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Being a Model Is Not Easy: My Modeling Experience

Olivia has been modeling for nearly two years and learns something new at every shoot, such as the career's pros, cons, and new challenges.

November 2018 with J Mulcahy Photography

November 2018 with J Mulcahy Photography

"Modeling is the easiest job in the world," said no model ever. Contrary to popular belief, having a few photos taken can be exhausting work.

It's not all just "stand there and look pretty" or the dreaded "say cheese." Don't believe me? Hold that expert-level yoga pose for 30 more seconds, because the camera loves this!

My Journey of Becoming a Model

It all started around high school: compliments from strangers, friends, and family—all ending with the cliche suggestion, "You should model!"

Of course, at 15 and 16, I didn't feel very good about myself; I believed the only "model" trait I had was my long legs, which I used to win all my races on the high school's track team. My acne, then turned acne scars, seemed putrid to me: very obvious, and definitely not what a model's face should look like. Being part tomboy, my nails were never done–I couldn't keep nail polish on for five minutes. And my hair was never the most "modelesque" I have ever seen. However, after high school, despite all these things, I took the chance and dove into the scene, and boy, oh boy, was I in for a surprise.

I Wore Little Makeup in My First Shoot

My first shoot ever took place at a small agency in Portsmouth, NH. This was the type of shoot to experiment with: how I worked in front of the camera, how I looked, did I hold back, did the camera like me, were all of my angles my best ones?

My first set of instructions said to arrive in a casual, yet nice, outfit: something that showed my shape but didn't distract from my face. I had to wear light makeup and have my hair pulled back in a ponytail. As a waitress used to caking her face in makeup to earn that money, I felt naked and exposed. But even though I felt my appearance was way more plain than usual, I had fun, and the camera loved me.

Shortly after the shoot, I was notified that I would be moving forward, and would definitely be receiving more invitations for photoshoots. After procrastinating on this dream for quite some time, I was over the moon. I was congratulated and complimented heavily. And they said, "Just don't forget to stretch your face."

You should be able to break the lens with your glare and see right through the photographer's eyes on the other side, all while casting a deadly spell.

You should be able to break the lens with your glare and see right through the photographer's eyes on the other side, all while casting a deadly spell.

"Stretch Your Face"

Stretch your what? Yes, you heard right. Stretch your face, stretch everything. Ever heard the warning, "If you keep making that face, you will be stuck like that!" after making a funny face as a child? Word on the street is that was used as a tactic for parents to stop their kids from being obnoxious and scare them out of their imagination.

Well isn't that far from the truth. After one or two photoshoots, I thought my face was going to be stuck forever. You know, the face those women make at the end of makeup commercials that scream, "I'm so fabulous." So, I had to learn to stretch my face, move my mouth around, blink a few times, to get those face muscles moving again, and out of that stoic look that seems to be everywhere. I could feel my face muscles entering rigor mortis, and was unable to make any other facial expression that didn't look forced, or like I was having a horrible time.

It's More Than Just Looking at the Camera

I never thought it would be possible for my face muscles to hurt. But all it takes is a few minutes holding the same expression: rarely a natural and rested one. Existing in front of the camera was harder on my face than I anticipated, and quite challenging to one of my most prized organs, my eyes.

You see, when you are a model and the main subject of a photograph, you are not just looking at the camera. Anyone can look at a camera and smile, such as a family on a trip to Disney standing thousands of feet away from Cinderella's Castle.

As a model, as a subject with the mission to captivate, you can never look AT the camera, you must look through it. You should be able to break the lens with your glare and see right through the photographer's eyes on the other side, all while casting a deadly spell. Put the facial rigor mortis pain aside, and channel all universal energy within, and simply project it to the viewer. Easier said than done, I'm almost getting a headache from even thinking of it. Oh, and you can't blink either.

Forget who you are, forget your place in the universe, and barrel that inner supernova through the image with those two little things you see with. It is very rough on your emotional and mental energy, if done right. In order to make a beautiful and believable photo a theoretical personality change is required, so that energy and feeling from your eyes reach their destination.

Ogunquit Beach, ME with Brian Michael Baldwin

Ogunquit Beach, ME with Brian Michael Baldwin

Modeling Requires Being in Uncomfortable Body Positions

As if face pain wasn't enough, there are some fairly uncomfortable positions in which a model may need to wrestle into, all for a good photo, of course, depending on the genre of photography you're into. Even the less sensual and risque photos can make for some pretty sore muscles. Who said creativity was pain-free?

For some poses, I experienced standing on one foot, or being turned around with my head towards the camera over my shoulder, or lying down with my back arched with only a hardwood floor to support my head and neck. All that seem to be harmless, thoughtful statures.

Don't get me wrong, if the photos look good, I'll get my ice pack ready in time. Holding one position for a long period of time, even the most casual positions can go to show you how much your body is not used to them.

That is why stretching before a shoot is so important; you'll never know what muscles you'll be using today, and which ones you'll beat the hell out of. Some positions may shock you and your flexibility. I'll be directed in a pose for a picture, thinking how easy it is and how boring it must look. Lo and behold, how untrue those statements become. I am a lot less flexible than I thought, which is sad because not many common poses require a whole lot of flexibility.

Once I manipulate my body into the most surprisingly unnatural pose known to man, it hurts, it is uncomfortable, can people see up my dress now?? Nonetheless, all worth it for a stunning photo, as long as I remember to cast my spell at the same time and pause the decaying process of my face.

