Becoming A Model: Year One

A year ago, I would have never thought I would be walking away from my first volunteer season of Kansas City Fashion Week with the realization that I could walk the runway… and then have the capacity and determination to do so.

I also didn’t think I would be walking in that show exactly a year later.

White translucent boots, fishnet tights, blue wig ‘n all.

Let’s back up: It is a little known fact that what I originally was pursuing in college was fashion design. I just didn’t know how to get there, and if I really wanted it. Was it really the design part of the industry I wanted? Though I made super crazy hodge-podge, ultra-colorful clothes in high school with scraps of fabric from my ma’s sewing bin, I didn’t have the patience for creating a well-made garment. (hence, pants made with one tight rear cheek while the other pathetically sags, and a crotch area that was all wrong were the result.) But I knew the fashion industry was one of the industries that made sense to me somehow (and for the sake of clarity, working in a Banana Republic store isn’t what I am talking about when I talk about working in the fashion industry).

Frankly, anything with a stage feels like home, but that’s another story for another time.

In my experience, anything in the artistic industries doesn’t necessarily have a clear set path, and those that are say, CPAs or attorneys or doctors or hotel managers, haven’t typically understood that. Though, I am sure they all mean well, and they just want me happy and thriving. I have gotten a lot of, “Well, what are you doing to make that happen?” which becomes exhausting. For me, it’s been mostly trial and error, making connections, using my gut, and “waiting for the right time” while working on my skills in the meantime (and mostly failing at it) with the limited extra time I have. These typically aren’t industries that provide consistent living means, so the main dream became the side dream out of necessity. And then the next question I have gotten is, “But if you love it, well then, why aren’t you doing it?”

Because, rent.

And because I hadn’t quite figured out what I love exactly is or how to get there. All I know is where it is and that other people are somehow doing what I want to do, whatever that is.

It’s been a tough spot to live in; let alone, explain. Usually it’s come out as me sputtering something about, “I only know that I am made for it, but it hasn’t worked out for some reason yet.”

For me that has usually been followed by blank skeptical stares, and sometimes this comment:

“You’re a millennial who doesn’t know how to stick around to build a career.”

I HAD a job opportunity in a similar industry (music) 10 years ago, but the timing and opportunity wasn’t right, as much as I violently opposed that realization. I had to begrudgingly let it go, but not before, while in the middle of a dream being realized, my entire self ignited with purpose and with a resounding “Hell yeah, THIS IS WHAT I WAS MADE FOR.”

It was one of the hardest decisions of my life.

Time and numerous similar interactions with people had taught me to be quiet about my dreams. To disregard them. To downplay them. To second-guess them. To change the subject. To bury them. To cry myself to sleep over them. To silently die inside over them as the fire in me ironically continued to grow.

Any one feeling me over here??

This is not to point fingers; it’s simply the truth of my story. I know I am not alone in this struggle.

One of the best ways I can describe it is akin to putting a puzzle together.

Except most of the pieces are missing.

And the top of the puzzle box is blank.

And the pieces don’t seem to make sense and aren’t fitting together though some look like they should (my puzzle people feel me?).

Meanwhile, there are those that are effortlessly finding their puzzle pieces and have the tops of their puzzle boxes. Some are even almost done. These puzzle wizards are now either staring at you, leisurely sipping their victory tea and wondering out loud why you aren’t done, while others are telling you where to put the pieces.

But that’s not where that piece goes, and the pieces they are trying to force together don’t actually fit. But somehow you are being told that this isn’t being completed because you must be lazy, unrealistic, flighty or a failure.

When you know in your heart of hearts that’s not true. None of that bullshit is.

I am not lazy. I am not flighty. I am not a failure.

Neither are you.

I have not missed it.

Neither have you.

But fast forward to now…

The picture I always felt was there on the top of the puzzle box is being revealed, and it’s far more tremendous than I could have ever dreamt.

Can you see and feel it?!

Here I was with a realization as I watched those models walk last year: I can do this, and I would’ve never considered it before without seeing it, or honestly, without first going through two years of therapy.

This is just one piece to the puzzle for me.

After that light-bulb moment, I began soliciting advice and coaching from different models in the fashion industry last December, and I was taken aback by the willingness of the Kansas City fashion community to welcome me in and share with me. In between measuring models for last year’s Spring show tryouts, I practiced my walk with seasoned models. Took pointers. Learned the rules. (There are rules to runway modeling! Who knew?)

Then I went for it. I auditioned with my heart thundering out of my chest and with terror that had to have been evident on my face.

But I made the roster! This means that the KCFW committee saw my walk and headshot and allowed me to be a part of the pool of models that they would allow the designers to choose from.

I didn’t get picked up by a designer.

I started trying out for other shows. Terrified. But not as much as before. Slowly improving and always making the roster.

At my second tryout for another show I nearly fell over in my walk and gave a (truly) gruesome headshot, and somehow a designer (LV Swim) saw that hideous tryout and said, “I’ll take her.”

For that I am so grateful.

In preparation, I met up with a local model coach who has been in this industry for 18 years and is killing it: Walking multiple times for a long list of designers at Paris Fashion Week and fashion week’s all over the States; doing extensive print modeling; and sitting on various fashion boards, among other impressive accomplishments. (See below for the contact info for Noelle Manica, one of sweetest and most helpful human beings ever.)

