“Here,” the photographer said. He slid my portfolio back across the table.
“Really,” I thought? He didn’t even look up. I broke my neck getting to this “go see,” learning new streets–in a city I didn’t know–taking hot subways to get here on time and this photographer doesn’t even look at me?
That’s what breaking into modeling was like when I first started that hot summer in New York City, 32 years ago.
Until then, I was successful at most everything I’d tried in school, so it was easy to wonder, what’s wrong with me? I was 18, alone in New York City, trying to fit into a job I never dreamed of doing; a job others would die for. I thought about my friends who were partying and having a stress-free summer before college. They weren’t counting calories or worrying about their looks. They weren’t lost in the Big Apple, trying to find their way in a new job they didn’t even want. Most days I felt depressed, isolated and hungry. Don’t get me wrong. I was blessed. I just didn’t feel it some days.
It was hard, lonely work. There were days the agency sent me on “go sees” all day. I never knew who was important, or who I should talk to. Some studios had models all made-up on set, looking cool and collected, while I stood there waiting, feeling harried and very much an outsider. I fought the feelings of rejection a lot back then. My day could be ruined from a bad reaction to my portfolio. Is it me? Do I belong here? Some of the rudest people—the ones who didn’t look me in the eye—were the ones who booked me, while the ones who talked and laughed with me didn’t necessarily mean work.
Sometimes I worked three different jobs a day, at three different studios. I was getting the best advice, from the best professionals in the world, but I had to learn to let certain criticisms grow and others fall to the ground. In hindsight, it was a good thing.
I learned not to compare myself to others; to accept myself the way I am, right this minute, and to accept that others will never be the way I want them to be. Each person is unique. It’s not my job to change them. I learned to focus on the positive because if I focus on the negative, I fail in what I’m trying to accomplish. If I’m having a bad day, I take the focus off me–and my circumstance–and help someone else. That always makes me feel better.
We’re all put in situations that test and stretch us into better people—or worse—depending on how we handle things. Look where you are, today, and accept that more than likely, you’re where you’re supposed to be. Be thankful. One day, you may look back and realize it was the best thing for you! Hindsight!