Side Effects

Photoshoots can last anywhere from a mere half-hour to a whole day long. To feel these effects, I usually notice the shoots that last for an hour or more cause these experiences for me.

Someone who is totally new to that side of the camera may start to encounter those feelings earlier. I'm no doctor, and that's why we're here. A few days after a photoshoot, it is not uncommon for me to have swollen abs and legs. The amount of energy, physically and for me especially mentally, that modeling requires is astonishing. Something so simple, yet so complicated, can cause challenges you never thought would be possible in a certain activity. Well, honey, modeling might sound like a fairytale career, but it helps itself to your blood, sweat, and tears! Not really, but kind of.

Modeling can be very frustrating. It can exhaust your mental health. It is hard to stick to your guns when you come to face to face with a great financial reward, along with trying to avoid pressure and expectations throughout photoshoots.

Modeling can be very frustrating. It can exhaust your mental health. It is hard to stick to your guns when you come to face to face with a great financial reward, along with trying to avoid pressure and expectations throughout photoshoots.

You Have to Be Firm and Comfortable Staying No

The good news is that the physical side effects of modeling don't frequently reach past those listed above. The bad news is that modeling can and will come with a hefty serving of pressure, bribery, and straight frustration.

It's a common occurrence to find yourself in a situation where someone is, in effect, pressuring you into taking a gig that isn't quite within your comfort zone, nor moral zone. Pressuring doesn't stray far from bribery, and if you say no, which everyone is entitled to, a bribe may come about, normally in the form of money.

In today's hard times, it's hard to say no to a lot of money. But I find it important to stick to what I want and stay in my comfort zone, all while having an open mind to allow my comfort zone to grow at its own pace.

Modeling can be very frustrating. It can exhaust your mental health. It is hard to stick to your guns when you come to face to face with a great financial reward, along with trying to avoid pressure and expectations throughout photo shoots, which, accept it now, will never happen.

Pressure can come in many disguised forms. Do you know how beautiful you would look doing that? Look at that model who made all this money doing this! I can't wait until you're comfortable doing that! Now it's no secret the world seems to thrive off exciting images of women, but at the same time, can we blame them? We're simply amazing. However, I've nearly reached the point of kindly declining, and have resorted to straight-up dissing them whenever I'm asked anything along those lines. Now I'm not saying do what I do but never forget your self-worth.

Food for Thought

Speaking of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-image, modeling is portrayed as an ecosystem where those three things reside at the bottom of the food chain. Everything eats them. But only if you let it. A lot of high-end models for big companies are often seen to be very skinny, some even sickly looking.

I still question why that is a popular look to go for, having special diets and all that, or no diet at all, due to the greed of society and large modeling corporations. Those looks and expectations are not realistic compared to what people look like, and should not be goals for anyone to set for themselves.

Anyone can model; everyone has something different to offer the lens. I may be skinny, some may say really skinny, but I'll wreck Taco Bell like it's my last day on earth every day, no matter who tells me it's thousands of calories over the limit, because being who you are is better than anything money can buy, with the exception of Taco Bell.

You must let go to all your social fears, because, well, you're in front of a camera.

You must let go to all your social fears, because, well, you're in front of a camera.

It's Socially Awkward

If you're anything like me, you have a better time jumping out of a plane than giving your order at the drive-thru. Social interactions are just. not. my. thing.

Now I know I briefly mentioned that I was a waitress, but that's completely different. When in the modeling scene, you will find yourself in endless involuntary social interactions. A handful of them are stressful and frustrating, due to the nature of the business summarized earlier. You may be uncomfortable at first, meeting new people for the first time in a lot of cases. Just be yourself, and don't be afraid of your awkward self. You're there because you made it there, relax.

A hard part of becoming a model is learning to let go. You must let go of all your social fears, because, well, you're in front of a camera. You're acting in front of a camera. When a subject is under pressure, uncomfortable, or under a lot of mental stress, it shows through the picture. The same energy can't be sent when the mind isn't fully present in the photo. Overcome the social challenges, and enjoy why you're there that day.

After a while, it can seem like getting up and going to shoots becomes more for other people than it does for the person to whom it matters most, the model themselves. Don't forget it is very important to take time for yourself, especially in such an overwhelming industry.

The physical and emotional exhaustion can wear a person down, and that shows through their work, and can disrupt their core happiness. Mental health is essential in a career like this one, for it helps stabilize your pre-existing self-worth, your confidence, your strength, and your ability to do what is right for you.

Be True to Yourself

In conclusion, as good writers say, modeling is not easy. But when you love what you do, it becomes easy, and you seem to forget about the hardships that come with it. It's one of those things that can take a toll on your body and subconscious without you completely realizing it. And when you realize it, that's when the challenges set in. It may look like all it is standing in front of a camera, smiling a few times, trying this shirt on, and so on, but those hidden little fees show themselves when they're least expected.

But modeling is fun! If you don't mind the camera, I recommend giving it a shot. You don't need a certain look, weight, hair color, or anything, don't believe the nonsense. If you're up for the challenge, if it means doing what you want to do, take the plunge! As someone who has a passion for art, I find it an awesome way to express creativity and emotions, and it makes me feel beautiful.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on November 24, 2018:

What an interesting insight into the world of modelling! Often we see the glamourised version of careers like this (singing, acting, etc too) and don't understand how difficult things can be "behind the scenes." I'm sure you have a lot of pressure maintaining your body's image and it does sound hard to say no to extra money. I'm sure I'd say yes in your shoes too! Thank you for this window into your life as a model.