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On Aging Out of the Modelling Industry
February 2, 2014 1:48 PM   Subscribe

"I often think about my place in the modelling world and how my career is almost over. It’s sad and exciting at the same time. Once I’m not waiting for emails about castings or booking my next facial, I’ll put my energy into something that won’t make me feel worthless."
posted by rcraniac (39 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well maybe director James Gunn can help a lady out.
posted by Auden at 2:07 PM on February 2


She's pretty super hilarious online, I started following her on Twitter on the advice of my best friend. I hope she keeps writing!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 2:09 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


I used to read Elyse Sewell's wonderfully witty blog; she stopped it without explanation one day, which is a pity but I'm sure she had her reasons.

I heard she is working as a town planner in Albuquerque or something these days which sounds just about random enough to be true.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:20 PM on February 2 [6 favorites]


Elyse on the chemical construction of beauty. (1.20 or so)
posted by Sebmojo at 2:28 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


Needing to look perfect all the time with an already fucked-up brain chemistry is not a great combination.

Not a business to be in without bucket loads of confidence.
posted by arcticseal at 2:46 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


I say this with a boatload of bias: one of my kids was approached to be a model and had the beginnings of a modeling career and did some BIGNAME work by the time she was 16 but then she decided when she 17 that she wanted a career and decided to go to college.

Modeling is a choice. Nobody's forcing this woman to do this for a living. So I find it difficult to feel sympathy for the fact that her career may be over any day now. She's not modeling against her will, she made a choice.
posted by kinetic at 2:59 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


If Reality TV has taught us anything, it's that it sucks to be a model.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 3:03 PM on February 2


Yeah, it made me think of this quote:
"You need to...be able to walk in heels, not fall over constantly, not cry when you get naked, and have a thick skin about jerks."
Which was from this FPP about what it's like to be a stripper. There are definitely some similarities between the two careers, and the importance of self-confidence is one of them.

The author sounded so anxious it made me feel anxious reading it. Why put yourself through something as stressful as choosing to base your working life around your looks when you are insecure about your looks?

I worked as a makeup artist for a while and the successful models are the ones who have not a doubt in their heads that they're amazing. But it takes more than that - which I think is a point Elyse was missing in that link from ANTM. Yes, you could argue there is a measurable standard for female beauty (which differs according to culture) which may be merely the product of a set of biological variables, and if you possess these features then you have the tools to do well in a career which values them. And if you choose to do so you have to have total belief that you can use them as well if not better than anyone else. But after that, you need to understand how to use them properly, and there is thought and intellect behind that as there is in any other field. Lots of models are beautiful, and lots of models are confident, but they're not all necessarily good models.
posted by billiebee at 3:11 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


If Reality TV has taught us anything, it's that it sucks to be on Reality TV.

I understand about the "boatload of bias" about modelling, but I think that the experience of loving something yet hating the bullshit that surrounds and taints it to the point where you come to hate it is fairly universal, no? I've had jobs, friendships, relationships, and hobbies like that.
posted by nevercalm at 3:12 PM on February 2 [5 favorites]


I think that the experience of loving something yet hating the bullshit that surrounds and taints it to the point where you come to hate it is fairly universal, no?

Yes and no. Modeling as a career has a built-in expiration date. You know with 100% certainty that your career will last 10 years tops if you're lucky. You make the choice to stick with it at the expense of education or other career choices.
posted by kinetic at 3:18 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


I just watched two related TED videos back-to-back that could not be more contrasted yet spoke to the same human condition:
Cameron Russell: "I tell girls: "You don't want to be a model. You want to be my boss."
Lizzie Velasquez: "How do you define yourself?"
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:22 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


Modeling is a choice. Nobody's forcing this woman to do this for a living. So I find it difficult to feel sympathy for the fact that her career may be over any day now. She's not modeling against her will, she made a choice.
It is a choice, but it's also a trap, like any other career you can name. I don't know why she entered modelling, but she did. She can't undo it. I've spent 10 years in IT, and though entering that career was a choice, it wasn't one I made particularly intentionally. It was just the best of my options by far. Given IT's known bias toward youth, I have some sympathy for her position. I'd love to switch careers, but the opportunity cost is too high, so I just have to deal with that oncoming train as best I can. At least I have options that don't involve time travel.

