“Here”, the photographer said as he slid my portfolio back across the table.
“Really?”, I thought. He didn’t even look up. How could I break my neck to get here, learning new streets, taking the hot subway just to get here on time and this photographer doesn’t even look at me?
I was on a “go see” which are now called “castings”; both are ways to be introduced in person to photographers and potential clients. That was what breaking into modeling was like when I first started that hot summer in New York City 32 years ago. I had grown up in a small town. I was successful in most everything I put my hand to. I was in the band, honor society, a church youth group and the swim team. I swam5 1/2 hours a day and still found time to make great grades in school. I was a people pleaser. I found value in my performance. I enjoyed doing things to the best of my ability and I had been successful …until now.
What was wrong with me? I was 18, in New York City alone trying to fit into a job that I never dreamed of doing. A job that others would die for. I thought I had my life planned out. I was accepted into the pharmacy program at University of Rhode Island in the fall of my senior year.
Now here I was , all hot and sweaty finding my way around New York City the summer I graduated from high school while all my friends were laughing, 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 that they didn’t even want. What was I doing? Most days, I felt depressed, lonely, isolated and hungry.
Don’t get me wrong. I was blessed; I just didn’t feel it some days back then. It was hard, lonely work. I would have days where the agency would send me on “go sees” all day. I would have a list of addresses to find and a certain time to show up. Go sees were a way to get jobs but after walking the streets, taking subways and taxis just to get to a certain studio, I would find it was hard to look good. I would go from studio to studio. Some were nice others were really busy. As I walked into studios, I never really knew who was important, who I should talk to. Each studio was different. Some had models all made up on set, looking cool and collected as I stood there waiting, feeling harried and very much an outsider. I fought the feeling of rejection a lot back then. My day could be ruined from a bad reaction to my portfolio. Was it me? Do I belong here? Funny enough, some of the rudest people, the ones that didn’t look me in the eye, were the very ones who booked me while the ones who spent time talking and laughing with me didn’t necessarily mean future work.
What did I learn at 18 walking the streets of New York looking to break into the modeling business? I’m not sure that I could tell you back then. Looking back now if you ask me what I learned, I can give you a big list. Hindsight can be a good thing.
I learned to accept myself the way I am right at this minute knowing that I can change but giving myself a break that it can’t happen overnight. To accept that others will never be the way I want them to be. Each person is unique and it is not my job to change them. I learned to focus on the positive because if I focus on negatives, I fail in what I am trying to accomplish. I also know that I am much happier when I don’t compare myself to others. Do not envy! I am the best me. I can’t be someone else. All of these realizations come from having a healthy mind. When my mind is focusing on the right things, then the world seems like a good place. If I am having a bad day I learned to,take the focus off of me and my circumstance and help someone else. That always makes me feel better.
I had to learn to let words roll off my back. People in my business were critical! I could use certain criticisms to grow in the business (as it helps to get feedback). My job was to weigh where the criticism was coming from (did they have good intentions or were they just being hurtful?) and then decide if I should work on what they were telling me or let their criticisms fall to the ground. I was around experts all day long. Sometimes I worked with different people up to three different jobs a day. Everyone had an opinion and many of them were harsh! That is another word for MEAN!!!. I learned that I could use those words to become better too! I was getting the best advice from the best in the world as long as I didn’t take it to heart and let those words stab me right in my weak spots.
We all have weak spots we all have things we need to work on. We are put into situations to test us and stretch us into better people or worse depending on how we handle things. Look at your situation today. Accept that you are right where you are supposed to be. Be thankful in your situation. You never know, but one day you may look back and realize that it was the best thing for you! Hindsight!