Have you ever seen a bird with a broken wing and you feel sorry for it, but you don’t really know how to help it? Well, that bird was me when I was fourteen. Only, instead of a bird, I was a teenager with badly plucked eyebrows and a wardrobe of misfit pants and my brother’s hand-me-down camp shirts. And instead of a broken wing, it was my whole body; a body that was stretching to cripplingly long proportions. I went from 5’3″ to 5’9″ in two years. Then I grew another inch, then another one. I did a science project on gigantism my junior year of high school and during my research, I wondered, “do I have gigantism?” I was showing the classic symptom: growing into a GIANT FREAK. In a panic, I asked my dad for his input. “Nah, I think you’re fine,” he said. Phewf.
There seemed to be few perks to this growth spurt. I looked weird, I lost my athletic abilities (not to say I was Mia Hamm before the growth spurt, but I was the third fastest runner in my class including the boys and I was proud of it!). By ninth grade, basketballs were smacking me in the face, I was tripping over my own limbs on the soccer field, people on the track team told me I ran like an ostrich, you get the picture. Sometime in the middle of this growth spurt, to my great surprise, I was approached by a couple modeling scouts. If the boys in my class didn’t look twice at me, what were these scout doing talking to me? Guess the awkward stretch-out look was trendy somewhere! I didn’t really consider signing on with either of the agencies who scouted me. I was too young. However, now that I’ve graduated college and I’m years removed from the teenager angst and vulnerability, I might give it a shot. I could make a buck or two and, best case scenario, it could help kickstart an acting career.
The other day, I met with a modeling scout with a company that’s a pretty big deal in the world of fashion. I spent the morning before the interview trying to pick an outfit that made me look the slightest. After trying on several different options, I decided on skinny jeans, a tank top and some chunky nude heels. I applied a face full of “no make-up” make-up and I set out. I got to the interview ten minutes early, chatted to the receptionist for a while and then was greeted by a severe looking 30-something-year-old woman with big lips, textured blonde hair, and green eyes. “Hi, I’m Lily. Thanks for coming today.” I stand up and I watch her eyes look me up and down. We shake hands and she walks me to a room in the back.
She sits across from me, on a leather love seat. “So, why modeling?” She asks me.
“Well, I was scouted a few times when I was younger, but felt too nervous and young to ever give it a shot. Then, in college, I did some photoshoots and a few fashion shows and absolutely loved it.” (A version of my answer without the tangential anecdotes and stammering.)
“Who is your favorite model?” She asks, watching me almost with a look of skepticism.
“Uhh…Cara Delevingne.” I say unconfidently.
“She’s great to work with.” Lily drops this casually. “And your favorite designer? If you have one…” I think she was catching on that these answers were coming straight out of my ass.
“Burberry. Love their make-up, love their jackets, love British culture in general.” I wait for her reaction…she smiles. Woo!
“I love the U.K. I almost love it more than New York.” She says. “Alright,” she continues, “well, an interest in the fashion industry is crucial for any model we sign with. We perceive this as a long-term investment, so we need to make sure all of our agents are on board. We have offices in Paris, Milan, Sydney, New York and just opened one in LA. And unless we get unanimous consensus from every agent, we cannot sign with you.”
WELP. It was nice meeting you, Lily, and am sorry this didn’t work out!! I think to myself. “That makes sense.” I say instead.
“I’m going to take a few pictures of you right now and send them to the team and we should get back to you by the end of the day. Sometimes it takes a while because, as I said before, we need input from every agent.”
I stand in front of the camera and she instructs me to pose in several different angles. Then she says “Now, I’m going to take a video. Say your name, your height and your age and pose again.” BUSTED. The agency website says, “we accept women ages 18-21.” I face the camera and say, “My name is Siena, I’m 5′ 11″ and I’m 23-years-old.” I hadn’t told her my age, until that moment. I couldn’t tell if this made me a fraud or if I was making a stance on ageism in the modeling industry.
She pauses the video, thanks me for coming, and sees me out of the room. I leave through the waiting room, passing by two cachectic girls with porcelain skin. I nod at both of them and wave goodbye to the friendly receptionist.
Well, six days later, I get an email from Lily. “It was a pleasure meeting you [yatty yatty yatta] but the agents were split, so we feel it wouldn’t be fair to represent you without full support.” Damn. That would’ve been too easy, I guess.
I have, since, visited another agency. This second one was clearly disinterested in signing on with me. The woman hardly even feigned an interest. Our “meeting” lasted from 1:02 p.m. to 1:06 p.m. Four minutes and an email the same day saying, “we’re gonna pass but thanks for coming!!”
In the real world, I’m a young 23-year-old old with a healthy, but low BMI. In this industry, however, I’m an old fart with room to shed a few pounds. My awkward mid-puberty self had a much better shot. That said, in any moment I start wondering what if I had started modeling when I was first scouted by agencies at the ripe ages of 13 and 15, I think again. I may be old at 23, but I’m a stronger, more confident version of myself who has the sense of self to handle the rejection. Being a teenager is hard enough, I can’t imagine being a teenager in this industry. At 23, I can say to myself: worst case scenario, if I get rejected from every agency I meet with, I have material to write a screenplay about this fascinating industry. Plus, I have a college diploma under my belt and a degree in History and Science. Life is pretty good.
In all honesty, though, the second rejection did hurt a little. At least the first scout gave me her time and showed interest. The second one hardly even pretended to consider. I walked away thinking to myself, “I’m 23 and unemployed. What the hell am I even trying to do in life?” But they say when one door closes, a window opens. And I’ll carve out that window and drill in the glass myself if I have to. I soon after the meeting bought a book called What Color is Your Parachute 2017? A Practical Manual For Job-Hunters and Career Changers (it’s a great book, I highly recommend). As I try this modeling thing, I’m devising a concurrent career plan. I’ll keep you posted on what that is. And by you, I do mean my current reader base of 6 (including my parents). xoxo