Are You A Model?
The answer is no.
According to layfolk, I have all the qualifications to be one. In reality I have a good 15 to 20 pounds on the average model and can’t fit in today’s sample sizes; I’m not complaining, I just know what’s up. Strangers ask quite frequently, “How tall are you?” “Without heels?” “I can tell by the way you walk you model” “You should definitely model!!!. You’d be great at it.” Ehhhhhhh...
A thousand years ago I did model and wanted to be a model. From the time I was 13 years old until about 22 I wanted to walk (runway) in Paris, Milan, Tokyo, and New York. I wanted to travel and see beautifully made clothes and the ateliers of my most admired designers. But I didn’t want it enough to put up with the sexual harassment from sleazy photographers or their assistants, worrying that I ate too much, stressing about breakouts, lost sleep and autonomy, and the constant competition with dozens of other girls who looked just like me for the one available black-girl-spot at whatever shoot or agency. I was young and not ready for that kind of life. It’s not as glamorous as is advertised and can be pretty thankless for your typical runway model. Turnover is high for a reason. Lastly, I was “too” big (5’10” 135lbs) for runway despite having a perfect walk and attitude. Though I felt thoroughly validated when the late great Willi Ninja had no critique for me when I was sent by my agency to his catwalk workshop (yes those are things). I was constantly told I had a late 80s/early 90s model’s body. If you look at the greats from that era while they are thin they look healthy and fit (and still do), but in the late 90s and early aughts that look was not in. So I was not in.
Mentally, I went to a place where I was highly critical of every inch of my body and all I saw were flaws. “I won’t get the job because my acne is crazy or my acne is under control but all the PIH! What about my thighs? Too muscular. I can only walk dresses.” They, scouts/agents and talent coordinators, suggested I get the muscle in my legs shaved and while I was at it maybe I could get my nose slimmed. Y’all. No. It’s as crazy as it sounds and when I sat down and got real with myself I knew this was not something I could do. I made up my mind that I would only ever model again if I were an equal participant in the creative direction of a project which meant no more modeling for me. Plus, unless I could tap into whatever elixir of life Naomi Campbell has been bathing in my working years would be short and I would be struggling for a good many of them. I decided it just wasn’t for me and walked away.
But I needed to heal from the many years of criticism and nitpicking that I did to myself and the attitude that applied that same critical lens onto others. I was toxic and had forgotten who I was. That I was in my twenties and still very impressionable and actively trying to figure out who the fuck I was, as most people have to do at that age, didn’t help. What’s ironic is I believe that now, if I wanted to model again, I could walk the agencies and handle the criticism and douchebags with ease and view the job as a fun though tiring paycheck. I'm more sure of myself than I've ever been and more polished because I know me again. I took myself out of the box that I helped put me in and learned that no one thing had to define every aspect of my life.
I’ve come a very long way since then. I recognize that strangers don’t know what my experiences are and mostly don’t intend to be intrusive. Generally I just let it go but sometimes it gets to me. Sometimes.