Taking Back Control.

I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for quite some time now. I know I usually write my posts to let everyone know what I have been up to and how my travels are going. This post will be a little different. 
Being in the fashion industry has given me so many amazing opportunities. It has given me the chance to travel the world, experience places and cultures I never would have dreamed I’d be able to see first hand, I have met so many amazing people from all over the world, all while doing a job I absolutely love. To say I am lucky is an understatement. 
However, like with everything in life, nothing is perfect. This kind of job has it’s downsides too. 

Many people think being a model is a super glamorous and easy job. I am sure when I was younger, before I got into it I probably thought it was too. I mean how hard can it be to take some pictures and walk down a runway right? 
Well, when you’re walking in 5 inch heels that are 3 sizes to big for you or trying to take a good photograph while the photographer is standing in front of you calling you fat, it’s pretty damn difficult. 

The pressure models have to deal with on a daily basis can sometimes be overwhelming. 
Imagine having to be measured every week by an agency to make sure you haven’t gained an extra kilo or cm ( yes, you read that correct, it gets down to cm’s), or having to be told to please “You need to lose weight from your hips but gain weight in your face!” and you have 2 weeks to fix this before they cancel your contract and send you home. All of this is real and it happens every single day. 

I am lucky in the sense that I started modelling at a later age. My parents made sure I had finished high school and was a bit more mature before allowing me to get into the business. I couldn’t be more grateful to them for that decision. 
It seemed like their schedule fit perfectly with what fate had in store for me anyways because as I was prom dress shopping with my friend and my mom, a scout approached me and asked me to come into the agency to meet with them.
Knowing absolutely nothing about the actual modelling world, my mom and I agreed to go into the agency for a meeting. Lucky for me, it was a very established and professional agency with a big name, so I knew they weren’t trying to scam us. 
They asked me to take pictures to see how I posed and looked on camera, all I knew at that time was to stand, smile, and try to look pretty, and that’s what I did. 

We got a call from the agency a couple days later saying they were sorry but I was not the correct fit for their agency at the time. My mom, being the one who answered the phone, asked why? They stated that I was simply too commercial, or, in their exact words “she’s too pretty.” WHAT!?!?!? How does that even make sense? Aren’t models supposed to be pretty? It was my first real dose of rejection and it left me a little hurt and feeling very confused. For some reason though, even though the agency had said no, I had decided that it was something I wanted to try anyways. I decided to take a year off from school ( I had been planning on University ) to figure out what it was I really wanted to do. 

I did some travelling on my own ( within North America ) and when I came back to Toronto I set up some photo shoots with photographers and tried to get things going on my own. It was just my luck that one photographer had a lot of connections and started sending my pictures to agencies around the city. A week later I was signed and within about 2 months I had my first overseas contract. 

This is where I really started to learn and see that being a model is much harder than what most people think. As soon as I stepped off the plane I was taken to the agency for them to see how I looked and to have my measurements taken. After 14 hours of flying and going through extreme jet lag, I was definitely not at my best. 
I was lucky in my first contract though and did extremely well for myself, I even decided to extend my time and stay for an extra 2 months. During the last 2 months, even though I was working extremely well, the agency decided to tell me I had to lose weight. They had asked me to lose an amount that would have left me weighing in at about 98 lbs. 
I was shocked. I knew there was absolutely NO WAY I was going to do that, I loved my time there but I was not going to put my health at risk to please them. 98 lbs was just insane. I booked my ticket and flew back home immediately. Since then, I have worked with that agency many times and have always had a positive experience. They never asked me to lose that kind of weight again. 

I was lucky, I was old enough to know better. I knew there was no way I could get down to that weight without harming my body and health. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. The girls usually start at around 15 years old, and they do not know better. They feel they have to do whatever the agency says because if they don’t they will be sent home, or have their weekly pocket money cut.
I have seen girls going to such extremes that they try to survive on only eating an apple a day. One girl I knew in Japan would spend all her pocket money ( Money the agency advances on a weekly basis for us to survive) on coke zero and zero calorie jellies. She would then try to give them all away so she wouldn’t eat them all. She got so thin the agency had to actually send her home because they were worried for her life. This is the real side of the fashion industry. 

It’s not just about weight issues either, and it’s not just the agencies. I was sent to a casting a couple of weeks ago here and my booker had told me it was for a movie trailer. They would want us in a bikini and for the actual job, only our backs would be shown. When I had arrived at the casting what I saw was something completely different. They were asking the girls to get in their bikinis, do extremely “sexy” poses, and dance. I was put in the position of not knowing if I should do this casting or not. I admit, I was afraid my bookers would be mad at me. Plus, I was already in my bikini so maybe I could just do the casting but do it my way, and if they didn’t like it well, then that was okay. 

It was my turn and I first had to take some simple pictures just to show my body type. I immediately felt disrespected as the person taking the pictures asked me to turn around, put my hand on the wall and “stick out your ass.” All while looking at me like they were a starving dog and I was a piece of meat. I immediately stopped and asked them to provide me more details of what this job was all about. It ended up they were asking the girls to dance like strippers and for the actual job, you would only see your backside, however you’d be dancing, wearing a g-string, topless. NO WAY! There was absolutely no way I was doing this, I got my clothes changed and left that casting as fast as I could.

On my way home I became so overcome with emotion I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or scream. What made them think it was okay to do that? What’s worse is they were actually getting away with it! I couldn’t believe the number of models who actually stayed behind to do that casting, and what made it even more sad was that most of them stayed because they were too scared of what the agency would say or do to them if they didn’t do it. If I was younger would I have had the courage to pack up my things and walk out like I did?!? 
It’s at times like those I really do not like this industry at all. 

That kind of thing happens all the time. Models don’t know they can say no. They are too afraid the photographer or client or agency will try to punish them for not doing something. They don’t know they have the right to stand up for themselves and have a voice. 
Luckily, this issue is being brought to light more and more. Recently with efforts by some top models, groups such as The Model Alliance, have started and are helping to protect models and their rights. 

These kinds of situations have really opened my eyes. My experience over the past 6 years travelling and working in this industry has given me the realization that I want to be a part of the change. I want to help protect the models. Most times, we have “mother agencies” agencies who scout us or who are in our hometowns, who “sell us” to different markets around the world for 2-3 month contracts.

They act as our “mother” when we are overseas and they are supposed to be the ones to protect us. The only problem with that is, half the time the mother agency has never been to that market, they have never met with that agency. They don’t really know what the models are going through. 

This is why I have recently decided I want to try to change that. I have decided I am going to try to start helping models. I have decided to open my own agency and help place models with safe agencies. With people I personally know or have worked with. I want the models to know they have the right, within reason, to say no. To stand up for themselves in those times when they are asked to dance around like strippers half naked, and to know I will be there backing them up. 

I think the industry needs more people to promote this and I am determined to do my absolute best to ensure that models don’t look back one day and regret that nude shoot they did one day because they were too scared to say no.

I want them to have just as much of an amazing experience in this industry as I have.

Until next time,

Alyssa xo

P.S. It’s not finished yet but here is my new website. http://www.apmodelmanagement.com 
Check it out and let me know what you think! Hopefully this is the beginning to something great!

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