“Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” said the gorgeous actress Kelly LeBrock in a 1986 shampoo commercial. See it here:
I was thirteen years old when that commercial was on the air, for what seemed like every commercial break, and the message confused me. Were beautiful women to be hated?
If I grew up to become a woman who wasn't considered beautiful, did that mean I could avoid being hated? If I grew up to become beautiful, would I be hated? Was it good to be hated or envied in that way? These were the thoughts going through my thirteen year old head after watching that commercial.
As I was growing up, there were all kinds of confusing messages like this about being a woman. Commercials, like the one with Kelly LeBrock, were commonplace. The Miss America pageant was televised every September, not to mention the other times during the year when there was Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss Universe, and Miss World. I may even be forgetting some others. On MTV, which I watched almost daily during my pre-teen and teenage years, the vast majority of music videos featured bikini-clad women who were idealized, and depicted as unattainable or conceited. I was just the right age to be confused and disgusted by all of this, yet also curious and intrigued. (The pageants, however, only confused and disgusted me. They horrified me!)
Here are just a few of the videos I remember being shown over and over and over again on MTV during that time...'She's A Beauty', anyone? 'Legs'.....'Girls Girls Girls'.....What's a girl to think? :
When I was sixteen years old, my agency, Ford, asked me to be a participant in their yearly pageant called Supermodel of the Year. Even though I wanted to do what my agency asked of me in order to be successful, there was no way I could ever say yes to being in a pageant. If I had wanted to be a “pageant girl”, I would’ve gone that route. Nothing in the world could’ve gotten me to parade around on a stage to be judged for my looks in a setting such as that. It was happening behind the scenes, anyway, but at least I didn’t have to be made immediately aware of it. As much as I wanted to take the advice of my agents, parading around in a pageant-style contest wasn’t something I was willing to do.
It’s ok to say no.
I was modeling in Paris in 1994 when my agent sent me to an audition for which I was specifically requested to attend with a select few other models. It was for a scene in a movie directed by Robert Altman called Ready to Wear (Prêt à Porter). I was told that it was projected to be a huge hit and had a star-studded cast: Julia Roberts, Kim Basinger, Tim Robbins, Forest Whitaker, Sophia Loren, and Lauren Bacall, to name just a few of the actors. That seemed legitimate to me, so I said yes to the audition. When I got to the casting agency, I was informed that the scene involved simply walking down a runway. Easy, I thought! Here was the catch: We wouldn’t be wearing any clothes on the runway. None. The scene would be several of us models walking naked down the runway. As soon as I heard that, I ran for the exit. My agency was upset with me. Too bad. I was upset with them for presuming that that sort of situation would be ok with me. But then, I had never told them that it wasn’t ok with me.
It’s ok to say no.
I knew some of the models who chose to be in that nude runway scene. I don't think that they were wrong for having chosen to do it. It just wasn’t for me, and I knew that about myself. Call me a prude, but I have my boundaries. My agency submitted me for that nude runway audition because I had never previously let them know that I didn’t want to be naked in front of a camera. See that nude runway scene from Ready to Wear here:
My boundaries in this biz have remained intact since then, with a few more added.
What are your boundaries? What will you absolutely not say yes to as a model?
Know what your boundaries are.
Let your agency know sooner rather than later so that there won’t be any problems down the road.
Setting boundaries in your career holds so much weight. The entire future of the business of being beautiful can shift for the better if every model exercises her right to be respected.