I’m back with another post about modelling. In previous ones, I gave you an insight into our everyday life – I talked about travelling, earnings and some nuances of being a model. Hopefully, you now have a better idea of it all. All the things I’ve written about so far are what I would have wanted to know when I was beginning my career.
So this title probably has you thinking – what’s she talking about?
Today, I’m here to talk about certain difficulties and risks of being a young model. I want to begin by saying that I don’t want to discourage or scare anyone. My goal is for you, the reader, to gain some awareness in this topic. If you’re a model who’s just starting out or is thinking to sign a modelling contract – even better! You’re in the perfect place.
Most models begin their career at a young age, like 15 or 16. I’m not even sure if that’s the right word – career. It makes you think that when you get signed with an agency – bam! Success! But not all models are successful. Not all models make money. In my last post, you’ll find out more about that as I talk openly about earnings in modelling.
Some girls stop modelling just a few months after they start. And this is not always because of being rejected by agencies abroad or not getting any jobs.
In fact, it’s often about their health, relations with friends and family. The pressure they feel and school issues. As I’ve been saying a few times before…this is not a typical job. It requires sacrifices. Having people around you who support you is crucial. It makes everything a whole lot easier for a 15-year-old girl who suddenly has her life changed quite dramatically.
Of course, it’s not like anybody’s forcing girls into becoming models. It’s just that when stepping into this world, not many realise what really awaits them.
What are the risks of becoming a model? How does the life of a young girl change in modelling? What difficulties do beginner models face?
Under this word lies a wide spectrum of issues. Excessive amounts of stress, altered eating habits, having to lose weight, having to gain weight as well.
No matter the body shape, models are required to keep certain measurements. 60 cm around the waist and 89 cm around the hips. If you’re more suited to commercial jobs (such as beauty product campaigns), agencies usually aren’t as strict about measurements. If you’re more of a lingerie/swimwear model, a healthy, slim physique is more important than those numbers. It all depends on the body type.
Nobody can change their bone structure, though. If you have wider set hip bones, it can be impossible to come down to 89 cm without your bones becoming really visible. Losing body fat may often lead to hormonal imbalances. Periods stopping or becoming very irregular are a common symptom.
Talking with models all over the world, I’ve noticed how many of them suffer from thyroid issues – hypothyroidism, for instance. Of course, it’s not only a growing problem among models but women in general. I have a bit of an underactive thyroid myself. That’s why I’ve become interested in the subject and will definitely be writing about dealing with thyroid conditions in the near future.
Some models don’t have regular eating habits and their body weight fluctuates. They get skinnier in time for fashion weeks, after which they put the lost weight back on. That’s because it’s the body’s natural reaction to hold on to fat when it finally gets a decent amount of calories again.
This fluctuating body weight and other issues I mentioned are a lot to handle for a person already going through puberty.
Fortunately, there’s been a slight shift in the modelling world. There’s a new law in France, saying models are required to have a medical certificate stating that they’re physically healthy and able to work.
Takeaway message: Health is and should be your number one priority. Whatever agencies or people at work will be telling you, do what you feel is right and take care of your body.
Modelling brings a lot of new responsibilities for young girls to take on. Taking care of your finances is a big one. You have to pay attention and fight for what’s yours when it comes to payments, overtime hours of work or image usage. By image usage I mean a brand has to pay you differently depending on where they’re putting your face – on their online shop or on a huge billboard.
A helpful thing to do is write down jobs you’ve had – the client, the rate, the hours you did or anything else you think is important. When you get your statement from an agency, you will also have your own statement to compare, just to check if nothing is missing. I talk more about money-oriented issues here.
And last but not least…school. Surely, how well you’re able to combine modelling and education depends on what kind of school you attend and your determination to make the two work together. I remember when I was in high school and had no bigger problems when I moved to Milan for 45 days. A few teachers were making it more difficult for me when I got back and were sulking that I wasn’t being serious about my education. Most of them were very supportive, though. From my experience, school isn’t nearly as big of a problem as studying at university daily.
Living by yourself…
Although this might sound like I’m talking about 10-year-olds, when you’re 15 and travelling for a long time, living without your parents may turn out to be quite a struggle. As someone who was very attached to my mum and dad at the time, the first days of my first few contracts were a nightmare. I would cry a lot because I missed my parents and because I realised that I would have to manage on my own for the next month or two.
Without a doubt, this depends on your relations with your parents. If your contacts are not so wonderful, it may turn out that going away will make your relationship stronger.
Suddenly you have to take care of making dinner, doing all the shopping and laundry. You know, the normal stuff that usually parents take care of. Get used to living with other people, too – most likely older models. This means being responsible for things around the house. It’s so crucial to get along with your flatmates – it will make your life much easier when you have their support if something’s troubling you or you need their help.
…in a new city
Getting around a huge city in a foreign country where everyone speaks a different language – now that’s a challenge. Usually, on the first day of a contract, you get a long list of castings to attend. So, you need to figure out how the metro works and do it quickly, too. Get a public transport card, find the address, ask people for directions.
