the average BFF, this is already a big job. Like, huge. And tough. Because its also the one time you knowingly, and very lovingly, have to tone down your look for the big day. Because its not about you. In other words, you have to look amazing, without actually looking amazing. YOU are the accessory. You’re the Chanel clutch (classy, simple) carried next to a Balmain dress (jaw-dropping gorgeous).
But that’s okay- cause I happen to love Chanel.
However, the job duties become even more challenging for someone like me. Because I’m the fashion queen in the group, my friends have always come to me with dilemmas. Especially for big events. So naturally, when it comes to my dress for the big day, no one wants to tell me what to wear. (Even though I promise I would if they did… I think… Okay, I might customize it a tiny bit…) So as anticipated, I’m given free reign from the Bride to find my own Maid of Honor dress. Her only request is simple- it has to be purple.
Easy for anyone else. For me- it’s my new fashion conquest.
This launches me into one of those epic fashion searches I’m famous for. And this is why I say that this particular responsibility is so much harder for someone like me. This isn’t merely just about finding a purple dress. Its about finding THE purple dress. Its about the finding the most perfect, amazing, purple dress that was ever stitched together. Its about finding the perfect dress so my Best Friend’s day is EVERYTHING she ever dreamed it would be. Because this is a day where details matter- and I’m now one of those details.
With images of terrifying bridesmaid dresses from the 80’s swimming in my head, I know the one most critical factor is to stick with something classic. Timeless. Simple. Something ageless that wont send shivers down children’s spine when they look at their Grandparents wedding pictures years from now. I can honestly tell you I have had nightmares involving those puffy sleeves… to a fashionista, they’re legit scarier than any clown.
And this is when it all happens.
I think I’m at my 35th bridal shop. I’m giving the same speech to the assistant- “…..purple. Any shade, but not too dark… long and floaty… unique, but classic… mermaid preferably…. do you have anything backless?”. This particular shop also carried pageant gowns, so I was feeling rather positive. At the very least, there would be some unique gowns to slip into and pretend. It’s like playing “Dress Up” for grown ups. So I’m in heaven, trying on gown after gown while the assistant feverishly pulls more- her determination was quite impressive. High on fashion endorphins and lost in the thrill of sequins and sinfully plunging necklines, I started to lose focus. As I admire the latest body-hugging contestant in the mirror, I suddenly realize- this dress is gold…?? Wait, what is happening? Purple… we need PURPLE!! It is then that I realize another woman is watching this parade of pageant gowns- the owner. Before I can even call for the assistant to redirect her focus back to the original mission, the owner comes to me. Turns out she had just received a new season of gowns and wanted to see them on someone. And because of my body type, I was “perfect”. Perfect meaning “big boobs, small waist and can squeeze into sample sizes”.
At the same time, a photographer was also in the shop. He shot a lot of weddings and worked with the owner of the boutique quite often. My impromptu fashion show had caught his attention. “Have you ever modeled before?” he asks. I laugh. Of course. Cause that’s what I do when I’m nervous. Or on the spot. Crazy right? I bet you thought modeling was all about vanity and self-centered attention. Wrong, wrong, wrong…. but more on that later.
I’m not sure what it was. I had been asked before. Many times before. Maybe I was just in the right mood. Maybe I was feeling all this good wedding energy. Maybe it was just simply meant to be. But I agreed to shoot with him. And just like that, it all started.
So while I didn’t find the perfect dress there, I did find something. An opportunity. A crossroads that actually became one of the most pivotal moments in my life thus far. I often wonder if the insecure side of me would have won that day, and I had said “no thank you”. Who would I be right now? Where would I be right now? What great things would I have accomplished in lue of my experiences as a result of saying “yes”? I’m not saying I’m a better person as a result- just a different person. A stronger, slightly more confident version.
Earlier I mentioned vanity. And how utterly incorrect it is to associate it with modeling. Or at least with MY modeling. I’m sure there are those who simply just enjoy having their picture taken. Who relish the attention of being the primary focus. And that’s okay- to each their own. But to assume that’s the agenda of every model is not only inaccurate, it’s unfair. I’m somewhere on the opposite end of the spectrum. You see, shoots have become a personal challenge for me. A way of growth. Of acceptance- of who I am both physically and mentally. There is no hiding from my flaws- only brutal honesty. I give up total control of how I will be presented when all is said and done. Or shot, rather.
Take a selfie for instance. We are ALL guilty of them, so bare with me here… When someone takes a selfie, they take multiple shots, right? Go on, you can admit it. I bet you even have a favorite side you prefer. You then choose the one you like best. The one that has the perfect angle. It hides what you don’t want to show, or if you cant hide it, well… you can find a filter. Or, it accentuates, or points to, what YOU want to feature. My point is, you don’t take a selfie without the intention of putting the best “you” out there.
Modeling is pretty much the opposite of that. Its like taking all those shots, never looking at them, and giving them all away to someone else so they can do whatever they want with them. Scary, right?
Yeah- that’s what I thought.
Now lets take it one step further. Think about the person that has those images. They’re zooming in on all the things you would be mortified for someone to notice. Think about your date walking up to you and pointing out that pimple you thought you covered. Or that stretch mark on your hip. Or the dimples on your thigh. Or… you get the point.
That’s how vulnerable and exposed I feel every time I step in front of the lens. My guard comes down, and the brutal physical honesty comes out. The imperfections. The flaws. Remember when you first heard your voice from something recorded? You probably thought something like “That’s not how I sound?! Is it…??”. That’s pretty much how I felt in the beginning when I looked at raw shots. I was forced to see myself in ways I had always avoided before. Or ignored. I saw the real me. I saw myself through another person’s eye. The good… the bad… the flaws. Or what I use to consider flaws. Slowly they have turned into love and acceptance. Not totally- but I’m more forgiving of myself then I ever thought I would be capable of.
So in short- for me, its a lesson in humility, as my Dad would say. Its a glimpse at reality. The sometimes very brutal truth, depending on the lighting. The truth where there is no capturing your “good side” (mine is my left). Because they will capture every side.
At the same time, its also an opportunity to open yourself. To let parts of yourself out that you normally try to silence. An opportunity to accept yourself. An opportunity to creatively express emotions or feelings. Some of my favorite shots are simple candid moments between me and the photographer. Maybe we were sharing a cigarette. Or talking about my most recent boyfriend. Maybe we were simply musing about the future. And that is where the challenge comes from. With everything I have discovered and accepted about myself, why would I even think about stopping? Especially when I know its just the beginning. I want to dig SO much deeper.
And the best part? I have images as personal proof of my evolution. Some good, some bad- all special.
Just something to consider the next time you want to call a model Vain. Perhaps its YOU that needs to dig a little deeper as well?
Like the great Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Change is the healthiest way to survive”.
And for those still wondering, of course I found “the perfect dress”. A beautiful creation by Vera Wang, and customized with a vintage brooch. I was the perfect accessory, to the perfect wedding, of the perfect couple (I love you!!).
So remember, whether your searching for a dress, or self acceptance, just follow your natural instinct. Do what feels right for YOU. Don’t be afraid to take chances. And never miss out on a chance to discover more about yourself.
Because perseverance will ALWAYS pay off.