Being back in Milan last week for a day was not only amazing as always but also a moment of reflection. 10 years have passed since my very first time to not only the city but also the country. It's weird that no matter how much time has passed by, the places I used to frequent were the same in so many ways but I was not.
While there I got the chance to meet up with a good friend who models in the city. Our casual chats took me on a stroll through memory lane. Memories worth remembering. Memories definitely worth forgetting. Memories of a shy introvert small town medical student going to the fashion capital of the world to model in an industry where one is constantly being judged. You're either not thin enough, tall enough, beautiful enough and the list goes on. It's a harsh hard reality. Not quite the glamorous life that most would expect. Modelling in South Africa was one thing, but modelling in a foreign country where you know no-one, can't speak the language and it's your first time staying away from your home country... is a whole different story. By far one of the most defining experiences of my life which taught me these 3 things:
1. Love yourself
This has to be one of the hardest things to learn, but perhaps the most important one. The first step was concentrating on all the things I did actually like about myself and the second learning to accept myself as I am with all my imperfections. So you may be thinking, what do I know about imperfections? Well, a lot actually. I have really bad stretch marks over my inner thighs, cellulite, sunken eyes, dark circles, eczema, lots of hyperpigmented marks and the list goes on. I used to constantly worry about what the casting directors would think or worse yet what a client that had booked me would think. Not to mention what the makeup artist or photographer would think. Should they have gotten another model cause the photos are just horrendous because of me? I was overly self consious and then again maybe I still am to a degree.
Its a strange juxtpostition when you see yourself one way but other people see you in another. I didn't quite understand why people would stare or follow me around the streets of Milan. Nor did I understand why people would randomly want to take photos with me as they still occasionally want to in the present day. What is it that they saw that I didn't? Perception is a strange thing. I've learnt to accept it as a compliment and a reminder to not be so judgemental on myself.
2. You are your brand
I have always believed in showing kindness, being respectful and showing professionalism in everything that I do. So when I heard back from people, who praised my professionalism and or kindness, I was over the moon to be remembered in a postive light. More often than not one always hears the stories of a model being a diva or being difficult to work with. I guess actions definitely speak louder then words especially when language is a barrier.
3. Be confident
Being a shy mouse made the casting directors even more intimidating then they already are. The experience could not have gotten any worse. I figured I needed to do something to make these castings more bearable. So I decided to pucker up some courage and actually attempt to have a conversation with the casting directors in a clear and confident voice. This was by far the best thing I did. It made the casting directors appear more human. Although they were occasionally still harsh and I may not have gotten the job, I certainly felt alot better about myself.
The castings were only half the battle. When it came to shooting for a job, I used to spend the time in front of the camera thinking about what everyone else was thinking. Was the expression on their faces, the secret conversations one of regret about having hired me? The overthinking and second guessing was consuming. Instead of concentrating on the job at hand, I was thinking about everything else leading to poor photos and probably the reaction I had thought up in my head and feared. It was a vicious cycle to say the least. So how did a break the cycle? I started to ask questions about what I could do better and if the shots were okay. This way instead of thinking up things, I was getting useful actionable insights and could better concentrate on the job at hand.
I am sure many (if not all) of you have had defining experiences in your life from which you have learnt alot. If you would care to share your story, pop a comment below as I would love to hear your story.