Updated: Apr 5, 2021
I was 20 years old in NYC, at my new modeling agent’s office. I had been modeling for five years, which felt like an eternity at that time, and had been working in New York for about a year. I had recently switched from a large agency that had branches all over the globe, to this small ‘boutique’ agency. At my former agency, I had been feeling lost in the vast sea of models. Someone told me about *Estelle’s agency (*not her real name. I refer to her as Estelle because when I think of her now, she reminds me of Joey Tribbiani’s agent, 'Estelle', on the show ‘Friends’. Same NY accent, same constant cigarette), and I was hoping to get some more one-on-one attention from this new agent.
Estelle was a brash-yet-grandmotherly character. She always had nuggets of wisdom for me. To a young girl who skipped the college life to pursue modeling, and had been traveling the globe on her own for three long years, this sort of ‘education’ and communion was something I sorely needed. I hadn’t realized how much I needed those components in my life until I began spending time with Estelle. At that point in my career, I seemed to be getting fewer and fewer bookings. Since I had more time on my hands, I frequently found myself hopping into a taxi to go see her.
I was at the agency with her one day when she squinted her eyes at me and said, “Whatsamatter, Erin dear. Something’s a’matter. What – is it hard to be so beautiful or something?”
That made us both laugh.
“I don’t know, Estelle,” I said.
“I’ve never thought of things that way before. But I do wonder if this is all there is in life – you know, feeling like people only care about my body and my face. There’s so much more to me. This job has nothing to do with my talents or knowledge.”
Estelle’s reply stuck with me:
“It sounds like you’re bored with this career. I think you are. This happens to models, I’ve seen it time and again. So, you’re making a living with your looks. Do you think beauty is unimportant? Let me tell you something, Erin: people SEEK OUT beauty. My advice? Make your money now, and then go to school or buy a farm and have kids or whatever it is a girl like you wants to do. But right now, be the beauty that people are seeking. It’s rare. You know what? Beauty is not for nothin’.”
That made me realize something significant: At that time I had never thought of Beauty as all that important - quite the opposite, in fact. If I had given it any thought, I would’ve said that Beauty (at least the PHYSICAL kind) was a hindrance. A distraction. Misleading. And perhaps it can be those things. Especially when you’re 20 years old and the object of what is considered to be that Beauty by society. To me, being considered beautiful became detrimental and downright confusing. It was difficult for me to navigate. It was a façade - one that I sometimes enjoyed, but didn’t feel represented the real Me. I truly believed that if no one seemed to care about what ELSE I had to offer, why should I care? This tells me that I was, no doubt, too under-confident and too inexperienced in life to understand Beauty’s inherent power and significance. Had I been able to separate my true, inner self from the outer self that everyone saw, would I have had a more successful career? I believe that the answer to that is Yes.
Something that may be surprising to people is that a model is NOT her physicality. Her physicality is simply her business. A model is, first and foremost, a human being. A human being who possesses physical attributes that society has labeled as beautiful or ideal or appealing. If a beginner model can consider her Beauty as her business, and separate that from her self-worth, her career can have a better net-worth.
Young women who enter into the world of modeling need more guidance. One of the many things that I feel must change in the business is that agents need to treat each of their models less like a commodity and more like human being. Some young models already have this knowledge, but no matter – they still need people around them in the business who understand the importance of helping to cultivate their inner confidence. Confidence and self-love beget even more Beauty. I now know for sure that what’s inside that Beauty matters. It’s definitely not for nothin’.