I walked that first show this past April for LV Swim. Within five months, I have walked in four other shows, had a photoshoot for a local designer’s new line, and am currently waiting to hear if I got picked up by a designer in another show. I also started as an ambassador for an iconic KC gym. Watch for more on that soon!

Last Saturday, two other models volunteered their time to show me some more modeling pointers, coaching me through what to do in front of the camera, and how to perfect my walk. I couldn’t be more grateful. (Contact info for Heather and Jenn are below. Heather has been at this for a long time, and Jenn also doubles as a stellar photographer.)

@heatherbcurvy, me and @jenn.a.robbins last week.
So grateful to these ladies for their coaching and feedback!

This ain’t easy.

And my goodness, it is so scary. Sometimes fear and doubt have gotten the best of me.

But I am doing it.

The best part? I have people in my life who are supporting me and cheering me on.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, y’all. Buckle up.

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Support your local women! Check out some of the talent and support I have the pleasure of knowing and have mentioned in this post:

LV Swim: Don’t go to Target; buy all things beachy-, sleepy- and comfy-wear from this local designer! Find her on Facebook at LV Swim and follow her on IG @lv_swim

Noelle Manica / The Model Board: For more info, for model coaching and to contact her, go to www.themodelboard.com, and follow her @the.model.board on IG

Heather: Follow her @heatherbcurvy at IG

Jenn Robbins: Check out her website www.jenniferrobbins.net/, contact her directly at jenniferrobbinsg6@gmail.com for further information, and follow her @jenn.a.robbins on IG

New Beginning

A spotlight shines quietly over an empty stage where a lone microphone waits.

It’s time.

It’s taken blood, sweat and a lot of tears to get to this moment – this very uncertain, unknown, exhilarating moment.

My moment.

Our moment.

I peak through the curtains stage right, palms sweating and surveying the dimly lit gymnasium, thankful for the natural light streaming in. Chairs are lined in mostly straight lines, and a few friendly faces fill those seats. Some family and friends who know and love me. I smile. I am not just doing this for me; I am doing this for them. But it is also because of them I can find the courage to even be here.

I wonder who will fill the remaining seats. What new faces will come. I get a little nervous.

I read a quote recently – one that I have been encouraged to adopt as daily reading. It reads:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

One of the first real pictures I took of myself after working
KC Fashion Week’s Fall Show 2018.
This was a significant moment.

I believe in the power of story. So, this is mine.

How do I possibly begin to summarize the roller coaster that has been the past 7-8 years? Not to mention, the last 2 1/2 of those years. Phrases like peaks but mostly valleys, hopeless disappointment, crippling exhaustion, and “at the end of my rope” are a start. And my goodness, the waiting. #canigetanamen

This took a noticeable toll on my body too. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-popular aging process. I spent an entire year hiding from cameras. And crying a lot.

Then one day this past fall, while I was volunteering for the first time ever for Kansas City Fashion Week’s fall show, I looked at the models walking the runway, and realized, “I can do that.”

I had been told in my 20s that I should model. But I did not see what they saw, and I imagined only mockery, heckling, and pointing and laughing in my direction. I imagined my worst nightmare. My answer was always no.

“Who the hell does this girl think she is?”

“She looks just like my sister, random acquaintance, that one girl on that one TV show, the cashier at the grocery store, every other girl I have ever known in my life. She is not unique looking.”

“She’s not that pretty. Or in shape. Or talented.”

“I thought she was a good girl. Good girls don’t ever do, say, experience that or this or god-forbid THAT (whatever “that” may be to someone).”

Armed with the hard work of therapy and inner healing, I am embarking on arguably the worst and best timed modeling career (or whatever this turns out to be). I started trying out for shows, and walked my first ever show a couple weeks ago!

But this isn’t just about modeling (again, or whatever this is).

This is about the next chapter of my life. This is about me becoming me.

I’ll chat about modeling, networking (because I love showing off the amazing people in my life), vulnerable moments, health and wellness, beliefs, business ventures and advocacy (I sell Beauty Counter, so it’s bound to make an appearance every once in a while), probably a smidge of controversy, as much laughter as possible, maybe a man. Whatever, and come what may.

I believe it is time to share my story, because I also believe this is many of yours – this journey of shedding the old and walking into the new.

It’ll be messy and imperfect, but it’ll be worth it. You may love me now and not like me later, or vice versa. You may question my morals, judge my version of beauty, be brought to tears, or walk away feeling refreshed and empowered to finally be you. One thing this won’t be is squeaky clean. Consider this your friendly warning.

As dramatic as this may sound, I believe it is time to be seen. I feel like many of you can relate. I mostly hope this may (possibly, hopefully, definitely) serve, empower and compel you to flex your you-muscles to a waiting world. For me, there is no glory to settling for the sidelines or sitting in the cheap seats. #brenebrown I am drawing a line in the sand. And I am asking you to cross it with me.

Please cross it with me.

Is this audacious? Possibly.

Necessary? Absolutely.

Scary? Hell yeah.

Encouraging, uplifting, empowering? My greatest hope and reward.

Happy Blog Launch Day.
– Filling Station on Gillham –

As I begin my walk onto that creaky wooden stage leaving my veiled existence behind, I think about how everything up unto this point matters. I know I don’t have it all figured out, and I fear the criticisms and the misunderstandings. I left my speech notes backstage, and I’m excited where this may go. I know Marianne is right – playing small does not serve the world. I smile to myself knowingly – I am right where I am meant to be.

I reach the microphone, adjust the stand, tap it to make sure it’s on…

And open my mouth to speak.