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"Julie, They Are Ready For You Now"
With sweaty palms digging into my jacket pockets, I nervously enter the audition room. This is the room where two, three, or more people observe you as if you were a specimen for a mouse experiment whose goal was to figure out if the mouse (me) was special enough to be called back again into the room for further testing (and closer to booking the job). My time in these rooms is always a blur – I just do whatever they tell me to do. Do my runway walk, check. Pose innocently, check. Pose fiercely, check. Smile naturally, check. Tuck in my tummy, check. No smudged mascara, check. Confidence, check. Cheerfulness, check. Any traces of discomfort or sadness left outside the door, check.
For years, this was my life. It all started the summer before eighth grade. My parents had gotten some professional pictures of me taken for fun, and a book was created, showcasing the pictures. I thought modeling was fun, but never really took it seriously until one day, a friend of my parents said that my book looked like the portfolios real models used. Suddenly it had become my life. Modeling, and everything to do with it, was the only thing I ever thought about. I did everything I could to break into the business.
There was a national contest that took place a couple of times a year, in all major cities. I convinced my parents to take me to a preliminary audition, and they picked me. They told me that I had potential, and with only $900, I could attend the weekend-long event at which dozens of the most prestigious modeling agencies around the world would be present. At thirteen, my hopes of international fame and fortune, not to mention access to top-notch designer clothing, such as Zac Posen and Versace, clouded all judgment, and I begged my parents to let me go. We have never been rich, but my parents saw my passion, so they begrudgingly agreed.
I waited impatiently for the weekend of the event to arrive. Every night, I imagined myself being signed by Ford Models and Elite Models and Wilhelmina Models – of course they’ll all want me! For months, any boredom or disappointment I faced was pushed aside, because I would soon have the chance to be a real model. I would grace the covers of Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, and I would be happy. I was also struck with the impossible idea that if no agency picked me up, what I would do. My foolish naiveté rejected this outcome, and my world came crashing down when the inevitable happened.
Of course I wasn’t signed, but what hurt the most is that Elite Models told me that they would take me if I grew to 5’9. At 5’5.5, my mother at 5’4, and my father at 5’8, it would have to take a miracle for me to burst past 5’7. I thought of all the possible ways that I could have a gradual (if not sudden) growth spurt. Milk helps bones, right? I drank a gallon of milk everyday. I asked my 5’10 friends how they got to how they got that tall: they said genes. I even considered bone augmentation – the perfectly safe procedure of lengthening leg bones that I had seen advertised on TV.
All ridiculous ideas aside, I really could not imagine giving up my dream of modeling, and I did a lot of research. I didn’t have to model for Chanel, but surely Macy’s would be easy to book. I finally decided to make an appointment with a local modeling agency located about thirty minutes from my house, and as nerve-wracking as the whole experience was, I forced myself to do it. When the agent asked me to pose, I was so awkward that I almost considered walking out the door, but couldn’t give up my dream that easily. The agent demanded $500 for classes, $500 for a photo shoot, $300 for comp cards (business cards for models), and any other necessary spending that would come with the job. My parents, already jaded from the $900 they had wasted from the national contest, just barely agreed to pay the fees, after hours and hours of begging.
The agency barely sent me out on auditions. With every passing day that I did not receive a call for an audition, I grew more depressed. Any day that was not spent readying myself for an audition was a day wasted. My passion had grown to full-fledged obsession, and the monster inside me had grown so hideous that I could hardly think of anything else. I had started high school, and the work had gotten harder. My parents told me to bury myself in homework, but I could not distract myself from the raging unhappiness that prevailed inside. I compared myself to successful models. Whenever I found one that was around 5’5 or 5’6, such as international star Kate Moss, I would feel a squeeze of hope and excitement. After auditions, I sat glued to the telephone, just waiting for a call. And when none did (which is what usually happened), I would wallow up into a ball and ostracize myself from my parents and my friends.
By May of freshman year, things had gotten so bad that if I couldn’t model successfully, I thought I was going to die. The final straw came in July. Since I wasn’t tall enough to be a runway model, I decided to focus on becoming a commercial model. Commercial modeling did not have any height requirements, and there was an open call for Ford Models in New York City. As a last attempt, I dragged my dad to take me there. The three-hour drive was filled with nervousness and apprehension, and after waiting hours to be seen, I was not given two seconds with the agent who represented Ford, only to be told that I was too short. I was speechless. The ride home was excruciatingly painful – all those years’ frustration and misery had all finally come rushing out like a dam being unplugged. I was inconsolable for weeks.
Years later, I realized that the trip to New York City was actually a godsend. It finally made me realize that I was not cut out for the industry, and that no matter how much I loved it, I would not be given a second glance. I had not known then why I loved modeling so much. I didn’t – I loved the idea of it. At thirteen, I had just recently lost my chubbiness of elementary and middle school. I was considered a freak and an outcast. Not only was I ugly, but I was unlikable. I had no talents – my aspirations of becoming a famous singer were quickly crushed by my mother at a young age, and I desperately sought an outlet from all my classmates’ dislike for me and my complete and utter lack of a life.
I just wanted to be special, and modeling was what I chose to manifest that idea. Perhaps, had I chosen wiser, I would never have been through the pain and suffering that modeling has brought me. I do not think that my passion would have been different had I chosen something else – I am by nature very determined, competitive, audacious, and when I want something, I go out and get it. Back then, I was naïve, sensitive, and determined to reach an impossible goal. I have learned the hard way to never depend on one thing to make me happy, but the experience has helped me develop a thick skin that will aid me for the rest of my life.