Sometimes I come across those posts by escorts posing as models on Instagram, I see the “goals” comments by young girls and I marvel at their innocence. “They think modeling is paying for her travels,” I gather. Such innocence is cute but I hate to think that they might waste their time pursuing modeling instead of say working on a cruise ship because they’re deceived by the glamorous posts. Modeling was a great gig. I loved it at times but if you’re not doing it with the expectation of being sewn into tight garments that wouldn’t have fit otherwise and a ten hour day with crappy catering, modeling is not for you. I mostly modeled for bridal shows and conventions. I’m slim but still have hips, something that the new wave of photoshop app users would disagree with, as enhanced coke bottle hips have become increasingly popular on social media but compared to other models, I have been considered blessed in the hip to waist ratio department. This makes me an ideal candidate for bridal and lingerie but not so much for fashion week, where you need to be able to fit the smallest sample size. I never had a problem with it since I was perpetually saying yes to the dress or in honey moon garb but my well meaning family and friends always sympathetically viewed me as not having made it because I wasn’t with a major agency nor had I scored a high paid campaign. No one sees your work when you’re in showrooms and conventions but you get relatively steadier pay than for editorial and runway work. Unless of course you’re a famous supermodel, dating an MVP. If you need proof, just look up that instance when models sued for their unpaid wages. You’ll see editorials were the lowest paying gigs on the list. Print work (ads) is nice as it can pay a couple of thousand dollars but the competition is fierce and its reliant on so many factors. Before Influencer marketing, brand ambassador work was another income earner for model types. Big brands would pay a decent hourly rate to represent them and distribute samples at street fairs or concerts. Nowadays you can score the cyber equivalent of this by submitting to promote a brand on your social media.
I stress though, that you really can’t be in it for money, fame or travel. Be in it because you love dressing up, scoring freebies, getting free admission into shows and conventions other people pay big money to be admitted to and for the flexible schedule. Your 401k will be nonexistent, unless you have a flexible day job with benefits that provides it., which brings us back to the escorts posing as models. Before Instagram, the most popular types were video vixens who rarely made more than a movie extra for a day’s work and sometimes ended up at so called “industry parties” where they might either get lured into escort work or land a sugar daddy who would just sponsor their lifestyle. I never had a problem with how they chose to lead their love life; it was the dishonesty of it that irked me. One model in particular, would often ask me to attend said parties with her, without letting me in on the secret that these were actually matchmaking parties. There was no industry event being held where you’d network on a professional level with producers. Sure there was a chance that one of the men in attendance might be a producer who would throw you a line in exchange for your sweet loving but even if that’s the kind of arrangement you were looking for, you were usually selling yourself pretty short. You were more likely to get legit work by just attending castings than entering those arrangements. There were no shortcuts here. Some of these girls were driving fancy cars provided by their sponsors. Bringing new girls in for their sugar daddy’s buddies was always part of the deal so it never hurt to have your girl in a sick whip. I always failed to attend these night time gatherings because I had no one to fund my lifestyle so I had to work nights as a hostess, beer promo model, bartender, or even date night babysitter in order to have the flexibility to attend castings in the daytime. One night, however, I was finally able to make it to a shindig. My gigs had slowed down and the model invited me to a penthouse party where she said we absolutely had to have some drinks for her birthday. I worked it out with the couple I babysat for regularly so that they could have their date the following night instead.
When I arrived, there was a large group of models in the lobby, streaming towards the elevators. I went right up, admiring the beauty of the luxury building. The elevator doors opened right onto a scenic terrace that had a lush rooftop garden. Tiny but delicious hors d’oeuers were being served alongside fizzy colorful drinks. The sunset was in full effect creating that magic hour glow on everyone’s skin. Had Instagram been a thing, phones would have been whipped out for the purpose of showing off the splendor of your beauty in the golden dripping sun with an utterly appropriate background. Almost immediately, I noticed that while all the girls were my age, all the men were in their 50s. There was no mistaking the situation as there were no older women hanging around to allow you to rationalize matters as perhaps a party with well seasoned individuals in attendance. I was 21 at the time and not a single model there could have been older than 23. I should also put out the disclaimer that while I had always found older men attractive, thirty years was too big of a gap for me and none of the guests held any silver fox appeal. If they had, the sleaziness of such a planned party might have docked them of their charms anyway. My model friend latched onto me, as she could tell I was uncomfortable while a few other girls settled into the party’s atmosphere. She introduced me to the host, “Gerard”, a name I recognized from a trip she’d told me about a few months ago. “I went with Gerard to Paris Fashion week,” she’d said “but it was strictly business.” Gerard put his arm on her waist and I immediately noticed a micro stiffening in her. Gerard, in fact, didn’t notice and I could see that he didn’t consider their relationship strictly business. I wanted very badly to slip away so I pretended to be relaxed and ready to mingle. I sashayed away towards the appetizers where I noticed two other girls that weren’t interacting with their elders and made conversation with them, asking how they knew my acquaintance. After a few short minutes, we all agreed to take off together. Once we had snuck onto the elevator, I didn’t hesitate to ask if they knew if Gerard was our friend’s boyfriend.
