Modeling - Back in the Day
For Vixen / Jo
From time to time I get this question, and I'm usually never quite 100% sure of what I should say in response because, as is my normal method, I tend to analyze everything, sometimes putting too much thought into what my answer should be and how to make my thought process clear.
Usually I just say that "I've never been really happy with a single photo of myself" and leave it at that - a very basic truth. There are a multitude of reasons for that answer though. When I look in the mirror, it's basically the imperfections I see, much the same as anyone else would do unless they were themselves incredibly vane. I see my freckles, my crooked teeth, my slightly hooded eyes with thick upper lids, my weak jaw line, thin lips and nearly pug-nose. Each of these show in nearly every photo I ever see of myself.
When the truth comes out, that's not WHY I've never liked a single image of my face though. When a photographer captures a remarkably good angle where my nose doesn't look so stubby or my crooked tooth isn't sticking out, I know that I can air brush my freckles away with Photoshop if I want to, but then it wouldn't really be a photo of me. It would be a photoshopped version of me, but it wouldn't be the real me. It's the same basic principal for my never wanting to get a boob-job or liposuction or botox... It's not worth it to me. I know who I am on the inside and don't NEED those things to feel like I'm worth while. I don't need a photo to prove to myself, or anyone else for that matter, just what I look like. Sure, I've always wanted people to think I was a pretty girl. What girl doesn't? But that's not where my indecisiveness about my own photos comes from either.
While most other models I've met (notice I said most, because my gorgeous model friend Keira Dazi would not fit into this category I'm about to describe,) are incredibly vane to the point I think they're tetering on the brink of sanity, they are also incredibly fragile. They strive to make everyone believe they are a 'true beauty' and either puff themselves up with false confidence, or they call themselves ugly or fat, fishing for compliments from others in order to feel better. Luckily, Keira is a humble, beautiful, wise, self confidant, sweet and vivatious character that I just adore.
I didn't have any self confidence at all for a long time. I always believed I was not only an ugly child (thanks to the cruelty of those I was supposed to trust as a kid) and that I was not the brightest bulb in the box. I couldn't comare in any way to my certified genius brother. It wasn't until I got out into the world on my own that I started to realize that I was actually a pretty smart girl. I was also incredibly creative and talented. It was time I spread my wings and see how far I could go.
When I was about 7 years old my grandmother had something to say about my freckles that completely devastated me and echoes in my mind even to this day. I've never liked my freckles from that day on. The kids at school could have said whatever they wanted about me and it didn't hurt. But the day my Grandmother said that "it looks like a cow pooted bran in your face" was the day that lives on in my mind as clear as the day it was said. I remember where I was standing as clearly as I remember the second I found out Princess Dianna had been killed.
When I was 16 she pulled me in the bathroom and dyed my hair blond. It went carrot orange and she had to bleach it 3 times before she finally accomplished her goal. I had finally come through what my mom called my "awkward" stage when she would often say I looked like a particular family member she thought wasn't a very attractive person and she didn't seem to like very much.
Mom got me in a "Back to School" fashion show on the military base when I was 17 years old. I remember walking into the store and my mother seeing a sign in the window advertising the show. It would be taking place two weeks from that date. When we walked into the military base clothing store (the BX) that afternoon, I had been blond for nearly a year, thanks to a product called 'Sun In' helping me to keep up with the roots. I had spent a lot of time in the sun so my freckles were brighter than ever, but I knew I couldn't cover those up. I wasn't yet allowed to use makeup. I remember my mother walking up to the counter and asking a cashier at Customer Service if they needed models for the fashion show. I turned bright red and wanted to run away. I couldn't believe she would do that to me! I just knew she was doing it to be mean and cruel. How could someone like me ever be a model? I choked back the tears and looked at her in surprise and huiliation.
The woman guided us to the back of the store where the woman in charge of the fashion show was organizing things behind the scenes. She came out, shook my mothers hand, and the rest is a bit of a blur. I remember her taking one look at me and proclaiming "She's Perfect!" in a voice loud enough for the people across the base to hear. I turned bright red again and tried to hide (at 17 years old) behind my mother's arm. I couldn't believe it. How could someone as ugly as me be perfect?
Mom talked to the woman for a while and discussed where and when I needed to be ready. On the day of the show, all the kids in the show came to the base and we all met in the back of the store. It was pretty easy once standing in that group to discover WHY she thought I was perfect. I was the tallest model for the show and probably weighed less than any of them, except the 8 year old I probably would have been about even with. They were rollie pollie, every one of them! It turned out most of them were the children of people who worked at the BX, meaning they were in by default I guess. Several of the children were bigger around the middle than I am even now, many years later and many pounds added.
I remember being put in green and black tartan trowsers and a matching green top. As they hung on the hanger I hated them. I thought it was such an ugly outfit they were trying to put on me. I had always been a basic jeans and t-shirt girl, and I was the only girl not getting jeans. The other girls were getting pink and red and blue tops - while I was getting what I thought back then was a horrible color - green. Finally I saw something I liked. Since it was a "Back to School" fashion show, all the kids had to carry book bags or books. The one picked out for me was a small black purse book bag that I immediately adored. It didn't seem that practical since you couldn't fit even a single school book in it, but I wanted it just the same. I was so proud to carry that little bag down the cat walk.
Years later when I sat looking at photos of me walking on that cat walk, I realized that no matter what my current opinion of myself was back then, I actually was a decent looking young lady. My freckles were barely visible, and I was smiling with my mouth closed. That made my nose look less pug and my lips seem less thin. It also hid my crooked teeth. I looked genuinely happy, and that was something I was really not used to seeing in photos. It was the first photo of me I ever saw and didn't despise right away. I still wasn't overly thrilled with it at the same time, but it was just a couple of years ago as I sat looking at that particular photo and remembering my first ever modeling job that I finally realized exactly why I never liked a single photo of my face.
It wasn't the freckles or the teeth or the hair or the lips or nose. It was my personality.
I don't see a particular color in my eyes when I see a mirror. I don't notice freckle patterns across my nose or focus on my smile when I'm brushing my teeth over the basin in front of the reflection of myself looking back. What I see when I look at myself in the mirror has nothing to do with my outward appearance other than the basic items. I have two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth just like anyone else. My face or the shape of it isn't what makes me unique. Everyone has those things (unless met with horrible tragedy or severe birth defect) and they're just a part of life for me the same as it was for Audrey Hepburn and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. We all have eyes and ears and a nose and mouth. We all speak and smell and see... but not all of us think and feel and imagine and write and paint and create the same way. It's not my outward appearance that makes me unique. Outwardly, I'm just like anyone and everyone else in the world. What makes me unique is who I really, truly am inwardly.
In the end, that's why I've never been happy with a single photo of myself. Photos only show what everyone else seems to have - a face; eyes, nose, ears, mouth... We all have that. A photo of my face doesn't show that I'm unique or special or creative. A photo doesn't show anyone what it is I value about myself or what I think my best personal qualities are. All it really shows is what everyone else sees.... not what I see. I want the world to see what I see. Will that ever happen? I guess I continue to hope it will. That's why I keep writing.