Not only that – you might get a job in another city, which also means managing in train stations or airports by yourself. It’s no easy task if you’re only used to travelling with friends or family during holidays. Here you have the thought that a job awaits you and you’re the one responsible for getting there on time.
By the age of 16, let’s say, we’ve probably all gone through years of English lessons at school. Using the language in real life when you really need it can be a different thing. Most girls know enough English to communicate with agencies and get along with new roommates. It’s absolutely essential to understand the basics of the language. Otherwise, you can become lonely and find it hard to talk to your agency or people at work.
Parties, PRs, new people
When you’re waiting in line for a casting on a contract, PRs will often come up to you. PRs are guys who ask you to come to parties with them for free. They often offer money for a night out, a taxi ride and dinner at a luxurious restaurant. You might be thinking they would want something in return…
In truth, clubs pay PRs for any girl that comes for the night simply because it attracts more people. I personally went out with a PR twice in Paris with two girls I was living with at the time. It didn’t feel weird or anything and I knew I could trust this person. I was mostly curious and wanted to see if I liked it. I didn’t, really – but that’s because nightclubs aren’t my thing.
Many girls are good friends with PRs and they make additional money out of parties. What anyone does is their choice, I’m not judging. Anyway, it’s better to be careful because you never know what kinds of people you might come across.
So far, I’ve had a good experience staying with other models in one apartment. I often became friends with them during my stay abroad. But I do recall a few unpleasant situations I had to deal with.
You will be living with all sorts of people (unless you decide to rent out something by yourself). Older people, most of the time. Some are messy and leave food in the sink. Some steal food or personal belongings. Others come home in the middle of the night, drunk, banging on the door to let them in because they forgot their keys. The list goes on.
I won’t be mentioning encouraging drug use, because it hasn’t happened to me or anyone I know well. But it can occur. Remember, these are underage girls I’m talking about here. The older we get, the easier it is for us to be assertive. We just make it clear we won’t be tolerating something. But for the younger ones, it takes a lot of courage to show you won’t be agreeing to everything.
Situations at work
Nudity when it’s not agreed, freezing in the cold and not getting any food or breaks. Sounds a bit extreme, right? I’m not exaggerating, although it’s not like we see these things every day. I have had a couple of situations where I knew I just had to say ‘enough’. Such problems are being talked about more often than before, especially on social media. However, it doesn’t stop some people from taking advantage of young girls who are too afraid to say no. I’m not talking about sex here. It’s about doing things you’re really uncomfortable with.
As I’m writing this, I feel I’m getting a bit emotional because I’ve experienced some of it myself. Yes, it’s our job to be outside in the cold wearing only a bikini sometimes. To pose in weird positions with our neck aching and muscles twitching. So is spending half of our time travelling. It’s all completely normal – every job has its downsides.
But it should never come so far to the point at which we feel someone’s forgetting were human. What’s stayed in my mind are numerous shoots I had when I was 16, out in the cold, paid nearly nothing. I was often sick the next day. But what I remember more clearly is how everyone else was wrapped up in warm clothes, discussing what photos to choose, while I still had to wait in the same position. I regret to say this, but situations like this sometimes happen at shoots which are not paid – like test shoots and magazines.
I realise that if I had said something, they would have noticed I could barely feel my hands. And they would have given me something warm while I waited. But I didn’t speak up because I didn’t even think it was appropriate. It’s not like they were bad people, of course…the whole team was just so excited about the project that they paid no attention to the model.
That’s why I wish I could go back in time and yell at my younger self to stand up for herself. I had no idea how to do that. Hardly ever anybody else will do it for you. So that’s why the only thing I can do is share my thoughts and hopefully give courage to those girls who need it. Because there’s a line nobody should cross.
So… should all of this stop you from becoming a model? Definitely not. The question is whether you’re mentally ready to start this career because it ’s important to mature quickly if you decide to do so. Health and well-being are a priority. Always.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why you should think twice about starting a modelling career. It requires taking more care of your eating habits and making sure you’re not damaging your health. Managing your finances and school responsibilities at once. Being abroad by yourself is even more challenging. There’s one word I want to focus on:
Assertiveness. Being confident enough to say no in a well-behaved manner. It’s such an important skill to develop to stay true to your values. The majority of 16-year-olds are not very assertive… and that’s why I’m putting so much emphasis on it.
What about me? Do I regret starting modelling from a rather early age? It’s a question without one simple answer. But yes, I mostly regret it. I was emotionally weak. I wasn’t looking after my body the way I was supposed to. Skipping meals because I felt I didn’t have the time to eat. Taking every ‘no’ or ‘next girl, please’ way too personally. I matured sooner that my peers because of all my experiences, I suppose.
You’re never going to be 100 % ready for any challenging situation. I definitely wasn’t. So what do I actually regret, if ‘not being ready’ is inevitable? Especially when you’re underage? Well, I regret not talking to all the models I came across so I could listen to their advice and experiences. When somebody who’s already gone what you’re going through tells you what to expect and how to react – it’s priceless. And that’s what I would wish for any girl beginning a modelling career.