“She says he’s not,” the younger looking one with loose wavy hair right out of a shampoo commercial started. “But let’s be real. There’s something going on there.”
“Is this the first time you come to a party with her?” asked the other model.
The shampoo commercial model and me both nodded in unison. “Well it’s a good thing it wasn’t a yacht party huh?” She joked. I smiled, not quite getting the joke but the other model erupted into laughter. A few years later, I’d find out that yacht parties are a favorite for pressuring impressionable girls into hooking up, since there is no escape route. I guess it changed the way I looked at photos of Cannes after parties forevermore.
Although I never attended another party that my friend invited me to, I saw her a few more times at a few gigs. At one show when we were getting our hair and makeup done at 5am, she bragged to everyone about a campaign she had landed. She was visibly thinner but fussed, because like me she is an in between size and wanted badly to book runway work. Most agencies want you to either be a size 4 for the general market or a size 12 for plus size. I ranged from a 4/6 to a 6/8 but I never cared enough to do anything about it to get with an agency. Getting thinner would have just been unpleasant with my already low blood pressure and gaining weight healthily would have been too expensive. Besides, I did actually like my body as it was so I wasn’t tempted to make such a great change without any sort of guarantee that I’d receive life changing money. The prospect was certainly tempting enough for her and she was dead set on gaining the weight to be plus size. She had lost enough weight to be a 4 but the agency already had a 4 with her look and they only ever took one of each type of model so fatten up she must. There was an after party later that night where Gerard showed up. I saw him smile at her and briefly wondered if maybe I was too harsh upon my first impression. Maybe, I thought, there’s something to having someone support you so you can relax and make your dreams a reality. Gerard leaned in to kiss her and when their lips met I saw hers tighten and the corners of her mouth wrinkled in momentary disgust. Nope, I thought. I couldn’t do that. A few years later I saw her on a modeling reality show and sure enough she had achieved Plus Size status. She puts up self love captions on social media, which is great but they’re misleading about the cause of her weight gain. “I gave up trying to be a size 0 and finally accepted myself. Now I actually have curves, like a real woman and ironically this is what brought me success.” Seeing those captions, you’d think her agents were pressuring her to starve herself to fit into a sample size and she bravely ignored them to embrace a healthy diet and its effects on her body. In reality, she was the one who cared enough to be represented that she was willing to fit into whichever mold they’d take her in.
The hidden cause of her weight gain isn’t as bad as the lie from early on in her career, a lie that has only grown in character now that glamour models have started parading their lifestyles, secretly supported by escorting and masquerade it as a successful modeling career. If you want to see a model at work, you will see her up at 5am in a bare room filled with chairs, tables, hair tools, makeup artists and stylists working on her for two to three hours. You’ll see her being dressed and sometimes undressed by three different people at once, if she has another look that needs to be seen immediately on the runway. You might see her outdoors if it’s a film or catalogue shoot but 90% of the time, she won’t be out on a beach or a fancy boat. If you want to have a look at her wardrobe, you’ll find sample pieces from events, shoots and and shows she’s done over the years, some couture, others independent designers. She’ll have a story about each item and she might have sold some of the bigger name pieces to make rent on the slow months. Sorry, but the closets full of Louboutins, Chanel, and YSL are rarely funded by modeling incomes. What may surprise you most of all is that despite all of that, she will still appear fulfilled, because if she has been a model that long, she is most likely doing it for the different experiences it brought her rather than for the sake of glamorous posts.