Thinking "nobody is making you stay in that dead-end job" is an incredibly privileged position to take, and I won't presume anyone has it easy.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 3:26 PM on February 2 [65 favorites]


Modeling is a choice. Nobody's forcing this woman to do this for a living. So I find it difficult to feel sympathy for the fact that her career may be over any day now. She's not modeling against her will, she made a choice.

She's not looking for sympathy, she's exploring a phase of life that for most people comes much later than what will happen for her. We all have a right to process that, don't we?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:27 PM on February 2 [43 favorites]


And furthermore, just because she chose the modeling career doesn't mean she should automatically be exempt from criticizing it or exploring its abuses and shortcomings. This is her journey and it does more damage to women like her blame her for that choice and deny her support than to say, "Wow, I hear you, this has been a wild ride and what will do you do when it's done?"
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 3:31 PM on February 2 [11 favorites]


Modeling is a choice. Nobody's forcing this woman to do this for a living. So I find it difficult to feel sympathy for the fact that her career may be over any day now. She's not modeling against her will, she made a choice.

Jesus, dude. That's harsh as fuck, and having read the article I'm surprised it inspired it.

One thing I find fascinating about modelling --- I was watching one of those terrible reality shows about breaking into the business, and I was struck by how many of the contestants, in their little talking heads, mentioned how so many people back home had told them, "you should be a model" and here they were going for it, etc., etc. --- these are people who go about the start of their lives knowing that if the walk into a room with 99 other people in it, they're still going to be the prettiest one there, feeling the power of that. And then they get into these rooms, this situation, and all of a sudden that power is stripped from them; now maybe they look around and they're it sure if they're number 8 or number 52 or number 89...Couldn't help but drive you a little mad, I'd think. I've always found the idea if those threshold types of experiences fascinating; elite athletes must undergo much the same, all of a sudden arriving at a level where you are no longer definitively the best. When it happens late enough in the game I can't help but think it must break you a little, and not everybody's capable of putting themselves back together...
posted by Diablevert at 3:38 PM on February 2 [29 favorites]


Diablevert, I watched that same process happen in college and in graduate school. People who were used to being the most effortlessly smart were suddenly among their peers. It was always fascinating to see which smarties had the brains to shelve their ego and adjust to the experience of being among people as smart as they, and which smarties were so invested in being the smartest person in the room, they had to leave any room in which that wasn't going to happen.

I've always felt faintly sorry for models. Unlike a lot of other people who benefit from quirks of biology (artists, athletes, intellects), a model's value is determined by an exterior market, not by what innate, intrinsic attributes she has. The lack of control and the judgment of others must be wearying.
posted by sobell at 4:02 PM on February 2 [15 favorites]


James Gunn is her ex, Auden.
posted by 41swans at 4:16 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


She's not looking for sympathy, she's exploring a phase of life that for most people comes much later than what will happen for her. We all have a right to process that, don't we?

Absolutely and agreed and yes I'm harsh as f*ck about modeling because I had a kid who was a Victoria's Secret model at the age of 16 who could have had a serious modeling career and who decided after one year in the business that she would rather work on developing some skill set, ANY skill set, other than posing.

So yes, I'm biased as HELL about modeling. But I think anyone who pretends they don't know EXACTLY what they're getting into when deciding to become a model is full of crap.
posted by kinetic at 4:17 PM on February 2


You're reading a totally different article than we are, Kinetic. I was also in modeling at 16, and my experience was identical to Melissa's. Develop some empathy as you show your bias.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:34 PM on February 2 [10 favorites]


Develop some empathy as you show your bias.

