Everyone has to start somewhere.
These are my personal experiences. Everyone makes mistakes and it is our duty as people to learn from one another.
June 2015 - I decided that this was it. I wanted to model. In high school, I almost got sucked into the Barbizon scam-like modeling school where they wanted you to pay upfront a ton of money for classes once a week that taught you etiquette more than modeling. I hadn't really thought about modeling, but I couldn't help wondering what it was like. And the more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me. Barbizon was a charm school, really, but when I realized I couldn't do it, I cried regardless. What if that had been my chance, and I missed it?
I didn't really know how much I wanted this until that moment when I got the call that I was accepted (about 98% of applicants are) and that I wasn't going to do it. It really changed my perspective on the idea of modeling, and it really made me want to pursue it in the process. However, the dream was stored away for a couple years as school came first. I had to finish high school and get into college.
Once I did get into college, I thought about it again. I was a brunette freshman at the time with a talented photographer friend, and I thought "Hey, why not?" I did my make-up, put together some outfits, and snapped some photos. You can see one of our shots above (photo by Brandon Walton). Excitedly, I posted it on Facebook, just waiting for the comments. What I didn't expect was for a friend's older sister send my photo to her agent and set up a one-on-one interview with Factor Chosen Chi. At the time, I didn't realize how big of an agency they were.
So with no makeup, black clothes, and a bikini underneath, I happily waltzed into their offices a week later. The agent loved my look, but not my height. Maybe if I had a portfolio put together or was willing to pay for it (which I naively declined), they could have overlooked my height.
"But they didn't, and I received a rejection call a week later."
This made me think I wasn't agency material, so I pushed the thought of modeling back into the closet for another year. I finished my freshman year of college, and while I was in my sophomore year, I studied abroad in Italy. While I was in Italy, I stumbled across an interesting headline - World's First Size 22 Model. Tess Holiday. I read the article flabbergasted. Not only was she size 22, she was covered in tattoos and was only 5'5 (two inches shorter than me at the time). She was discovered on Model Mayhem.
Now before you roll your eyes at Model Mayhem, it does have its perks. It's a great way to get your foot in the door. I checked out the website and when I realized there was a market for unsigned models, I was overjoyed. I came back from Italy, and I got to work.
I paid my friend to shoot a couple shots for me, all raw. Headshot, profile, half body, full body. Then I sent the photos to a friend who was a beginner retoucher who just touched up on my face a little bit (I had a breakout on my forehead due to a diet change, judge me, I'm not perfect). And I posted the photos on Model Mayhem. You can see one of the photos here - the one of me in the hat (photo by Madison Squires).
In July 2015, I went to Lithuania, so I couldn't start shooting just yet, but I did get some requests to shoot. I said yes to everyone, as long as it wasn't risqué. I had to start somewhere, and I couldn't afford to be picky. So I started shooting in August of 2015. Below is a shot of one of my first shoots - I couldn't emote, my posing was flat and unoriginal, but back then I thought this was gold! That I could really model! I had so much to learn though that this was not something I should have been very proud of.
Still new to the scene, though, and very naive, I made a mistake. A photographer managed to convince me to take more clothes off than I thought necessary, and even though, I was still covered mostly, I wasn't proud of it. I didn't like the pictures, and they are stored away in a private file on my computer - but I told myself that I would be in charge of my comfort levels now, and no one else. Although now I don't mind a bit of skin, I learned that it was MY decision how much skin I would show.
Back to the topic at hand, this went on for about a month - I would have never really gone anywhere if it hadn't been for Stephanie. I met Stephanie at a shoot for Red Paris, a small clothing line, and she gave me so much advice on who to shoot with and how to push myself towards a better audience. I listened to her advice, and made a separate Facebook, added all my modeling photos so far, and started adding people off her list. I began shooting with different good photographers and really building my portfolio.
Things took off from there, slowly but surely. I answered casting calls, and was chosen every now and then. I started building my website. In December of 2015, I received an e-mail from an agency in New York to work for a product launch for MAC Cosmetics - great pay, and a great thing to put on my resume. This was the first time I really felt like my modeling was going somewhere. So I made the decision to buy a website, create it, and publish it in January. Business cards followed shortly after - I was taking myself seriously, and it helped those around me take me seriously.
The gigs came every now and then, and when they did, they were good. However, as my third year at my school ended, I felt like things were slowing down. I didn't feel like I was improving. I was leaving for Lithuania again that July, which meant I was missing a month of work. So I shot as much as I could before I left and set up multiple shoots to be waiting for me as I returned.
"When I left for Lithuania, in July, I received a message I'm never going to forget."
All the hard work, portfolio-building, test shooting 3-4 times a week, building up a resume and such had gotten me noticed by a beauty editor from Walgreens, and she offered me my first big campaign. I was jumping (literally). I had worked so hard to make modeling a part of me all the while I was still a full time student in school three times a week and had a job three times a week. I crammed so much work in the least amount of time possible so I could make this happen, and now it did.
A couple weeks after I came back from Lithuania, I shot for Walgreens, and the campaign has launched. I've shot for their Soap & Glory collection, and now next week, I'll shoot with them for the third time. I can only hope this was the beginning for me, but at the end of the day, even if this is the only opportunity I'll get, I can still say I am proud of how far I've come and I'm not ashamed to share my old photos where I had no skill whatsoever. We all have to start somewhere - there are the bumps in the road, but as long as we stay on path, we'll get to our destination.
"It's awesome to be proud of your accomplishments, but remember it's okay to feel down every now and then and feel like you're not going anywhere. It happens to everyone, trust me."
As long as it doesn't affect you when you're in it for the long haul, that's all that matters. Rather, let it fuel your passion and fire when you're aiming for your dreams. Below are a couple photos of my recent work and where I'm at now. One is one of the photos for Walgreens, and the other is a recent test shoot done with John NG, Allen Furlan, and Sym Abrol Smriti.
"Always push yourself, and strive to be the best version of yourself that you can be..."