It’s 3.34 PM in Los Angeles, and I am sad.
Ever since I started modeling, friends, even very close friends, former roommates – people I only have positive feelings towards – have unfollowed or blocked me on Instagram, where I post most of my recent work, and other social media.
Without saying a word, or asking me where this change of job has come from. I know having gotten my B.A. and suddenly working as a fashion model in Los Angeles seems like the most random change of lifestyle, but there was an opportunity, I was curious and craved knowing what this industry was truly like. My adventure spirit and hunger for new things has always been immense and so I gave it a shot. Despite my education, background, and other passions in life, I decided to try something new.
None of many of the people who have recently decided to silently fall out of my life ever asked me any questions, or in any way personally inquired about why I am doing something like this.
I wish I could be as “I don’t give a f*ck” in real life as I portray in some of my photos but I am and always have been a very (overly) sensitive person.
Today, someone I have known all my life unfollowed me too, wordlessly. The past two times I saw him in person, he was very passive aggressive with me and barely spoke a word, not about modeling or anything else.
I feel like some of the people once closest to me are starting to turn on me, are ashamed… I see that some friends can’t bear to see the sight of me, on virtual platforms or otherwise.
I wish people would ask, “Hey, what’s up with this modeling thing?” I had a close friend admit that she and another friend wondered where this came from, since the industry seemed like “such a non-Simone thing”. I appreciated their honesty.
And they’re right – this industry isn’t fully my thing. I don’t love fashion. I can’t remember the last time I read a fashion magazine. I like to eat and I eat abundantly. I’m not an itty-bitty model nor will I ever be, and it has cost me many jobs. So no, it’s not glamorous. Despite being signed to an agency I am not guaranteed any work and do 80+% of my photo shoots for free in hopes that they will lead to paid jobs later. I drive all over southern California, live out of my car most of the day, and teach Yoga and Zumba at the crack of dawn or late at night to try to make ends meet, but they don’t.
I am a twelve-hour flight away from my family and only made it through the first month here thanks to their long-distance support and the kindness of the ONLY friend I had in the entire city, Daniel. He let me crash on his couch and live in his living room despite the discomfort it caused him and his roommate. In one month, I got a license, a used car, found a shared living situation, signed with a bicoastal agency and started piecing together a new life. With no stability, and a lot of (mostly self-induced) pressure. I was told to drop weight before I would get signed so while putting together a life, I was in the gym twice daily and ate less than normal (though my normal, to be fair, is a lot).
No one cooks for me, no one cleans for me, no one manages me, no one does my schedule or other logistic work – I do everything by myself, I work tirelessly every day either on set, at castings, or trying to find more paid work online yet according to the government, I qualify for Medicare and Food stamps because my income is so low.
I worked minimum wage shifts stocking supplies at 3 am when I first got here because I was so terrified of not being able to make rent.
My family will help me for another few months to at least cover gas and groceries but after that, I will be forced to find a 9-5 unless things change. I feel ridiculous being in this situation after graduation from a top university, and I don’t think I can do it much longer.
But I wanted to see what it was like. The realities are harsh. Models are some of the least protected professionals among LEGAL professions in the developed world. Read this article for more reference http://money.cnn.com/…/news/runway-injustice-mod…/index.html
H&M would have offered me a grand total of 200 dollars for an editorial. Minus taxes and agency commission, it would be about 150 dollars for a full day’s work, when other days I work for 0 dollars.
H&M, Vogue, Sports Illustrated – the biggest brands get away with no or very low pay because models work for free hoping their appearance will land them more work of prestige.
Unfortunately, with social media nowadays, free advertising is changing the game and “instafamous” people or so-called “influencers” are taking much of the market where professional models used to have an edge.
Now, a teenage girl with a large following can, from her bedroom, do that work for free, and so many companies stop paying altogether.
This is why in the last couple of years, the new big models – Gigi, Cara, Kendall – are all daughters of extremely wealthy, well-connected, entertainment industry parents. Connections, like in many other industries, are everything.
I, and many other normal girls with “model physiques” (this just means you’re tall and proportionate, nothing else) don’t have that advantage. So we are slowly a dying breed, but I would not have known that had it not been for my own experience in the industry.
People are so quick to judge. I have never been more me than now, now that I’m doing something a lot of girls dream of because I wanted to take a risk. I tried, it wasn’t what I thought it would be, my loving parents were confused but they understood. You HAVE to live, you have to try. And I’m not done trying. But I can now full-heartedly say that this has been more blood, sweat, tears, and being told you are fat at a size 4, than I want to repeat.
I thank my family and friends who have taken such kind interest and have shown me support no matter what they believe about models. I’m not just a “model”. I am passionate about non-profits. I studied Sociology and dream about equal opportunities for children across races, socioeconomic backgrounds, religions, gender identity and sex. My dream is to work to advance the causes I care about, starting at an NGO that addresses said issues. I speak 7 languages fluently. I am a certified yoga and dance teacher.
Yet whether or not I work today depends on how flat my stomach and thighs are. One inch, and the job goes to one of the other hundreds of modelesque girls that populate cities like LA, New York, Paris and Milan.
My agent tells me that 90% of the jobs still go to blonde white girls despite the belief that diversity is growing. In the modeling industry, being told you have a “healthy” body is an insult. You either have to be extremely thin or plus-sized. Me, in the mid range – there’s not much demand there. I want to stand for body positivity and self-love, but it’s hard when your own healthy body is suddenly the enemy.
Out west, I don’t have loved ones to come home to to say it ain’t so.
This is why it hurts so much more when people I thought had my back, decide to turn.
Yes, I am a model. It’s an addition to my experiences in life. An addition, not a change, and definitely not a contradiction.
Since when does a job define you? It’s like judging someone by their race, class, or gender. How dare we jump to conclusions, especially about people we actually know? Or knew…
If I have a daughter who wants to model, or a friend whose daughter wants to model thinking it is glamorous and amazing, I will now be able to give honest, first-hand insight into the realities of that world and I would not trade that ability for anything.
Above all, despite the hurt, I am grateful to the many of you who are still here for me, virtually. Thank you for listening. I moved out to LA alone and the truest support I have is from my friends and family far away who send me good vibes no matter the distance. Other than that, I spend 95% of my time completely alone here. Most days, I don’t talk to anyone face-to-face unless I just met them that day for a one-time job, and will probably never see them again. They don’t know me, nor do they have the desire to, and it is simply part of a professional relationship like in any other industry.
It’s lonely, but I knew that. I was ready. The only surprise is being left by people you thought cared. When they decide to disappear from your life, too, you start to question yourself. I know it’s passive aggressive and immature silent judgment, but right now I won’t pretend I always have thicker skin. It hurts.
So this is me. A girl who tried to be everything and nothing specific all in one, hungry for experiencess and daring in, what many would call, a totally unrealistic way.
Here is to creating our own realities. I thank those of you who are still part of mine.
I love you all for listening, and even if you still think what I’m doing is ridiculous, I appreciate your interest and I only hope you are happy, genuinely and always.