I began coaching beginner models for well-intentioned reasons.
Just prior to that time, I had made the decision to quit modeling after nearly thirty years in the business. I was very much at peace with that decision - I’d had enough. Within a year or so after having left the biz, an acquaintance of mine introduced me to a young woman who was interested in modeling and she asked me if I’d help connect her with a modeling agency. My initial reaction was ‘absolutely not’, knowing the unhealthy nature of the business, but she was adamant. I took a look at some photos of the young woman, and in my opinion, she had great potential as a model. I hesitated to connect with her, however, because I didn’t want to be someone who was responsible for getting her into a business that I knew firsthand to be an unhealthy career choice for young women. When I met with her, I told her just that. I found myself asking her questions about her life and her interests so that I could gauge the state of her self-esteem. I told her that I would agree to connect her with an agency if she would allow me check in with her periodically as a caring mentor, and she enthusiastically agreed.
We went together to meet with the director of a modeling agency in Chicago, a woman I trusted and liked very much. After the young woman’s interview, I told the director that I would love to be available to her new models, should they want advice and mentoring. She loved the idea, and so began my coaching career.
Spending time with so many beginner models was fulfilling for me and fun for them, but I couldn’t shake the thought that I did not advocate modeling as a career choice. There I was, helping these young ladies, yet longing to beg them to get out of the biz while they were still young and able to explore more stable and meaningful career choices. In other words, healthier career choices. I felt like a hypocrite, which is the main reason I stopped coaching models, and why I haven't posted a blog article in quite some time.
The business of modeling will always exist. While I am pleased with some of the ways in which modeling has evolved since I got into the business, I know that it will never be a career choice that I could, in good conscience, advocate for anyone.
With all of this being said, to the models with whom I’ve had the pleasure of coaching and spending time getting to know, please accept my apology. What I really wanted to say to you (and your parents) was: consider asking more from yourself – something deeper and of more substance.
To anyone who has visited my site with the hopes of becoming a model, I sincerely hope that you reconsider. It is so easy to lose your sense of true self-worth in this business. I have found that most people believe that modeling provides a life of glamour and ease. I wish someone would’ve spent some time with me when I was 15 years old as a beginner model to have helped me look deeper within myself to determine exactly what was so appealing to me about modeling: things such as traveling the world, meeting people from different cultures, getting to know artists and other creative people. That’s what was appealing to me about the idea of modeling. At that time, I believed that modeling would be the only way that I would be able to travel and meet people from different cultures, etc., which is simply not true.
I don’t regret having said yes to becoming a model, but I do believe that it stunted and prolonged the healthy development of my self-esteem as a young adult. Not every single model has low self-esteem or the potential to be dragged down and soul-crushed by the difficult aspects of the business, but why put yourself in the position of finding out if you’re one who could be negatively affected?
If you are still hell-bent on becoming a model, please understand that, to your agency, you are, first and foremost, simply a commodity - not also a sensitive person with feelings, goals, needs, talents, or moral values.
Is that ok with you?
If so, why?
If not, I encourage you to dig deeper within yourself to discover a more satisfying and sustainable life path. As I mentioned in one of my blog posts, "beauty is not for nothin'", HOWEVER: there is so much more for you to discover within yourself than just physical beauty.
*image: Lisa Merlo-Booth