Good point and noted. I am being a jerk.
posted by kinetic at 4:37 PM on February 2 [14 favorites]


I had a brief stint as a cloak and suit model until the day I showed up with a pimple on my face and the manager exclaimed, "Mine gott, she's all over spots!" I cried. I left.
posted by Anitanola at 5:07 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]


Melissa Stetten is beautiful and hilarious and will in all likelihood be totally okay. I really wouldn't lose any sleep worrying about her...she's kinda famous and connected to Hollywood and, if all else fails, she can indeed write a book and it will without a doubt be funny as hell. But it is worth noting that there are a ton of models who are just, like, models, without any of that other stuff going on, and it is scary to think of a career that eats a lot of the time you might spend getting an education and then spits you back out at a point where most people are getting established in their careers.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:10 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]


I disagree. One's future is never more important than a convenient sandwich.
posted by bicyclefish at 5:10 PM on February 2 [4 favorites]


"Modeling is a choice. Nobody's forcing this woman to do this for a living. So I find it difficult to feel sympathy for the fact that her career may be over any day now. She's not modeling against her will, she made a choice."

I don't want to pick on kinetic, because I've heard this from other people and I think she's already gotten the point that this is a bit harshly put. I always wonder whether the folks who say this think the same thing of athletes, investment bankers/bond traders, and military folks - all short-term careers that eat your youth and where you're more likely to wash out early than make a killing.
posted by gingerest at 5:53 PM on February 2 [7 favorites]


She's smart and thoughtful, so will probably have a second career that is an actual career.

Why put yourself through something as stressful as choosing to base your working life around your looks when you are insecure about your looks?

I don't think anyone, even the beautiful, really feels that they are beautiful. And unending critique and rejection is like acid to confidence -- one reason that magnificently talented actors, dancers and musicians destroy themselves with drugs and alcohol.

I imagine that athletes have the same problem when their careers end.
posted by jrochest at 7:01 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


It is a choice, but it's also a trap, like any other career you can name.

I've been watching some of the people I work with grapple with this recently. Now, they are much older than her, mostly early to mid 50s. But they are all of a sudden crossing the line to where the reality is that if they lost their current jobs, they are mostly no longer contenders for positions at the same or higher levels -- the agism and other factors mean that any change will mean a big step down in status, potentially a long period of un- or under-employment, and a lot less money.

It's a scary thing to have to think about, and it's not much better for her to be in that position at 28ish than for some office worker to be dealing with it at 54. She has the advantages that people have listed, but it's also a reality that modeling will only open certain doors and probably makes others harder.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:01 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]


Absolutely and agreed and yes I'm harsh as f*ck about modeling because I had a kid who was a Victoria's Secret model at the age of 16 who could have had a serious modeling career and who decided after one year in the business that she would rather work on developing some skill set, ANY skill set, other than posing.

I think that decision is a little easier to make when you don't have to pay the bills.
posted by aniola at 9:33 PM on February 2 [7 favorites]


Whoops. Guess I missed the most recent comments.
posted by aniola at 9:35 PM on February 2


I understand about the "boatload of bias" about modelling, but I think that the experience of loving something yet hating the bullshit that surrounds and taints it to the point where you come to hate it is fairly universal, no?

I think that a lot of people would enjoy a job that consisted of being told how beautiful you are, with no down sides.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:27 PM on February 2


Absolutely and agreed and yes I'm harsh as f*ck about modeling because I had a kid who was a Victoria's Secret model at the age of 16 who could have had a serious modeling career and who decided after one year in the business that she would rather work on developing some skill set, ANY skill set, other than posing.

Jesus. All the more reason to have a sense of empathy and compassion. Your daughter could just as easily have made a different choice at the age of 17.
posted by scody at 12:25 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


"I think that a lot of people would enjoy a job that consisted of being told how beautiful you are, with no down sides."

I think a lot of people would, if there were such a thing.

What's striking about this article, to me, is how she makes modeling sound exactly like all other career paths. I wonder how she's going to cope when she goes into another line of work expecting less personal insecurity and less harsh judgement, and gets it anyway. I had to suppress a laugh when one of my performer friends started looking for a day job for the first time in a while and expected work to be there for the taking: "I never realized it would be so competitive!" Or will Stetten assume that the value judgements are because she used to be a model?

