What I'm Wearing:
It was really nice to come back from a much-needed vacation and see first thing that my picture with the lovely Laura Anne made the cover of The Modern Magazine's June issue! Thanks to the amazing Harley Hall who managed with minimal lights, equipment and mostly just the ambience of Central Park in spring to make that happen. His beautiful wife did all our makeup, and I did my own hair using a set of cheap hot curlers I bought from Duane Reade years ago. The theme was 70s-inspired, so I wore feather earrings I purchased at a native American reservation in Oregon and my favorite blue wolf tee you'll probably see lots more times if you regularly read my blog (which I hope you will :)).
I think if I had a slightly different temperament it might be easier for me to focus on those good times and let the criticisms and bad times roll off my back, but I can't be anyone but myself. And I like me (in the non-narcissistic, healthy self-esteem kind of way-- I hope). Everyone who knows me well characterizes me both as very sensitive and very caring, so why would I want to change that to do better at my job? It makes me think that perhaps I should change my job instead.
My thinking has especially followed those lines since reading Tyra Banks' open letter to models regarding Vogue's recent decision to ban images of anorexia. I feel as if my difficulty with the weight issue and its attendant criticisms is less a personal flaw and more symbolic of changing times. The fashion world has reset to zero and girls like me-- size 4 girls who are healthy and happy-- are seen as "retro" (I book a LOT of jobs like the one above playing 70s girls) or (frequently) as "fat".
Here's the excerpt from Tyra's letter that's really made me think about what I'm doing:
Many of you have graciously said that you want to have the same type of career that I’ve had. But the truth is that if I was just starting to model at age 17 in 2012, I could not have had the career that I did. I would’ve been considered too heavy. In my time, the average model’s size was a four or six. Today you are expected to be a size zero. When I started out, I didn’t know such a size even existed.
I am modeling in 2012 and I am a healthy size 4 and I don't want to change that. Nor could I if I tried. I cannot function without food. There have been times I've tried liquid diets and within 36 hours I felt woozy, light-headed and very, very angry.
Here's what happened that got me thinking: a few weeks ago I shot a campaign for a very famous salon here in New York. The other girls were all size zeros, and I'm not really sure why they booked me since I'm clearly not. Except perhaps because the photographer did the booking, and he's a man. Men seem to see less of a problem with girls possessing curves. The campaign coordinator on the other hand was a woman, and she saw plenty of problems with it. Whenever her dissatisfied eyes fell on me, they spoke volumes. Each time she'd ask me as if it were the first time if I was sure I could fit into the clothes. The clothes were a size 2 and 4, and I easily fit them versus having to be pinned into them like the other girls off of whom the dresses and blouses hung making them look like little girls dressing up in their mother's clothes.
Then what few things I had going for me (like a healthy head of hair) really fell apart: the owner of the salon trimmed my bangs while they were wet (a basic rule of bang no-no), adding thick chunks to my bangs, and the result was awful. My bangs were so thick bits of them stuck straight out and the rest-- a straight-across ridge of coarse dark hair-- cast severe shadows over my face. Everyone, the other models, the beauticians, told me I looked terrible. Losing her patience with my "look" (horrible industry speak for a person's appearance), which displeased her now from head to toe, not to mention had grated on her nerves these twelve hours (from 8:30 a.m. when I arrived that morning till nearly 8 that night), the salon coordinator snapped: "Don't bother putting makeup on her; we're just going to shoot the back of her head."
When I left the salon, I began to cry and cry. Not only did I feel humiliated in front of the size zero girls (some of whom I'd worked with before and one of whom comforted me by saying: "You photograph much thinner and taller than you look in real life." (And then later wistfully added she wished she had friends, while I wondered if it would be catty to point out to her: "You photograph much sweeter than you act in real life. Could be your problem making friends there.") I also felt as if I'd let myself down on a really fundamental level by not having politely excused myself and leaving after the fifth time the shoot coordinator asked me if I was sure the turquoise pencil skirt I was wearing (and rocking might I add) really fit.
On the bright side, as Lena Dunham's character "Hannah" from Girls might say about living through a humiliating experience: "At least it gives me something to write about."
The past few weeks spent driving across country helped me have a little more perspective on "the incident" as I've come to call it. As we sped past miles and miles of wheat fields and cows and lush, green forests, I did a lot of thinking and let go of a lot of the negative emotions that were clouding my thoughts. It especially helped when we finally made it to the thin, cold airy land of Colorado where the mountains reign supreme across the sky looking like hunched-up old Zen masters shaking their hoary heads over all our twittering trivial issues. I realized that ultimately what really bothers me is having my own vision and ideals superseded by a world view I don't agree with: I don't think size 4 is fat, yet I do feel fat. And I don't think it's okay to treat people like objects, yet I allowed myself to be objectified.
I'm not sure if being the industry's only, lonely size 4 model in 2012 is a worthy cause to commit myself to, but I know that's at least where I'm at... until I can find a worthier one anyway. But I guess I'll have to figure out where I'm going along the way.
And lacking my own conclusions, I'd love to hear other women's thoughts on this topic. Thank you in advance for your support and comments.