TRIGGER WARNING: Body Image/Relationships with Food/Mental Health
As hopefuls are getting ready for London Fashion Week, in the next few days, Eros Clarke gives their unique take on the tough reality of working as a teenage model.
“Can you remove your jacket, please?”
I complied with the request, placing my black zip-up jacket to the side, feeling exposed. I stand before the table of three in a vest. My brain looping the same thoughts on repeat; “You’re here to be looked at,” “You’re here to be judged,” “You should feel insecure.”
I stood there holding my hands in front of me, for which seemed like hours. They looked through the portraits placed on the table, swapping glances between them and me.
“You seem to have put on weight after these were taken.”
My stomach dropped, my chest tightening. Before them stood a child of barely sixteen, but they could only see measurements. 5”11 and 134lbs was not small enough. 21lbs under the recommended weight for my height…
My nerves lay heavy as I awaited my future. Nervous, I sat there shaking as the train did. The brisk wind whipping around the outside of the carriage, encasing everything it touched with coldness. Contrastingly, the sun breaking through the clouds, appearing to be optimistic and celebrate the day. The coldness of wind and warmness of sun battling in the dull 10.00am sky.
Maybe my nerves were a product of wanting to do well? A clear sign of telling me I was going establish a career for myself, something to look forward to. I remember thinking the weather was a descriptor of my mood, pathetic fallacy. Symbolic, alluding to better days, I allowed myself to become enthralled by this. I’d always been someone to believe in fate and destiny, the type that believes things fall into place and everything happens when it’s meant to. The scene before me had captured this feeling in its entirety.
I arrived at Cardiff Central Train Station, stepping off the train. I pulled my jacket tightly around my waist holding it in with crossed arms. The wind a cool reminder on my face, as I walked hesitantly towards my potential casting.
I entered, before me, a waiting room. Institutional lighting beamed over beige walls, spilling onto the sepia carpet below. I took my seat on a black leather chair near the door awaiting to be called. To be assessed and reviewed. My mind holding me in a purgatory of my own insecurities, juxtaposed with the quietness of actuality.
There it was the sound a longed to hear. Yet it pained me with fear in the same breath. I smiled, standing up and walking in.
A table stood in-front of me. Behind it sat three people, two men and a woman, all-appearing to be middle-aged and all held my aspirations in their hands. Placing my headshot on the table, I take my place on the marker in the centre of the room.
“Your face, it photographs well, but the left side is your good side. It’s not symmetrical.”
I stood there breathless not daring to comment as they spoke, reinforcing things that I had already told myself. A wave of embarrassment washed over me. I was good enough to be signed to an agency but not for hire. Making me feel though I was being told I was professionally pretty enough to be ridiculed. To deserve the self-doubt I was feeling.
When you spend portions of your life in-front of a camera, the focus is on you both metaphorically and physically. It is incredibly easy for that focus to shift into self-deprecation.
For years, I have struggled with these comments internally. Being plagued with body image issues that have led to detrimental effects on my health, both mental and physical.
The person I see staring back at me is traumatised with body dysmorphia. Where I will never be small enough. Regardless of my weight, or how my body appears, forever stuck in the mindset I won’t be good enough.
Someone who cannot weigh them self for the fear that the number will be too high. Someone who feels guilty when they eat too much. Someone who will follow serving sizes to make sure they do not over-eat. Someone who will always try and fit into sample size, just to feel worthy. Someone who craves to be viewed as a piece of artwork other than the person they are to feel like they matter.
I always see my “good side” as the only side I can take pictures from. I see that central line down my face, every single time I see myself. It serves as a constant reminder of when I stood in the centre of that room at sixteen.
As journalists, we’re trained to be the voice of the voiceless. To bring light and share other people’s stories, visions, and hardships. Vulnerability is scary, as a profession that speaks to people at the most difficult point in their lives. We understand this.
So much so that it can be hard to take a step back and look upon our own vulnerability and experiences. To peel back the veil and gaze upon us. Viewing reality for what it is, and in turn the reflection that stares back at us. We wonder whether our stories are worth telling, whether they’re interesting, whether anyone would read or even care. This self-doubt forms from helping others tell what matters most to them; but what hides behind the articles, the stories, the pictures.
If you or anyone you know is going through similar difficulties, please contact your local health professional.