The world is just one big meat-grinder, and you are never good enough for it, and the reasons for your inadequacy are always fixed and inherent to you. That is the way the world works. There's nowhere you can run to where it won't be like that.
posted by tel3path at 12:51 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


I think that a lot of people would enjoy a job that consisted of being told how beautiful you are, with no down sides.

This job does not exist except when the people telling you are getting paid to do so. Did you read the article? Modeling is entirely people telling you that you don't have the looks they're looking for.
posted by casarkos at 12:56 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


Basically exactly the same as being a professional sports person, except there's no chance of a random crippling injury stopping your earnings immediately, and far less chance of a long term acquired injury that makes you hobble, or have palsy, etc, the rest of your life.
posted by wilful at 2:39 AM on February 3


I don't think anyone, even the beautiful, really feels that they are beautiful.

I disagree with this. I know some people, of varying degrees of "conventional" beauty, who are 100% confident in their beauty and don't give a flying one about anyone else's opinion. I think we accept this idea that no one truly thinks they're beautiful because it makes us feel better about our own insecurities - wow even the model feels bad about herself! - and because it fits in better with some idea about how it's a terrible sin to be overly confident or vain. We tell girls don't worry, everyone's a little insecure. We should tell them, you fucking rock and never forget it and if anyone says otherwise they're wrong.

there's no chance of a random crippling injury stopping your earnings immediately, and far less chance of a long term acquired injury that makes you hobble, or have palsy, etc, the rest of your life.

Though you may have a random crippling injury that's not related to modelling but that still immediately stops your earnings, especially if you're left with any visible scars, and you may end up with a lifelong eating disorder.
posted by billiebee at 2:52 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Model, pro blogger, Twitter celebrity, target of a Daily Mail hit piece... she's like the uber-millenial.
posted by GuyZero at 3:12 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I think that a lot of people would enjoy a job that consisted of being told how beautiful you are

From a variety of books, articles, and blogs I've read, I suspect on a day-to-day basis what models hear is more like some combination of:

1) Nobody gives a shit how beautiful you are, hurry up and get into the next outfit so we can get this damn photoshoot finished on time and only slightly over budget.

2) You are not beautiful, you are, in fact, pretty horrible looking, maybe "barely acceptable" at best and you are ruining everyone's day/week/month/year/career and everyone around you has to work twice as hard as they should to get some barely useable results out of your disappointing face and body.

3) Sure, you're beautiful now, right this second, but it can all disappear in the wink of an eye and you need to spend all the rest of your waking life paying obsessive attention to your diet and exercise and skin care and beauty treatments and all of the proceeding is likely to include a whole bunch of non-scientifically-verified & non-medically-approved methods & substances and it doesn't matter anyway because whatever it is you're doing is all wrong and you should be doing the exact opposite.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:51 AM on February 3 [14 favorites]


So yes, I'm biased as HELL about modeling. But I think anyone who pretends they don't know EXACTLY what they're getting into when deciding to become a model is full of crap.

Whose pretending that?
posted by juiceCake at 7:14 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I started reading a few of her columns on xojane, and she's really engaging.

I Had Pink Eye During Fashion Week
I Got Fired from a Modeling Job for Having Thighs
posted by gladly at 12:22 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Starving For Fashion
At five feet nine, 135 pounds, and a size six, I didn’t really understand. I was tall and skinny. What did it matter if I had 37-inch hips? Yet, when my agent handed me a list of foods I could and could not eat, I said yes. On the list: chicken, fish, steamed vegetables, and other sources of lean protein, like almonds and eggs. Pretty much every other kind of food item (especially bread) was off limits. As a 19-year-old whose concept of nutrition went as far as her university’s dining hall, I didn’t understand that 800 calories a day countered by two hours of exercise was a starvation diet, something capable of doing long-term damage to my metabolism. I lost 20 pounds in seven weeks, going from a size six to a size two—a drastic weight loss, which terrified my family and delighted my agent. Miserable and frail, I was promptly sent to work in New York City.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:39 AM on February 6


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